The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders today unveiled the newly-restored historic Wurlitzer organ at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway. L to R: Freeholder Vice-Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh, Freeholder Bruce Bergen, Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski, Organist/Composer Bernie Anderson Jr., Freeholder Vernell Wright, and Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak.
Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders today announced the return of a national musical treasure with the unveiling of the newly-restored Wurlitzer organ at the Union County Performing Arts Center.
“It is because of the capacity for impact that the arts have on people – individually and collectively – that the Freeholder Board is committed to supporting the preservation of this facility and access to the arts,” said Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak. “Today’s event celebrates the preservation of musical history and the traditions and craftsmanship of the 1920’s, while bringing the theatre organ art form into the 21st Century.”
The unveiling event included historical presentations and a photo montage of the restoration process, highlighted by a live concert and demonstration that filled the historic Rahway Theatre once again with the sound of the original Wurlitzer theatre organ.
Because of its enormous sound, albeit small size, this theatre organ has become known as the “Biggest Little Wurlitzer.”
The Wurlitzer organ’s historic value has been recognized by the American Theatre Organ Society as a Level 1 Quality Instrument. Designated on the National Registry of Significant Instruments as an organ of exceptional historic and musical merit worthy of preservation, the Biggest Little Wurlitzer is one of the few theatre pipe organs in New Jersey still playing in the original venue for which it was acoustically designed.
“The designation by the Organ Society underlines the importance of the Freeholder Board’s efforts to fully restore the original Wurlitzer organ in this theatre,” said Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen, Chairman of the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. “The Freeholder Board is proud to have played a vital role in preserving the historic tradition and culture of Theatre Pipe Organ music in America.”
This Biggest Little Wurlitzer is a detachable console Wurlitzer Theatre Organ with two manuals, two chambers and seven ranks. It features 500 individual pipes and several percussive elements that were designed to simulate the enveloping and diverse sounds of a live orchestra.
The unique acoustical design of the chambers, auditorium, and instrument work together to make remarkable sounding theatre pipe organ music.
Head out to Rahway and hear the organ in full concert at the Union County Performing Arts Center. See the silent film classic The Phantom of the Opera on Saturday, October 25th with live organ accompaniment by silent film organist and composer Bernie Anderson, Jr.
Built in 1928, the Rahway Theatre is listed on both national and state registers of historic places. It is now operating as a multi-purpose venue for the performing arts.
The Union County Performing Arts Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization operating in the historic Rahway Theatre. Conveniently located in downtown Rahway at 1601 Irving Street, this historic landmark is the cornerstone of the Rahway Arts District. The theatre is a beautifully restored 1920’s era former vaudeville house and movie palace owned by the County of Union and operated by the nonprofit Union County Performing Arts Center.