What is a theatre organ?

A sound you won’t forget: The “Unit Orchestra.”

The theater organ or “unit orchestra” was created during the silent film era to provide musical accompaniment to movies before they had sound.  In addition to uniquely voiced pipes, they contain a wide array of tuned percussions and many sound effect devices.  After sound became part of the movie experience, the instruments’ use included intermission performances.  The theater pipe organ developed into a concert instrument as the HI-Fi records released in the 1950s made their sound popular again.  

The RTOS instrument, from the former RKO Palace theatre, is now presented to the Rochester community in a series of concerts and silent movie events. 

Below are four short samples of the sound of the RTOS Wurlitzer at the Auditorium Theatre. All were recorded on this instrument and demonstrate the various sounds that a theatre organ (and organist) can create.

Listen to a jazz orchestra sample.

Listen to a string orchestra sample.

Listen to a marching band sample.

Listen to a symphonic orchestra sample.

Two free sources of theatre organ listening are located below

Hear theatre organs using ATOS Radio

If you click on the image to the right, a new browser window will open to a link taking you to the ATOS Theatre Organ Radio streaming service.  This service plays theater organ music 24 hours a day and will provide you with many different organ and artist selections.

Another Web Hosted Theatre Organ Source

Another source of theatre organ programming is the HOT PIPES weekly broadcasts and bi-weekly podcasts.

The button to the right provides access to their home page, which includes links to their podcast playlist library.

For the very best in theatre organ
entertainment from around the world.