The WPO is fortunate both to rehearse and perform at the Grade II-listed Worthing Assembly Hall, at which it is Resident Orchestra.
Worthing Assembly Hall
On 27th July 1933 the Council discussed a letter from Alderman Denton in which he bemoaned delays in approving the construction of a new Hall and offered to fund the building himself so that it would be completed for the benefit of the townspeople of Worthing. This generous offer enabled the construction of the Assembly Hall to a design by Mr C. Cowles-Voysey, F.R.I.B.A.
The resulting building is a magnificent structure that has one of the finest natural acoustics in Europe making it perfect for musical performances. It seats just under 1000 people and has a fully sprung dance floor. Housed within it is one of the largest Wurlitzer Theatre organs in Europe. It also has a Model D Steinway Grand Piano.
The hall was a regular venue for BBC Radio Two’s Friday Night is Music Night until financial cutbacks at the BBC curtailed the use of concert venues outside the M25.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable concerts to take place in the Assembly Hall was Pierre Boulez’s debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra where the soloist in Chopin’s 1st Piano Concerto was a young Vladimir Ashkenazy.
The Assembly Hall is used for a wide variety of other events including Award Presentations, Tea Dances, other choral and orchestral concerts (it is home also to the professional Worthing Symphony Orchestra), Wrestling, Rock and Pop Concerts, Stand-up comics, Award dinners and much much more.
The Worthing Wurlitzer
The Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra enjoys a close relationship with the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust, and is fortunate to have use of the Wurlitzer Organ for its concerts, where required. The organ was featured most recently in the Saint-Seans 'Organ Symphony' in November 2018 and is to be played by Richard Gowers in Poulenc's Organ Concerto in October 2020.
Worthing’s wonderful Wurlitzer is one of the largest theatre organs in England. The sound you hear is produced from over 1,500 organ pipes installed in the two organ chambers located behind the grilles on either side of the stage. The pipes range from 2 inches to 16 feet in length. Alongside these pipes are real percussion instruments - a Xylophone, Sleigh Bells, Drums, Cymbals and even a set of Cathedral Chimes! The organ is a powerful instrument using air produced by two 5KW blowers housed under the stage. The console is also housed under the stage but rises majestically to its playing position on a lift - as all proper theatre organs should.
Theatre organs were originally conceived to provide the accompaniment to silent films, but most of the organs in the UK were installed during the big cinema–building boom of the 1930’s to provide musical entertainment between films and background music as patrons entered and left the cinema. These organs were played by organists who became stars in their own right such as Sydney Torch, Sandy MacPherson and Reginald Dixon, names that are still remembered by the older generations today.
By the 1960’s many cinema organs had fallen into disrepair and were deemed unpopular and not financially viable. Thankfully enthusiasts of the day bought, restored and found new homes for these mighty machines. The Worthing Wurlitzer is one such instrument which was originally installed in the Metropole Victoria Cinema in London. From the Metropole it moved to Buckingham Town Hall where the original console was replaced with that of the Troxy Cinema, Stepney .
In the mid 1970’s the organ was acquired by Jim Buckland and the Sussex Theatre Organ Trust, and was rebuilt and installed in the Worthing Assembly Hall. The Wurlitzer organ opened in 1981 and was later enlarged from 10 ranks (sets of pipes) to 23 ranks following the acquisition of an organ from the BBC and two ranks from George Wright’s Pasadena USA organ. As part of this enhancement the organ was tonally finished (i.e., adjusted to suit the hall it speaks into) by leading American technicians, so that what you hear now is one of the finest theatre organs in Europe.
The Worthing Wurlitzer opened on the 24th May 1981. The completed instrument represents a high standard in Wurlitzer tonal capability and quality and allows the instrument to be used for the finest theatre organ programmes and the greatest of classical works for symphony orchestra and organ.