The Christie

The former Regal Edmonton "Torch" Christie Theatre Organ has now been sold by the chapter. 

The organ ranks are:

English Horn  Saxaphone
 French Trumpet  Open Diapason
 Tuba Horn  Tibia Clausa I
 Tibia Clausa II  Gamba
 Vox Humana  Violin
 Clarinet  Strings (2 ranks)
 Krumet  Flute

The Christie History

The mighty Christie theatre organ provided more than 50 years of musical enjoyment in its original home - the massive Regal Edmonton in North East London.

The Christie organ Opus 2902 was opened with the Regal Edmonton itself on 8th March 1934 by the legendary Sidney Torch, then still only in his early twenties. After a scintillating career in the world of the theatre organ during the 1930s, he became famous as a highly accomplished musical director, composer and arranger - notably during his 21 years in charge of the baton of the hugely popular BBC Radio Series ‘Friday Night is Music night‘. Although Torch left the Regal in 1936, his name will always be associated with the theatre for the numerous outstanding recordings he made there.

 

In 1947 the organ was rebuilt by Wurlitzer, when the illuminated glass sides of the centrally mounted console were replaced with wooden edged bolsters. This converted its appearance to that of the Granada-style Wurlitzers and allowed more room on the lift platform. In addition the Grand Piano was also removed (the motors having burnt out) and the metal Tibia II (Main) was replaced with the wooden Tibia from the Rink Finsbury Park along with a corresponding regulator and tremulent. Over the intervening years the tuned bird whistles which Torch often used so effectively have also disappeared.

Considered by many to be one of the most versatile instruments ever to emerge from the Christie works, and certainly a great favourite of Torch, the fourteen units were housed in two chambers on the right side of the auditorium - Solo over Main. The usual traps were provided, including a Marimba just behind the shutters which could also take the place of the long departed grand piano that was such an important feature of Torch’s recordings.

Since 1979 the maintenance of the famous Christie had been undertaken by the technical team of the London and South of England Chapter. As a mark of appreciation of these years of care and hard work put in on a completely voluntary basis, Grosvener Square Properties who now owned the building, graciously donated the instrument completely free of charge to the Chapter, when they closed the Regal in December 1984.

So it was that towards the end of 1984 the Chapter Technical Team moved into the Regal under the leadership of and guidance of the indefatigable Les Rawle, (who had already been involved in around 45 similar theatre organ removals and transplants over the years) to begin the rapid but orderly dismantling of the giant Christie organ. There are many stories that could be told about this phase of the operation but after many hundreds of man trips in and out of the auditorium the whole thing was safely packed into what turned out to be two pantechnicon loads and transported down the then new M4 to South Wales.

Restoration of the organ in it’s new home in the Memorial Hall Barry began in July 1985 and installation in the newly constructed chambers started on January 10th. 1986. Although it had inevitably suffered to an extent from the ravages of time and almost 50 years of service in a town environment, because it had been in regular use up until its removal, the organ was is better condition than many that had languished in disuse and disrepair for long periods.

The installation of the Christie at Barry was in four rooms, three of which were organ chambers. Beneath the centre of the stage was a long room 7’ 6” wide going from directly behind the console to the passage running across the whole of the rear of the under-stage area. The Blower was located just behind the console but separated from it by a 3’ thick concrete wall, while the relay stack occupied the end of the room next to the passage. To the left of this room was the ‘Main’ chamber and to the right the ‘Solo’ chamber, both speaking through shutters into the orchestra pit area. The bottom 12 notes of the Gamba rank of pipes formally located in the upper ‘Main’ chamber in the theatre were not mitred. Being too tall to fit in the under-stage chambers they were housed in an unenclosed chamber about 10’ above floor level on the left of the stage, and projected into the auditorium through a plaster grill. The distinctive four-manual white and gold console was mounted on a hydraulic lift in the centre of the orchestra pit and could be raised to stage level.

The opening concert at the Memorial Hall was on St. David’s Day, the 1st March 1987. The two day gala inauguration of this mighty instrument - that will always be associated with Sidney Torch - was in the hands of a galaxy of Welsh musicians, and was a fitting climax to the truly monumental efforts of the indefatigable technical team.

Several concerts per year and monthly tea dances were regularly held at Barry up until 2004 when attendance at these events fell to a level that our charity could no longer sustain the financial loss.

We were then serviced notice under the terms of our agreement with Barry Town Council that the famous instrument had to be removed from the magnificent setting of Barry Memorial Hall.

Barry and ATOS benefited hugely from a long running series of dances, played throughout by David Redfern, plus concerts featuring artists from home and overseas. Unfortunately falling audience numbers, the introduction of a board of trustees and a change of hall management a few years ago demanding higher hire fees, meant ATOS had to suspend concert activity.

All who have been involved in presenting and supporting our events over the years at Barry are warmly thanked by the ATOS Chapter Committee.

On Monday 1st March 2010 at 9.15am work began to remove the organ, and by Sunday 7th March 2010 at 5.15pm the two chambers were cleared.  The blower unit (the removal of which required the dismantling of a wall) and the Christie Console remained until later in the month when they too were safely removed.  In all the instrument comprised 4 full loads in a hired 7.5 ton lorry.  The organ has been in safe storage since. 

The Christie organ in its last home whilst still owned by the chapter, the Barry Memorial Hall.  It sounded magnificent in a threatre setting fit for its capabilities.

After our appeal to the membership in late 2012, and with very careful consideration regarding the Christie's future, the chapter trustees sold the instrument to Paul Kirner in March 2013. 

The instrument has now been carefully restored and installed at the Paul Kirner Music Palace, Porth, South Wales.  As part of the sale agreement our chapter will have access to the venue (which will also house another theatre organ) to hold a concert or other suitable event once a year.