SHROPSHIRE THEATRE ORGAN TRUST
In the 1970s, there was a Shropshire Organ Society for people interested in electronic organs. However, in early 1983, a conversation took place between John Whiteley of the "Three J's" at Gomersal, West Yorkshire, England and our then chairman, Tony Byrne, and Tony was encouraged to pursue his idea of bringing a theatre organ to the county of Shropshire, England. Shrewsbury had previously had a brief taste of the theatre organ with Reginald Foort's touring one setup at the Granada Theatre in Castle Gates, although this was not a permanent installation. The Granada was open as a cinema between November 1934 and March 1973. There was space at the Granada for a theatre organ installation but it was the only purpose-built Granada Theatre in the circuit not equipped with an organ. The idea of bringing a theatre organ to Shropshire was again mentioned at a concert held in March 1984 at the Centenary Theatre of Wrekin College, Wellington, Shropshire - Phil Kelsall was playing a Hammond C3 electronic organ at the time. The enthusiasm which came from this concert led to a public meeting being called for the purpose of launching a Trust and finding a venue which could accommodate a theatre organ. The Buttermarket, Howard Street, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England was chosen. After two launch concerts being held at Oakengates Town Hall, Telford, Shropshire, England - the first on the 16 June 1985 with organists Nigel Ogden and David Ivory playing - the Trust came into being, on 19 February 1986, and in November 1986 applied for registered charity status. Our first chairman was the late Ralph Bartlett who started what was to later become known as the Theatre Organ Club - he sadly passed away on the 10 December 1988 but the Trust benefited enormously from his knowledge and support. The first parts of the organ started being transported to Shrewsbury in November 1987, while storms were battering South and East England, and a team of five Trust Committee, and a van, helped with this. In 2003, John Barnett was appointed Honorary Organist to the Trust. We then had House Organists Richard Morgan and later Alec Walters. The post is currently free.
There has been a number of changes to the Committee over the years - keeping with the old traditions but also pushing new ideas forward to ensure the survival of our rare theatre pipe organ and future concerts and events.
At our June 2018 AGM, Cameron Lloyd was elected as Chairman and Tony Byrne became Honorary Chairman for his services to the Trust. Cameron Lloyd is no longer with the Trust.
The current committee, maintenance team and indeed our enthusiastic and skilled band of helpers and members, are working extremely hard to ensure the success of the Trust and future events, keeping the Wurlitzer sounding at its best, but we are indebted to those of the past such as former chairman, Ralph Bartlett.
Kerry Wycherley, former owner of The Buttermarket, who sadly passed away in June 2013 at the age of 64; as well as providing a home for the Mighty Wurlitzer, he went as far as allowing the balcony floor to be lowered by some two feet to accommodate the organ pipes. Although pipes can be mitred, generally a minimum of 12ft height is required to accommodate. His carpenter came up with the ingenious design behind the doors which house the Wurlitzer console. The organ is wheeled out for concerts on its platform constructed from an old railway trolley.
A tribute concert was held in memory of our Vice-President Joan Byrne on Sunday 27 September 2015 who sadly passed away on 3 July 2015 and Joan's enthusiasm and contribution to the Trust will be remembered fondly.
The Trust benefited from the help of the late Steve Tovey in getting organists together for concerts and sourcing parts, and when it was decided that the English Horn and Kinura pipes were to be added it was Steve who located, within just two weeks, a rare two-rank pipe chest, which we subsequently got from Pipes in the Peaks, Derbyshire, which had previously come from Worthing, and before that was on the original Blackpool Tower Wurlitzer - we just needed the chest. The two new ranks of pipes to fit the chest were manufactured for the Trust by Duncan Booth of Leeds, Yorkshire.
Sadly, at the end of 2018 we lost two founding members of the Trust, Tony Byrne who was former chairman and made honorary chairman and Geoff Cartwright who was vice president. It was Tony's idea to bring a theatre organ to Shropshire and he put in a lot of work on the technical side. Geoff, a former Honorary Vice President, Treasurer and Membership Secretary as well as being a true gentleman, continued to support the Trust in any way he could. They will both be sadly missed. The Trust team are proud to continue the legacy, which is showcased through our concerts.
Concerts are currently postponed (after our June 2022 concert) due to work being carried out at the venue.