THE spectacular sound of the Woking Wurlitzer organ will be heard for the first time since pre-COVID times at a concert on Saturday.

Celebrated organists Len Rawle and Michael Wooldridge will be playing the former cinema instrument, which is installed in its own hall at Woking Leisure Centre.

“We will be playing light, melodic and rhythmic music in a variety of musical styles, from ballads to big band to Latin American,” explained Len. “Michael and I will play a few numbers as duets, as well as performing separately.”

Len is not only a talented organist but also vice chairman of the London and South of England Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS), which owns the Woking Wurlitzer.

The organ is a superb example of the USA-made “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, which was popular in ballrooms, theatres and cinemas around the world, from their introduction in 1910 until the onset of the Second World War.

Pipe organs had been used only in churches until the days of silent films. The first moving pictures were screened in large ornate theatres, known as “movie palaces”, as part of shows including live acts accompanied by a live band or orchestra.

The big theatres soon installed giant pipe organs which were able to imitate a wide variety of instruments – including wind, string and percussion. One musician could create the sound of a whole orchestra.

The organist accompanied stage acts, provided incidental music for the silent movie and might also have a solo spot. Later, organists would entertain during intervals.

The Mighty Wurlitzer was the theatre organ to have, but few survive in their original location. The Woking organ was originally installed in the Granada theatre at Welling in south-east London, – one of six in the London area.

When the Granada closed, the organ was purchased by the ATOS chapter. In 1995, after several years in storage, it was painstakingly installed by a dedicated band of enthusiasts headed by Len Rawle in what is now called the Wurlitzer Hall at the leisure centre.

The organ has three manuals (keyboards). When it came to Woking it had eight “ranks”, or sets of pipes. Since then, an electronic relay system has been added and the number of ranks has been expanded to 19, to add more “instruments” to the organ’s sound.

Len explained that the hall is an ideal location for the Wurlitzer, as its acoustics and reverberation are ideal for the instrument.

Admission to the concert on Saturday 10September is £10 for ATOS member, £12 for non-members. Children 16 or under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. Cash and contactless card payments will be accepted.

Further Saturday evening concerts will be held in the Wurlitzer Hall on 8 October, 12November and 17 December. November features a silent horror film and December has a festive theme.

For details, visit, where there is a section on the history of the Woking Wurlitzer and its restoration.