Outside Chicago, in Barrington Hills, Illinois, stands the Sanfilippo mansion, which is maintained and run by the Sanfilippo Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to collect and educate the public about automatic music instruments, the theater organ, and other turn-of-the-century antiques, and provide charities a unique fund raising opportunity. The theater organ is the crown jewel of the Sanfilippo collection; it’s the largest theater organ ever built. With 80 ranks of pipes, it is about a third larger than the one at Radio City Music Hall!
It’s an amazing piece of musical machinery. This versatile organ can produce sounds of cannon fire, bagpipes, bells, whistles, earthquakes, and steam locomotive exhaust! At its heart is Wurlitzer Opus 1571, which was originally built in 1927 for the Riviera Theater in Omaha. The console is styled after the one at the Paradise Theater in Chicago, and it sits on the original Peter Clark lift from the Granada theater; this raises the console up through the floor for a grand entrance. The five-manual console can also rotate. The organ’s 32-foot Diaphone pipes and 32-note set of Deagan Tower Bells (the largest of these weighs 426 pounds) are mounted to the walls in the open, and behind the scrim is a four-story, five-chamber area where pipes, percussion, wind regulators and controls make the magic happen.
So what happens when you combine the world’s largest theater pipe organ with organ virtuoso R. Jelani Eddington, and a healthy dose of John Williams inimitable style? This Happens:
Eddington will be playing the Sanfilippo Wurtiltzer again as part of the Joliet Area Theater Organ Enthusiasts (JATOE) Festival on April 27, 2014.