The Wichita Wurlitzer premiered Saturday, December 9, 1972. The event culminated work started in 1967. The volunteer crew invested some 12,000 hours refurbishing and installing the 66,000 pound instrument. The night of the premiere, principal members of the crew ranged in age from 21 to 27.
The Wurlitzer, a theatre organ or unit orchestra, was originally installed in the Times Square, New York Paramount Theatre. In New York, the Wurlitzer had a rich history performing with stars of the day. A New York newspaper reported that "trained nurses were on hand to aid those overcome by the shear magnitude of sound when the Sousa Band and Mr. and Mrs. Crawford joined forces for The Stars and Stripes Forever." In later years, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and numerous Big Bands appeared at the Paramount.
In Wichita, the rich New York history has been continued with an installation acknowledged to be comparable to, if not better than the original installation. The Wurlitzer has entertained thousands of Wichita residents and visitors from around the world.
The Wichita Wurlitzer is beginning its second 50 years in Wichita. As a unit orchestra it stands apart from classical / concert and electronic instruments. With 38 ranks (or voices), a single artist can use the brass, string, and woodwind ranks to accompany silent movies, ensembles, and vocalists. In addition, solo work can range from orchestral transcriptions to popular hits to serious jazz jams.
The work done by Jesse Crawford and Daniel Papp to finish the Wurlitzer in 1926 is unchanged. However, the instrument is much more than the restored Paramount Wurlitzer. Temporary changes made in the theatre have been made permanent. 36 ranks have become 38 ranks. The electro-pneumatic relay system has been converted to a digital system with recording capabilities to facilitate the organist's performance.
Join others in the community and experience the Wichita Wurlitzer, a unit orchestra, with vast musical capabilities.