San Francisco Is Losing An Iconic Part Of Its History, Replacing It With A Gigantic Piece Of Tech

Castro Theatre OrganYouTubeCastro Theatre’s resident organist, David Hegarty.

The Castro Theatre, located in San Francisco’s Castro District, is losing the Wurlitzer organ that has called the theatre its home for the past 30 years.

But the organ music will continue to play, thanks to a huge high-tech donation.

The “Mighty Wurlitzer” will be replaced by a “pipe/digital hybrid with a full piano-length keyboard and a full orchestral sound library,” according to the SF
Castro Organ Devotees Association (SFCODA), a nonprofit that’s dedicated to keeping music at the theatre.

The Wurlitzer is privately owned, and its owner is moving out of the area and removing the organ from the theatre, as well as most of the pipes.

New Castro Theatre OrganIndiegogoAn artist’s rendering of what the new organ will look like.

The theatre considered purchasing the organ from its owner, but it didn’t make financial sense.

“Unfortunately, this organ, having been played constantly for over 30 years, is wearing out. It needs a total rebuild, which is very expensive,” the Castro Theatre’s resident organist and president of SFCODA, David Hegarty, tells KQED.

An organ that’s as big as the one that’s replacing the Wurlitzer would take up the entire theatre if it were made of pipes. But since it incorporates digital technology, it will fit perfectly in the space provided.

“This will not merely include some after-market General MIDI modules with ‘a few nice strings’ — it will be the most expressive, gigabyte-heavy, instantaneous-response-time live performance orchestra in existence, with its own custom-designed independent sound system,” according to SFCODA’s website.

The new organ, which is being called the “Castro Symphonic Theatre Organ,” is already being built, according to CNET. Famed organ builder Allen Harrah is in charge of the project.

It will cost around $US700,000, and is being funded by private donations, as well as money from the Castro Theatre, a grant from New York’s Schapiro Fund, and an Indiegogo campaign.

When it’s completed, it will be the third-largest organ in the world.

A similar organ exists in West Virginia, and you can hear Hegarty playing it in the clip below. Keep in mind, that’s just one instrument playing all those sounds:

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