The light House
The Forum Theatre, Flinders Street, Melbourne, ended its life of 57 years as a movie house on Sunday 13 July 1986, with a night of nostalgia and fun. Opened on 23 February 1929 as The State, it was the largest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere, seating 4000, reduced in 1938 to 3638 when an apron stage was built in front of the orchestra pit.
The State had the distinction of being the only theatre in Australia to have a Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ installed with dual consoles, enabling the playing of duets, a regular feature in the opening year and again for about two months in 1938. The 4 manual 21rank Wurlitzer Organ, with its two consoles and grand piano was Australia’s largest and cost $33,000 – about $1.25 million in today’s money.
It ceased to be heard regularly in 1957 and when the theatre was twinned in 1963 and renamed Forum and Rapallo, the organ was bought by Melbourne organist Gordon Hamilton, who removed it with the help of members of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia, Victorian Division, of which he was then president. In 1968 he sold it to Moorabbin City Council.
In 28 years, The State had only four resident organists – Frank Lanterman, who came from west coast U.S.A. to open the organ, with Arnold Colman as his deputy; Arnold Colman, from 1929 to 1940, who gained wide popularity in the theatre and as a regular ABC broadcaster; Aubrey Whelan, from 1940 to 1956; and New Zealander Iris Norgrove, for one year.
After the Wurlitzer was bought by Moorabbin City Council, the big job of installing it in Moorabbin Town Hall was carried out the Theatre Organ Society, who have maintained it ever since. Since the official opening concert in 1970 by American organist Lyn Larsen, the organ has been heard in many concerts played by leading Australian, English, American and New Zealand theatre organists, and has mad a major contribution to many civic functions.
It is very pleasing to note that a non musical organization had the foresight to purchase this magnificent instrument, thereby enabling future generations the unique opportunity of enjoying that which could have been lost. Moorabbin City Council is justifiably proud of its Wurlitzer to which an extra rank of pipes, the Post Horn, was added in the early 1970’s. Although the second consoled was not installed at Moorabbin, the organ is recognised internationally as one of the best theatre pipe organs in the world today, boasting 4 manuals and 22 ranks of pipes, thus making it the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The organ as heard on this recording, with the exception of the post horn, is in original condition, right down to the original wiring. Late 1989 all of this will change with the installation of a solid state computerized action.
The second, or dummy console, has had an interesting life since it left the original State Theatre. Initially it was installed as part of a residence organ in Sydney. This organ was then purchased by an organ enthusiast, who purchased a double-decker bus and transported the organ to Darwin, where it was installed in the basement of his home. The South Australian Division of the Theatre Organ Society then negotiated to purchase the organ. Just a few short days after the Society loaded the organ and headed down to South Australia, Cyclone Tracy destroyed most of Darwin, including the house and basement where the organ had been installed. *
The Capri Theatre, Goodwood, South Australia is now the new permanent home for this much travelled organ. It is now absolutely resplendent with a completely new specification and there is no trace evident of the console having been sawn in two by one of its previous owners so as to facilitate easier transportation!
The Theatre Organ Society of Australia was founded in 1960 to preserve and promote Theatre organs, their sounds and traditions. From its humble beginnings, when theatre organs were almost extinct, the society has been responsible for the renovation and reinstallations of numerous instruments around Australia. The Victorian Division of the Society owns the Wurlitzer organ in the Village Cinema Brighton (Formerly installed in the Capitol Theatre) and the English Christie organ in Cinema North, Reservoir. (Since the writing of these recording notes, Cinema North closed and the organ was installed into Coburg Town Hall – Also, the organ is really a Blackett & Howden, with a Christie console).
The Moorabbin Wurlitzer was installed and is maintained by the Society.
The Theatre Organ Society is actively engaged in promoting theatre organs through concerts, dances and club activities for members. The Society is currently involved in the restoration of an English Compton organ. (Since the writing of these recording notes, this organ has been installed into Malvern Town Hall).
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
"When Gordon was invited to play the annual TOSA Mayoral Concert, not even I imagined the lengths he would go to to produce this “ultimate” event, a concert which would be the culmination of a long standing friendship in which I had come to know and respect Gordon both as a musician and as a person.
Whilst our careers have followed remarkable parallels, our musical training was poles apart. For me it was 7 years on the bagpipes, for Gordon a thorough classical and conservatorium background. We both broke into the professional scene the hard way, working one night stands in every conceivable dance, cabaret, theatre and concert situation. Whilst I was chalking up 10 years service as musical director of the Naughty Nineties Music Hall, Gordon was achieving similar service with the “Bull ‘n’ Bush Music Hall”. When Gordon was establishing has successful music business at Melton, I was working as sales manager and representative for his suppliers. Only recently I have taken over his post at the Bull ‘n’ Bush whilst Gordon is very much in demand as an accompanist for artists such as Denis Walter and June Bronhill.
This recording is representative of that first Moorabbin concert, and is a showcase of Gordon’s outstanding ability. “The Phantom” was presented complete with costume, lighting and smoke effects, whilst his “Comment on Afghanistan” was recorded on almost the very day the last Society troops left Afghanistan. His Richard Clayderman Selection is but a small sample of Gordon’s superb touch as a pianist, a touch which brings new feeling and excitement to my well-known arrangement of “The Man from Snowy River”.
There is not one member of the audience who will forget his “Dambuster’s March” if only for shattered hearing aids and several kilograms of confetti fired from a cannon! To give you some idea of Gordon’s attention to detail and authenticity, he had the recording team chase a RAAF Mustang to capture the genuine sound of a Merlin engine! (The final aircraft used was a Piper Navajo).
It was with the greatest pleasure that I accepted Gordon’s invitation to participate in this recording. I know that you will enjoy listening to it as much as I have enjoyed working on it." ------ David Johnston
Recorded at the Moorabbin Town Hall on the Wurlitzer 4/22 Theatre Pipe Organ and Grand Piano on February 7, 8 & 9, 1989.
Gordon McKenzie – piano and organ
With special guest David Johnston – organ
Recorded and Mixed by Andrew Ryan & Daniel
Special effects by Daniel Desiere and Greg Williams
Mastered by Daniel Desiere at Dex Audio North Melbourne
© & (P) 1989 Gordon McKenzie
Artwork – Black Widow Graphic Design
Title – Bruce McKenzie
Aeroplane – Rob Mitchell - Berwick Airfield; Essendon Aerodrome.
Piano Technician – David Johnston
Organ Support Team – Julien Arnold, Arnold Van Es
Technical Advisors – David Harcoan, Wayne Giebel, lindsay McKenzie
Theatre Organ Society of Australia Victorian Division
Theatre Pipe Organ & Grand Piano---------Dox 201E
1-------The Phantom of the Opera
- The Phantom of the Opera
- All I Ask of You
- The Music of the Night
2-----A Tribute to Greece
- The Star of Myknos
- The White Rose of Athens
- Zorba’s Dance
3-------The Music of Richard Clayderman
- Grieg Piano Concerto In A Minor (Introduction)
- Three Blind Mice
- Ballade for Adeline
- Lady Di
5------The Man from Snowy River (Duet) (Gordon McKenzie on Grand Piano with David Johnston on Theatre Pipe Organ)
- The Man from Snowy River
- Jessica’s Sonata
- Tom Fool’s Knot
- Clancy’s Theme
- Rosemary Recalls
- The Chase
- Jessica’s Theme
- Waltzing Matilda
6-------A Comment on Afghanistan
- Song of the Volga Boatman
- From Russia With Love
- Theme from Raw Deal
- Midnight in Mosco
- Moxcow, Moscow
7-------Out of Africa (Duet) (Gordon McKenzie on Grand Piano with David Johnston on Theatre Pipe Organ)
- Waltz of the Flowers (Introduction)
- Out of Africa
9-------I Just Called To Say I Love You
10-------10 The Dambusters March
Gordon McKenzie plays all organ tracks, but Piano in the Duets
Take Your Seats
Gordon McKenzie – Electronic Organs
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Dex Audio Studios, North Melbourne July 1996
Organs – Technics F3 & G7 and Baldwin 190
Early in 2007, I was inspired to write a beautiful piano composition and the name impressed upon me was “Tears of Joy”. Late in 2007, I was privileged to record two Guided Meditation CD’s with my spiritually-gifted friend and colleague, Jennifer Valls: “Temple of light” and “Journey Onto Sacred Ground”. I played “Tears of Joy” for the introduction on one CD and such has been the demand already, by popular request, I have now released this continuous version of “Tears of Joy”.
The Lonely Shepherd – This haunting melody is beautifully set, with the skilful use of the Pan Flute, along with string orchestra.
South Of The Border – Gordon’s love of Latin music over many years is obvious. Here, he has captured various moods and colours and apart from well-chosen rhythms, featured the piano, guitar, flute and steel drums.
Only Love – The introductory section is an original composition written by Gordon McKenzie. He uses it to precede what is a gentle treatment of this romantic melody.
Tico Tico – This composition has long been a show-piece for the Keyboard Greats. Similarly Gordon McKenzie’s performance, gives an accurate impression of his keyboard mastery. The piano accordion and piano certainly get a good work-out in this arrangement.
Winter Wonderland – Gordon has really excelled himself in this piece. Glockenspiel, bells, whistles, even wind-like chromatic runs in thirds! Just how does he do it?
The Theme from Ice-Castles (Through rhe Eyes of Love) – This performance is certainly from the hand of The Master. Delightful use of the vibraphone, together with the backing of orchestral strings, culminates in a superb interpretations and performance of this popular musical composition.
Love Changes Everything – It certainly does! Commencing with solo trumpet and building towards a Grand Climax, Gordon has created the ideal mood and flow this composition, which comes from the show, “Aspects of Love”. Maybe Gordon knows something we don’t?
Muskrat Ramble – Gordon McKenzie’s performance and arrangement is really a touch of genius. Gordon has created his own Dixieland Jazz Band, complete with Clarinet, Flugel-Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, String-Bass, Piano, Banjos, Tenor-Saxophone and Drums. Just have a listen to this arrangement and the fascinating use of the Banjos! Two Banjos were used, then time-stretched for synchronisation.
Twilight Time – Complete with piano accordion, piano and strings, Gordon’s feel for this piece is “just right”. A presentation for memories of all ages.
Granada – Bright and fiery in style, it’s all here. Gordon McKenzie once again paints the musical colours, as he entwines a multitude of sounds, from trumpet to vibraphone.
Romance – Written by Shostakovich, this musical masterpiece must be in the very capable hands of the fully-trained classical musician. The printed arrangement was for violin, with piano accompaniment. Gordon plays the solo violin line with his right hand; the chordal accompaniment, which is normally played with the right hand, is somehow played with his left hand; the bass line which is normally played with the left hand, is played on the foot pedals; … it’s a wonder he wasn’t singing as well (he does you know, he is a fine bass-baritone)!
Cascade Of Stars – Cascade of Stars, played by a Star! Gordon has a unique way of creating the “right feel” for music. Here, he has skilfully woven rhythms together: tango, samba, baion and bossa-nova variations, then successfully featured the piano accordion and full theatre organ sound. With the enhancement of chromatic runs in sixths, Gordon has very effectively created another masterpiece.
I Know Him So Well – is from the music, “Chess”, and was written by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (from Abba), in association with Tim Rice. In this performance, Gordon clearly portrays his passion for the music of ABBA and likewise, his understanding of, and ability to interpret, this musical style.
I Just Called To Say I Love You – This popular romantic ballad gets the full disco treatment. Gordon really sets out to prove a point and succeeds. A fine treatment and a great interpretation on the electronic organ. A presentation to be envied by all musicians who know their craft.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Gordon L. McKenzie
B.Mus. (Melb.), A.Mus.A.
International pianist, organist, piano accordionist, bass-baritone, compere, stage and radio-personality, accompanist, voice-over and recording artist. What else can he possibly do?
He is a perfectionist and a master of his craft, as well as so-qualified in his chosen fields.
Despite what is now, a seemingly endless list of accolades and achievements, Gordon, who was equipped with a thorough classical and Melbourne University Conservatorium background, broke into the professional scene the hard way, working one-night stands in every conceivable dance, cabaret, theatre and concert situation.
As well as having fulfilled lengthy and demanding Musical Direction positions, appearing with most “name” Australian artists and successfully operating a music retailing business for ten years, Gordon never changed his personality. He is still the gentle and humble man, who cares and gives. Never afraid of work, Gordon worked eighteen-hour days, for the successful completion of this recording.
Take Your Seats” is the logical successor to his first successful recordings, “Fire Those Pipes”. If you don’t already have a copy, place your order now!
You’ll be so glad you did! - General notes by Mal Meikle
"One of the greatest pleasures in life is to be associated with successful people and my times with Gordon McKenzie, have always found me grateful and full of admiration for this gentle…man.
Having spent more than half a century in entertainment around the world, I have met and worked with very few musicians, who have the experience and training Gordon possesses.
I have met some who I can class as equal to, but none better than Gordon McKenzie, in the world.
Unfortunately, the burden Gordon carries is that he is one of those great talents, in his own country.
With his love of country, family and friends, the World Market, could only be classified as the means to Gordon being more famous in Australia.
So, Gordon McKenzie who has given so much to his beloved Australia is listed with pride, by himself, as friend and associate, on and off the stage."
A.I.S.M., A.I.C.M., A.I.T.D., (U.K.)
Australian-born, Mal Meikle is the seriously funny, internationally-acclaimed entertainer and comedian, who has performed in three Royal Command Performances, as well as on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Post-Script - A short time after the release of this recording – Mal Meikle was the proud recipient of the O.A.M. (Order of Australia Medal) for his outstanding service to entertainment and to charity.
Gordon McKenzie - Take Your Seats – New 2037.2 - Newmarket
1-------The Phantom of the Opera
- 1------Y Viva Espana
- 2------The Lonely Shepherd
- 3------South Of The Border
- 4------Only Love
- 5------Tico Tico
- 6------Winter Wonderland
- 7------Theme From Ice-Castles
- 8------Love Changes Everything
- 9------Muskrat Ramble
- 10------Twilight Time
- 12------Romance (Theme From The Gadfly)
- 13------Cascade of Stars
- 14------I Know Him So Well
- 15------I Just Called To Say I Love You
Gordon McKenzie plays all tracks
© & (P) Gordon McKenzie 1996
Gordon McKenzie Personal contact : 03 9743-7603, Mobile : 0402-144-844
If living out of Australia : +613 9743-7603