Why should you know about Wichita Wurlitzer? Why should you care, and why should you come hear it?
Well, for starters, there is that singular pedigree. Built in 1926 for the Paramount Theatre on Times Square in New York City, it is widely considered the greatest theatre organ ever made, honed to perfection through a patient partnership between the most celebrated (and highly paid) musician of his day, who played it, and the nation’s greatest organ expert, who maintained it. Removed from the Paramount in 1964, the instrument embarked on an extraordinary eight-year odyssey from New York to Los Angeles, where it languished in a warehouse for years, to a new home, via a four-and-a-half semi-trailer truck, in the Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center, taking shape against the Wichita skyline. A heartbreaking arson fire destroyed the console and damaged the organ just days after its arrival, but the heroic rebuilding of the console to precise specifications and the Herculean volunteer effort to restore and install the organ paved the way for its Wichita premiere at Century II in 1972.
That’s an amazing story. But a storied history may not add up to a WHY for someone who didn’t grow up with silent movies or who never heard of a Wurlitzer! So, we asked today’s fans and audience members to share their “whys” with us: what they love about the Wichita Wurlitzer, why they come hear it, and what they tell friends. It turns out there are almost as many reasons why listeners enjoy hearing the Wurlitzer as there are stops on the console and pipes to the organ (hint—answers coming later!). And just as the Wurlitzer’s kaleidoscope of keys, stops and pedals adds to the magnificence of this “one-person orchestra,” every fan lends a distinct voice to a chorus of supporters who share a passionate commitment to offer this one-of-a-kind instrument to the people of Wichita and to the world, for generations to come.
We’ve collected a few of these reasons to share with you.