Sounds of the cinema from back in the day are being kept alive in Shropshire

A group dedicated to keeping Shropshire's only theatre pipe organ in a public venue in pristine condition raised £150 for its upkeep at a concert at the weekend.

Back: James Martin and Nicholas Martin. Front; from left: Michael Carter, Graham Edge, Ruth Payne, Joy Jones and Darren Jones
Back: James Martin and Nicholas Martin. Front; from left: Michael Carter, Graham Edge, Ruth Payne, Joy Jones and Darren Jones

The Shropshire Theatre Organ Trust has been going since 1986 and organises monthly concerts at The Buttermarket to keep alive the sounds of the Wurlitzer, which is such an iconic feature of the venue.

Darren Jones, the STOT's vice chair and secretary since 2012, said: "We had more than 50 people on Sunday, which is around a dozen down on the number we would normally expect. I think some people are still a bit nervous about attending concerts indoors.

"The Wurlitzer has a unique sound and even though this organ originally came from the States, the technology was invented in the UK."

It is believed to be Shropshire’s only permanent theatre pipe organ in a public venue. But it started out at the 2,332-seat The Ritz Cinema, Chatham, and was ordered from the Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, America, on November 23, 1936. It was shipped to the UK on December 12 of the same year.

Prior to the Ritz Cinema going over to bingo, the organ was purchased and removed by organ builder David Pawlyn in 1971 and stored in his workshops at Aylesbury. David Pawlyn later installed the organ at The Buttermarket, Shrewsbury, in 1988.

The opening concert at The Buttermarket was in 1988.

The Trust originally rented the Wurlitzer, on a 10-year lease, until July 14,1995 when the trust was able to purchase the organ outright after raising the funds in just 14 days.

Acclaimed organist Nicholas Martin got to play Shrewsbury’s historic Wurlitzer organ during the monthly concert on Sunday (October 17).

It was his 29th performance at The Buttermarket and he played an easy listening selection including Russ Conway and "You'll Never Walk Alone" in the first half.

"The Wurlitzer has a unique sound and at the moment it is in good condition," said Mr Jones.

"But if anything goes wrong it can be expensive to find the parts, and we have to keep fundraising for insurance which costs around £1,000 to insure."

He said the trust is keen to involve more local people and is appreciative of the support from The Buttermarket.

Wurlitzer concerts at the Buttermarket, in Howard Street, are typically held on the third Sunday in the month with some seasonal exceptions.

Tickets are £8 with £7 for members, and they are only available on the door. The next one, on November 21, will feature Blackpool Tower organist David Lobban.

"It's a lovely way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon," said Mr Jones.

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