DVD Duration: 1 Hour 15 Minutes, plus additional footage containing a tour of the theatre and history of the organ (UK PAL / Region 2).
2006 release at the console of the 1926 3m18r Wurlitzer at the Riviera Theatre & Performing Arts Center, North Tonawanda, New York. Released to celebrate 80 years of theatre organ music at the Riviera.
God Bless America
Springtime for Hitler
Daddy’s Little Girl
New York, New York
Deanna Durbin Medley: Ave Maria / Vienna, City of My Dreams / Waltzing in the Clouds / When April Sings / Beneath the Lights of Home
Latin Medley: Mexican Hat Dance / La Golondrina / La Cucuracha / Spanish Eyes / Valencia
The Lost Chord
San Francisco / Keep Your Sunny Side Up
Wind Beneath My Wings
Red Sails in the Sunset
The Perfect Song
I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Whispering / In the Chapel in the Moonlight
Shuffle Off to Buffalo / Yankee Doodle Dandy / America the Beautiful / Battle Hymn of the Republic / God Bless America (Reprise)
Alan Ashton’s Organised Keyboards Review (from ORGAN1st Magazine Issue 32):
For the second of his DVDs Byron is to be found seated at the one of kind, individually decorated 3 manual WurliTzer in the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, North Tonawanda, New York.
The production opens with a brief history of the theatre, the organ and the ongoing programme of work by volunteers to maintain the fabric of this Italian Renaissance designed theatre, which was opened in 1926. This opening introduction sets the scene and includes a brief mention of the WurliTzer Factory association with the Town, including a shot of the famous pipe organ name atop the Factory Tower. The original 11 rank organ has been increased in size to the present 18 ranks, and as will be seen, quite a number of percussion instruments are actually un-enclosed, and sited in the orchestra pit area to the right of the console which is on a slow riser on the left.
Certain things become apparent when Byron’s programme begins. Firstly it is a multi camera set-up… although it is more accurate to say it appears to be so. I would hazard a guess and say that in order to arrive at this impression, Byron had to do several takes of each number and then they were edited giving the notion that there were many cameras dotted around the auditorium. Let me clarify that point. Byron would have played every number complete each time, at no time would he have played a portion of each number and then have those portions edited together to make a complete item. On the long shots from the rear circle, and very occasionally in medium close up, the sound is slightly out of sync, but I stress this is not annoyingly so. What is very annoying is the cameramen are zooming crazies! I could not watch the DVD in one complete session because of the feeling of nausea as the visuals zoom in and out with so much rapidity. It’s the kind of camerawork reserved for Pop shows. There needed to be more emphasis on static shots where you can appreciate Byron’s use of the organ. At times Byron uses some of the un-enclosed percussions and again the viewer has little or no time to discern what is happening before its back to the zoom shots. I would have liked to see more cut-away shots i.e.: other parts of the auditorium or exteriors in and around what appears in the introduction as being a very interesting locale. A five second shot of some yachts and Niagara Falls, the latter insert which has nothing to do with the tune Byron is playing, are not enough to hold the viewers attention, or to give respite from the repetitive console shots. Some tunes were screaming out for cut-aways but none were forthcoming, and there are the occasional continuity glitches.
Despite the aforementioned, what I am in no doubt about is that this is a DVD, which will please Byron’s legions of fans both sides of the ‘Big Pond’. The sound quality is very good, as is focus, colour rendition and grading. These cannot be faulted. That applies equally to the programme content, which finds Byron playing a programme of music fairly distributed with the accent on both the UK and America. The opener is the rousing GOD BLESS AMERICA and then follows the strangely titled SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER from the show The Producers. Despite the title it’s a tune that seems to be finding favour with some players. DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL is probably the single most requested father / daughter dance song for weddings of all time. It was written in 1949 and Al Martino is tipped as having recorded the most popular version in 1967.
Next is a five-part Deanna Durbin medley, followed by the Willy Nelson number CRAZY. Another five-part medley is the one devoted to LATIN AMERICAN tunes, and this gives Byron an opportunity to use some of the un-enclosed percussion instruments, which in turn are illuminated by ‘black light’ to show off their action. Two numbers in a straighter mood are HIGHLAND CATHEDRAL and THE LOST CHORD, before changing the mood to play SAN FRANCISCO and KEEPYOUR SUNNY SIDE UP, the latter coming from the 1929 film of the same name starring Janet Gaynor.
Introducing his next piece Byron owns up to never having heard the tune until someone gave him a copy of the music at the time of his visit. However, the tune MY BUDDY by the celebrated composer Gus Kahn goes back to the year 1922. Next come CANADIAN SUNSET, WIND BENEATH MY WINGS, RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET, GEORGIA and THE PERFECT SONG. The latter, as Byron points out, was the signature tune for the famous American Radio Show Amos n’Andy. Here was (another) lost opportunity to edit in some pictorial and informative background on these two artists; in real life Charles J. Correll and Freeman F. Gosden, because after all in the UK most people wouldn’t have a clue who they were. Next it’s a return visit to the City that never sleeps with I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO, and then the lovely (WHEN YOU COME TO THE END OF) A PERFECT DAY. The penultimate coupling is WHISPERING and IN THE CHAPEL IN THE MOONLIGHT, before ‘The Wizard’ pulls his final surprise and dons his famous sequinned Union Jack(et) to take the console down with a rousing and patriotic medley of American flag waving tunes.
In conclusion, a very entertainingly played DVD but one that is short on post-production values. Included in the case is a nicely produced, informative and colourful leaflet with a full history on the theatre, the artist and the WurliTzer.