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Celebrated organist set to pull out all the stops

He’s been the resident organist at the Tower for forty years this year and received the MBE for services to music, in fact if you cut Phil Kelsall open, you’ll probably find Blackpool running through him like a stick of rock.  So it seems appropriate that Phil will swap iconic venues on Wednesday, March 5 and perform an afternoon concert on the ‘Wonder Wurlitzer’ at Blackpool Opera House.  And he’s really looking forward to getting his hands on the historic instrument:

The Opera House is an iconic venue and it was the venue for the last Wurlitzer organ to be installed in a UK theatre in 1939. It’s great to play there.  The programme will include marches, waltzes, songs from the shows, a Cole Porter Medley and many popular tunes from the last seventy years.

Easter 2014 will see the start of Phil’s fortieth season of playing the Wurlitzer in the Tower , and if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he is also playing a number of concerts all over the UK – and will be travelling to Boston, USA in the Spring. Looking ahead, November and December will be his thirtythird year of playing the Wurlitzer at the Christmas Spectacular at Thursford in Norfolk.

The Wurlitzer organ on which Phil will perform was designed to the specification of the Empress Ballroom’s organist, Horace Finch, and was the last new Wurlitzer organ to be shipped to the UK from America. It made its debut at the opening ceremony of the new Opera House, on July 14, 1939, with Jessie Matthews, a popular stage and screen actress of the time, doing the honours. 
Horace Finch and Reginald Dixon demonstrated the Wurlitzer which is reputed to have cost £5,000. The first actual performance took place that evening with the legendary George Formby on the largest stage in England.

In 2008 Cannock Chase Organ Club took on the restoration of the Wurlitzer after it had lain unused for many years – and the club has been maintaining it and presenting concerts on it several times a year ever since, with some of the finest and most popular theatre organists in the World travelling to play it. The club is also installing a new organ in the Empress Ballroom which should be opening this Spring – and further concerts are planned too, so watch this space!

Tickets are priced at £5 and can be bought direct from the Blackpool Winter Gardens Box Office, by telephoning 0844 856 111 or online.

 

Image courtesy of Cannock Chase Organ Club.

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