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The Organ in the Great Hall

The Great Hall is home to Canada’s largest Wurlitzer pipe organ, originally built for Shea’s Hippodrome on Bay Street in 1922. With three keyboards and 15 sets of pipes, plus a full complement of tuned percussion instruments, traps, and sound effects, it was used to accompany silent films. As part of the showbill, it became Canada’s best known theatre organ thanks to the broadcasts of such popular organists as Horace Lapp, Kay Stokes and Quentin Maclean.

Shea’s was razed in 1956 but the organ was saved by Maple Leaf Gardens, where it was reinstalled with a custom-built five-manual console and four more sets of pipes. When the Gardens was remodelled in 1964, the Wurlitzer was bought by the newly-formed Toronto Theatre Organ Society (TTOS).

The Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma offered it a new home in chambers which had housed the castle’s original pipe organ. A new four-manual console was built using the shell from the Warren organ in Montreal’s Capitol Theatre. The console was recently modified with new decorative panels, and a piano has been added, playable from the organ keyboards. Each year since 1974 this unique part of Toronto’s musical heritage has been presented in a series of public concerts.

The Toronto Theatre Organ Society (TTOS)
The TTOS is a non-profit volunteer organization whose aims are to promote an appreciation of all theatre pipe organs, and to bring together people who share this common interest. By preserving and maintaining Canada’s largest Wurlitzer, and by producing a concert series each year (the Society’s only outside source of funds), the TTOS seeks to keep traditional memories alive while introducing new generations to this nearly-forgotten analogue ancestor of today’s digital electronic keyboards. We are always looking for new members to help with these activities – anyone interested may contact the Society at (416) 421-0918.
Website: http://theatreorgans.com/toronto/

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