One of the most notable features of the Egyptian Theatre is the Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra organ that sits intact and still operable as originally installed in 1925 by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company for $32,000. This wonderful organ has provided beautiful music to us for over 85 years.
“It was an instrument designed to sound as much like an orchestra as possible, but to be played by a single person – a pre- electronics synthesizer in fact. Although many other firms in the U.S.A., England and elsewhere began to build these Theatre Organs, none of them caught the public’s imagination so much as the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’.” From The Musical Museum.
The organ chambers sit on each side of the theatre, behind the lyre players. Thousands of pipes of all shapes and sizes rest there, waiting to be brought to life by the mighty bellows that pump air through them. But what makes this organ different from a church pipe organ are the extras like drums, castanets, cymbals, a slide whistle, a marimba and other percussive instruments that are housed in the chambers alongside the many ranks of metal and wooden pipes.
As you look at this photo, note the bass drum in the upper right with a smaller, snare drum next to it. Just to the left of that you can see a silver triangle. To the left of that there are 3 castanets and above those various hollow blocks that could mimick hooves galloping along a road. Across the lower portion of the photo you can see the wooden blocks that make up the marimba with the felt hammers poised over them, ready to strike. This was truly a remarkable instrument for its day and we have been very lucky to have been entertained by it at the Egyptian.