CD Duration: 44.03 / Year: 2011
Recorded at an organ club concert in 1966. Trevor makes the little Wurlitzer sound great.
Selection from La Boheme (Including Musetta’s Waltz Song)
A Military March Past / The King’s Horses
Tin Can Fusiliers / When the Guards Are On Parade / Something About A Soldier / On Parade
Selection from La Traviata
Spanish Flea / Edelweiss / Do-Re-Mi / The World is Waiting for the Sunrise / Post Horn Gallop / Can Can Overture
The producer wishes to crave the indulgence of the listener to accept that at organ club concerts in the 1960s, the audience were not always aware of the proximity of the microphones.
As a long serving employee of the former Associated British Cinemas group, I count myself lucky in being employed at a couple of their cinemas where Trevor Willetts, a member of the ABC Team of touring organists, actually played organ interludes. Of the two cinemas it was the Lyric, Wellingborough that proved to be the most exciting for it was here, on a modest sized Compton that he made two broadcasts in the Midland Console series hosted by James Pestridge. To this day his commercial recording of ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ is one that demonstrates to great effect the use of a Compton electrostatic Melotone unit. It was the larger WurliTzer at the Ritz Barnsley, opened in 1937 and having a seating capacity of 2007, which was his ‘base’ theatre. Opened as a Union Theatre, it was taken over and renamed the ABC around 1967; it closed in 1974 and was eventually demolished in 2009. The organ, installed in under-stage chambers was a 3-console and 7-ranks with a grand piano attachment, but by all accounts more than capable of sounding twice that size.
Like so many theatres it fell victim to flooding, and in 1966 was considered a lost cause. Amazingly it was brought back to playing condition, and the proof that Trevor Willetts was indeed musically happy to be re-united with this organ, is to be heard in this recording made at a Theatre Organ Club concert in September of that same year.
Although the Ritz was his base theatre for many years, his early years saw him playing Church organ, eventually branching out to take theatre organ tuition from Thomas Dando at the Regal, Rotherham. He went on to make numerous organ broadcasts, and if memory serves me correct, one from the Ritz Barnsley was with an invited audience, a situation that the BBC reputedly put a stop to other organists from doing. I found him to be quite modest and someone with a dry sense of humour. When his employment with ABC came to an end I understand he continued to play electronic organ in the Yorkshire area: Hemmingfield being his place of birth. He passed away in 2003. The Barnsley Wurlitzer was removed from the cinema in 1968 and partially installed in a house in Lincoln. It was sold-on in 1970 and remained in storage at Leigh-on-Sea until being bought in 2002 by Richard Cole of the Music Museum, Brentford, who is in the process of enlarging it to that of 12 ranks with the addition, once again, of a piano.
Alan Ashton – ORGAN1st Radio (OrganRadio.com).