Theatre Organ Sounds

Theatre Organ Sounds

Playing these pieces creates some of the many popular sounds for the listener. There are slow ballads, fast and energetic choruses, sentimental solos, and anything else that the composer, arranger, and transcriber could include. Most of these are not theatre organ arrangements per se, because there were not many of these made. Most theatre organists played “by ear” and had their own style; this gave them no incentive to publish their arrangements. Some of these sound really good on the theatre organ, and I include them here simply for that.

Alles Was Du Bist (Trio in a Style of Bach) by Billy Nalle
Uses “All the Things You Are” as the cantus firmus in this chorale prelude and laughter is guaranteed.
Alles Was Du Bist

Arkansas Traveler by Fred Feibel
This famous “hillbilly” folk song in a clever, quirky arrangement by well-known theatre organist.
Arkansas Traveler

By the Brook by Boisdeffre-Federlein
Often used for depicting nature in films accompanied by theatre organ and cartoons
By the Brook

Chinoiserie by Firmin Swinnen
The musical character of the piece is patterned after the popular Chinese intricate designs and motifs popular in the 1920s. Swinnen calls for Celesta or Harp.

The Continental by Con Conrad, transcribed by Charles Cronham
First heard in “The Gay Divorcee,” this is instantly recognized by many.
The Continental

Dance of the Bells by Rebikoff-Clough-Leighter
This short piece is from a ballet and was designed for organs with light, tinkling bells, especially those found on theatre organs!
Dance of the Bells

Dezsö D’Antalffy‘s Music
D’Antlaffy was organist at the Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall. These four below were published while he was teaching at Eastman.

Edward F Johnston’s Music
All of these pieces sound perfect on theatre organ style instruments. Johnston himself played one of the first Wurlitzers.

Fire in A Chinese Laundry by Feibel & Harrington
The title says it all. Used by pianists as an encore.
Fire in A Chinese Laundry

In A Persian Market by Ketèlbey-Matthew
This arrangement was intended specifically for the theatre organ and includes use of traps such as tom tom, kettle drum, cymbal, and xylophone.
In A Persian Market

Jesse Crawford’s Organ Courses
Techniques and style tips for playing popular on the Hammond and theatre organs from “The Poet of the Organ.”

Mauro-Cottone’s Famous Compositions and Transcriptions
by Melchiorre Mauro-Cottone
These two folios present his popular and requested pieces. He played at New York City’s biggest venues:  the Capitol Theatre, the Plaza Theatre, the Roxy Theatre, Carnegie Hall.
Mauro-Cottone’s Famous Compositions

Pop! Goes the Weasel by Fred Feibel
“All around the Mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel”
Pop! Goes the Weasel

Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin-Crawford
More than any other published composition by “The Poet of the Organ,” Crawford’s abridged arrangement of this standard got Gerswhin’s personal approval.
Rhapsody in Blue

Rosa Rio’s Music
Any of her arrangements sound perfect on theatre organ style instruments.

Souvenir by Drdla-Maclean
This famous violin melody is beautifully arranged by Quentin Maclean

Spinning Song by Mendelssohn-Gaul
Fast and dizzy piece to follow your Mendelssohn sonata
Spinning Song

St Louis Blues by Handy-Waller
Swinging organ music begs for improvisation
St Louis Blues

Theatre Organist’s Secrets by C Roy Carter
How to play organ effects from a veteran theatre organist
Theatre Organist’s Secrets

Valencia by Padilla-Cronham
Croham arranged this rhythmic standard for pipe organ and Hammond

The World is Waiting for the Sunrise by Seitz-Foort
This is a real theatre organ arrangement by one of the greatest, Reginald Foort
The World is Waiting for the Sunrise

The Wurlitzer Waltz by Box, Cox, Gibson, Roberts
Clever little song completely unknown today
Wurlitzer Waltz

2 Responses to Theatre Organ Sounds

  1. Michael, I am trying to find a book of transcriptions by George Bayley titled “Eleven Rags Plus Nola” published by Deer Wood Music. There are still websites for Bayley and Deer Wood Music but none of the contact information is valid so I think he might be deceased. If you have any idea where I might find this music I would appreciate any information you can provide. Terry

    • I thought he had died recently, and here’s the Facebook memorial page:

      So, I called Lois Fyfe Music to see if they had anything in stock. I tried his phone to see if someone was handling any orders but a low pitched man’s voice hung up on me. You might try borrowing a copy through your public library’s Interlibrary Loan Dept; I don’t have a copy in my collection.

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