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'Symphonic Wurlitzer' to performed in Mansfield

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Sep 27, 2018 at 10:00 AM

MANSFIELD — Theater organist Jelani Eddington will perform in a concert called “The Symphonic Wurlitzer” at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield.

Presented by the Western Reserve Theatre Organ Society and Renaissance Performing Arts Association, Eddington will enthrall audiences with his dazzling technique and most beloved pieces.

During the years that Eddington has given concerts, he has established himself easily as one of the most prominent and sought-after artists on the concert circuit. He has performed in most of the major venues throughout the United States, has toured extensively abroad and received numerous awards and recognitions, including his selection as the 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.

Eddington was born in Muncie, Ind. and grew up in a very musical family. Between the interests of his mother, a professional music teacher of many years, and those of his grandmother, a well-respected piano instructor, it was no surprise when Eddington demonstrated an inclination toward music at a very early age.

Shortly after beginning piano instruction at the age of 4, he began studying classical piano under the direction of his grandmother. At the age of 8, a trip to hear the four-manua,l 42-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ installed in the Indianapolis restaurant Paramount Music Palace, introduced Eddington to the sounds of the theater pipe organ. Soon thereafter, he began to pursue classical organ lessons and ultimately began studying theater organ under the direction of John Ferguson, whose instructional skills have been acclaimed highly internationally.

At the age of 13, Eddington won the American Theatre Organ Society’s Young Theatre Organist Competition, prevailing over competitors ages 13 to 21 from the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand. He remains the youngest competitor ever to win the title.

Eddington graduated with magna cum laude honors from Indiana University in 1996. He received a juris doctor degree from the Yale Law School in 1999, after which time he was admitted to practice law in New York and later in Wisconsin.

During the course of his concert career, Eddington has been featured at numerous national and regional conventions of the American Theatre Organ Society and has toured extensively throughout the world. He also has produced and marketed more than 30 theater-organ albums on some of the best-known and most dynamic instruments in the country.

In 2014, Eddington became the first — and to date only — musician to have a video of his theater organ performance go viral. Within a few short weeks, his performance of John Williams’ “Star Wars Symphonic Suite” was viewed on YouTube more than 1 million times in 200-plus countries around the world. As of 2018, that video has earned more than 3 million views worldwide.

The Renaissance Theatre organ was originally built by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Co. of North Tonawanda, N.Y. for Warner Brothers Vitaphone Co. and installed in its Sunset Boulevard Studio in 1929. From there, it was moved to Radio Station KMX, a CBS unit, where it was used daily to play the “Amos ‘n’ Andy Show” theme song.

In 1955, the late Hollywood actor Joseph Kearns (best known as Mr. Wilson on TV’s “Dennis the Menace”) bought it and actually built his entire home around it. An avid organist and enthusiast, Kearns upgraded the original three manual, 18-rank configurations to include additional ranks of pipes.

After Kearns’ death, Robert Carson, who founded a recording firm and produced a number of record albums featuring the instrument, leased his house. When he died, the residence changed hands and the instrument was offered for sale. Several legal tangles ensued and the organ changed hands a few times as well.

The Mighty Wurlitzer was installed at the Renaissance Theatre in early 1985 with the help of Ken Crome, one of America’s foremost theater-organ authorities. Lyn Larsen performed the first “official” concert on the instrument May 17, 1985.

Tickets are on sale at MansfieldTickets.com, at the box office and via phone at 419-522-2726.

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