Organ History




The Keswick Theatre and Its Organ



The Keswick Theatre opened to the public on Thursday evening, December 27, 1928.  The building was designed by Horace Trumbauer, one of the foremost designers of movie palaces which came into being during the decade of the roaring twenties.  In contrast with the flamboyant French, Italian, and Spanish Renaissance palaces that dominated theatrical architecture at the time, the fašade of the Keswick was Elizabethan in concept, a style reminiscent of Tudor England.  The choice of architectural style was inspired by the semi-rural character of the developing suburb; so much so that the fašade realized by Horace Trumbauer has survived virtually unchanged. In contrast, the interior of the theatre was designed as an eclectic mix of elegant architectural styles.  The Aeolian-Votey pipe organ with which the auditorium was equipped was supplied by the Aeolian Organ Company of Garwood, New Jersey and featured pipe work of an orchestral character and a dazzling array of tonal percussions and traps.  A similar example of that builder's work exists in the instrument at Longwood Gardens, the DuPont estate. The Keswick theatre organ, as it now exists, reflects the original.  Constructed by the M.P. Moller Organ Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, it too was constructed in 1928 and is of a size similar to the original.  The organ, as it now stands, is derived from the Moller originally installed in the Sedgwick Theatre in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.  The instrument presently consists of nineteen ranks of contrasting tonality, a Marimba, Harp Celeste, Xylophone, Tubular Chimes, Glockenspiel, as well as all of the effects displayed in the stoplist.  All are controlled by the special white console trimmed with gold, which is associated with the Style 150 Moller Theatre Organ.  The console aspect might be described as flamboyant, having evolved during the late twenties into a conspicuous display suitable for solo performances in the blaze of the spotlight (since, with the advent of talking pictures, organists had fewer occasions to perform their functions in a darkened house). 

Among the ranks of pipes in the Keswick organ worthy of special mention are the thunderous sixteen foot Diaphone (the bottom twelve notes of the Diaphonic Diapason), which together with the Horn Diapason, provide the foundation needed to support the tonal structure of the organ.  In sharp contrast, there is the whimsical Kinura, its piquant intonations so suited to the requirements of silent film accompanists in depicting oriental scenes and mimicking the muted brass of the jazz orchestra.  The Tibias:  Tibia Clausa and Tibia Plena (both large flutes) in addition to adding weight to the foundation registers, yield the sound qualities that are typical of the theater organ.  They are of great emotional appeal, and so are useful in providing background for romantic settings.  Still another class of tone is represented by the chorus reeds:  English Post Horn, Cornopean, and French Trumpet; they project an emotional fire essential to the depiction of high drama. The Clarinet and English Horn of the Keswick Organ are imitative of their orchestral counterparts.  And then, there are the still softer stops:  Vox Humana, Gemshorn, and Gemshorn Celeste. The Vox Humana, conceived to convey the impression of the human voice, which has been jokingly described as having a goat-like bleat, nevertheless has an emotional appeal that endears it to audiences of many descriptions.  The two Gemshorn ranks in the Keswick Organ are especially worthy of mention.  They are of a delicacy worthy of the finest concert organ and are rarely to be found in theatre instruments.  Finally, the three string-toned ranks of pipes in the Keswick Organ cap the orchestral capabilities essential to the rendition of theatre music.  It would be remiss not to mention the dedication of the Keswick Theater Organ Crew, among whom there exist a variety of skills.  Countless hours and physical effort have been lavished on restoration of damaged parts which have suffered deterioration during years of exposure and neglect, on replacement of missing pipes, on correction of inappropriate previous substitutions of ranks and on improvisation of adaptations essential to the functioning of the Keswick Theatre Organ.  In passing, it should also not fail to be mentioned that some of the foregoing activities have resulted not only in restoring the complex electrical controls which are the brain of the Keswick Organ, but in development of an associated memory.  At last, an artist can record any performance electronically and have it played back at will.  Truly a benefit to accompany an ongoing labor of love.




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2018-11-20 14:22:00 -0500