WALSENBURG — George Birrer would like to invite everyone to a free organ concert at the Fox Theatre, 715 Main St., Walsenburg, Colorado, on Sunday afternoon, July 26, 2015, at 3 pm.
The Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ with piano was purchased by Paul Krier owner of the Star Theatre in 1923, said to have cost $9,000, to provide background music and sound effects for silent movies.
The Fox movie chain acquired, remodeled, renamed and reopened the theatre in 1941. At that time, the organ was removed by a Denver organ firm and installed in St. Mary Catholic Church where it was played for several years by Jewel Geiger (who worked with her father in the Theatre), Rosemary Luginbill, Gladys Habib and others, until the mid 1980’s.
Since theatre organs aren’t suitable for church music, the sound effects and theatrical-sounding pipes had been removed and replaced with church organ pipes.
In 1992 George Birrer, John Luginbill and members of the Huerfano Youth and Arts Foundation acquired the Fox Theatre and a few years later they decided to return the organ to the theatre.
Several years later, the non-profit Pikes Peak Area Theatre Organ Society in Colorado Springs began the restoration of the organ under the guidance of organ technician Don Wick. Funding was provided by the organ society, grants, and donations from various organizations, members of the Krier family, and others in the Walsenburg community.
Several thousand man-hours were invested by members of the organ society. The restoration involved acquiring vintage Wurlitzer sound effects and pipes and rebuilding the 90 year-old organ and piano to return them to their original configuration.
This combined pipe organ and piano was unique and the Walsenburg instrument is one of the few remaining survivors and worthy of preservation.
After 75 years, organist Bob Flinn of Colorado City, Colorado, has agreed to play the organ for the public in its original home. Bob has played at the Paramount Theatre in Denver on their Mighty Wurlitzer and many other public theatre organs in Colorado Springs. He will soon be heard playing the Awesome Austin 4/55 in Pueblo.