Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Why Not Just Restore the Castro Wurlitzer and Keep It As It Is?

For clarification, this is not the Castro’s original pipe organ. The original Robert Morton was removed in the 1950s. The current Wurlitzer was assembled 30 years ago, by a private owner, from parts of various organs around the country, and the console came from yet another source. The result was extremely impressive, and we are fortunate to have had it for so long.

A complete restoration of this instrument, however, was not possible. The console and one quarter of the pipework was going to be removed by the private owner who has moved out of the Bay Area. The cost of purchasing and refurbishing the available components of the instrument would have been exorbitant, but thanks to some generous benefactors, we will now be able to install alternative pipework that will increase the size and versatility of the pipe portions of the organ and allow us to continue enjoying the authentic sound of wind-blown pipes in our instrument.

How Can a New, Modern, Digitally Advanced Organ Fit into a Classic 1920s Theatre?

The Castro Theatre, while retaining the dramatic beauty and ambiance of a classic movie palace, functions as a modern facility and has been adapted to accommodate a great variety of events. It is not operated like a 1920s cinema; it makes use of digital projection, digital sound, and features modern cinematic repertoire. An upgraded organ utilizing present-day technology is consistent with the venue.

Even so, every effort is being taken to ensure that the enlarged console still exhibits the basic characteristics of a theatre organ. Most important, though, is the SOUND. Although expanded to include a broader tone palette, the new instrument will reflect the largest and best vintage Wurlitzers ever built—the 37-rank “Fox Specials.”

Why an Organ of This Immense Size?

This is intended to be an instrument of infinite color and versatility. The numerous symphonic and classical ranks, including additional windblown Skinner and Wicks ranks, lend themselves to specific musical genres, and having unlimited resources at hand in one instrument to faithfully interpret the organ music of any style, period, or nationality is an enormous advantage.

Some divisions are suited to the theatre organ, others to the Baroque, others to Romantic organ literature, while others provide a faithful representation of the orchestra without the limitations inherent in windblown pipe simulations. This provides invaluable educational opportunities for future organists.

Will the Sound of the Pipe Organ Be Overpowered by the Additional 400 Digital Ranks?

Not at all! The newly installed pipes (more than the current organ) will speak dynamically into the room, and the additional digital theatre organ ranks that fill out the Wurlitzer ensemble will be balanced perfectly with the pipes.

The symphonic/classical stops are not intended to confound or bury the familiar sound of the theatre organ. They exist to make the instrument immensely more versatile for concert and teaching applications, and to provide realistic orchestral timbres and special effects that were unattainable in the 1920s.

Why Seven Manuals, and How Can You Reach All of Them?

This console has been designed so that every tab can be reached during performance, and the angle of manuals is based on a full-scale mock-up to insure the best ergonomics for the performer, even on the seventh manual.

Senator Emerson Richards, designer of the famed seven-manual Atlantic City Boardwalk Auditorium organ, obviously knew that an instrument of such vast tonal resources required a console that can fully accommodate them. Although most standard organ literature can be played comfortably on three or four manuals, the performance of challenging symphonic music utilizing a dynamic array of orchestral color stops, percussions, and special effects is clearly facilitated by additional manuals.