Facebook36Tweet0Pin0Submitted by The Washington Center for the Performing ArtsThe Washington Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Mighty Andy Crow Wurlitzer Organ, which has been described as “one of the top ten best theatrical organs in the world.” The organ is truly a living instrument, requiring annual maintenance, as well as tuning and troubleshooting before – and often, during – each performance. This local asset has over 1,600 pipes and thousands of additional sounds and instruments, such as bass drums, kettle drums, multiple cymbals, a piano, harp, glockenspiel, sleigh bells, and so much more.The organ has been at The Center since 1924. Now, the newly updated organ will play once again on September 13. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing ArtsThis summer, thanks to an anonymous donor, the organ received a $16,000 upgrade, its first since the mid-1990s. Jill Barnes, Executive Director, says, “This upgrade will increase the responsiveness of the instrument for the organist playing, and will also provide flexibility for when and how we use the organ.” The organ’s control system was upgraded to a computerized and cordless system which allows pipe organ operators and performers to define and control the organ using state-of-the-art microprocessor controlled interfaces connecting the console and the pipe chambers. Barnes adds, “The new system will create individualized settings for organists and remember those for future use.”The organ was first installed in 1924, when The Liberty Theatre (the original theater pre-dating The Washington Center) opened as a vaudeville house. The organ was originally an impressive “2/9” Wurlitzer organ. In the organ world, this means it originally had two manuals -the number of individual keyboards stacked on the organ console – and nine ranks, or sets of pipes, each set being a combination of multiple and similar instruments. The Liberty Theater was renovated and refurbished in 1948, becoming the Olympic Theater movie house. Andy Crow began taking care of the organ in 1962, and ultimately gifted and reinstalled the organ after The Washington Center was built in 1985. Andy passed away last summer in July.The organ will be used during the screening of the silent film, “The Phantom of the Opera” on October 15. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing ArtsAndy is remembered fondly by many friends including Geoff Apgar, a Washington Center patron who has been a pipe organ enthusiast his entire life. Geoff especially enjoys coming to The Washington Center during the Silent Film series. Geoff says the full, rich sound of the pipes separates the organ from electronic reproductions. He shares, “I’m grateful The Washington Center has made the organ a priority in the programming and performances offered to the community.”“We believe it’s vital to keep local history alive,” says Barnes, “while instilling an understanding and appreciation of the beauty and science of the arts.” Thanks to this anonymous donor, through this upgrade, Andy’s memory and legacy will live on and we will honor him every time we feature the Mighty Andy Crow Wurlitzer Organ.The upgraded organ will make it’s first official debut at the CENTER Stage Awards & Gala on Saturday, September 23, when it will be played by Sharon Stearnes, the organist for the Gig Harbor Methodist Church and former Seattle Mariner’s organist. Following the gala, the organ will accompany the silent film, Phantom of the Opera, in the opening performance of our annual silent movie series on Sunday, October 15, featuring renowned organist, Dennis James.