In a recent post, Sarah on Chertsey mentioned the BBC Radio programme "The Organist Entertains".Last Saturday I experienced the real thing!
I found myself in Ulverston, where Hilary's singing group was giving a concert in a nearby village church and not being a singer myself I had a free evening. In most small towns the options for evening entertainment consist of going to a pub, or...er...going to another pub. Nothing wrong with that, but Ulverston is fortunate in that it still has a cinema. At one time, every town had a cinema, usually more than one. The small town I grew up in in south Wales had six in the 1960's! but one by one they faded away, those that survived the coming of television, videos and DVDs being defeated by the large out-of-town multiplexes in larger centres.
That Ulverston still has the "Roxy" is due to the determination and enthusiasm of its owner, Charles Morris, who has a small chain of what might be termed "heritage" cinemas were they not fully commercial enterprises and on Saturday it was showing a special programme of silent films with organ accompaniment. Here's the programme:
Mack Sennet's "Keystone Cops" had the audience in stitches, whilst Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton proved that the coming of sound to the silver screen was not as big an improvement as its sometimes thought. The inclusion of a Laurel and Hardy film was, of course, appropriate as Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston. The "Roxy" post-dates the silent era - it opened on 21st June 1937 and celebrates its 75th birthday this year. Neither does it have a cinema organ - a modern electronic one being provided for the occasion - but the auditorium itself still has most of its 1930's art deco features.
The Roxy's auditorium with the organ awaiting the organist.
The evening was a fund-raiser for the Furness Theatre Organ Project, which has acquired the 1927-built Wurlitzer Organ from the Rex Cinema in Stratford and having installed it in the Royalty Cinema, Bowness-on-Windermere, is currently putting it back into working order. Bowness is an even smaller town than Ulverston and the survival of the cinema here is surely due to it being in the enthusiastic ownership and management of Charles Morris
The audience entered into the spirit of the occasion magnificently. We applauded at the end of each film, queued-up to buy ice-creams from the usherette in the interval (remember intervals?) and even stood for the national anthem at the end of the night (albeit chuckling self-consciously as we did so).
I've seen silent films on the telly, obviously, but the musical accompaniment adds so much to them and I had an absolutely brilliant evening - and there was still time to meet Hilary in the pub afterwards.