We’re noted organ enthusiasts here at Bedford + Bowery, so we’d be remiss not to tell you about the final performance on the mighty Wurlitzer at the former Brooklyn Paramount theater before the space is restored to its former glory.
As you may have heard, the owners of the Barclays Center are planning a two-year, $50 million renovation of the onetime theater on the corner of Flatbush and Dekalb Avenues. During its heyday, the movie palace and performance venue, opened by Paramount in 1928, hosted the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Bo Diddly, and Fats Domino. It closed in the early 1960s and was turned into a gym by Long Island University. Fortunately, LIU kept the magestic space’s vaulted Rococo ceiling and its massive Wurlitzer, aka “The Beast,” which still lies underneath the gym floor.
On Oct. 8, renowned organist Mark Herman will rise, via elevator, from the floorboards and take the one-ton organ for one final spin before the renovation. To appreciate just how amazing this is going to be, watch this video, in which Tom Stehle of the New York Theatre Organ Society, which maintains the Beast, goes deep underground to show off its 1,800-plus pipes (some of them 16 feet tall), 20-horsepower motor, and massive wind turbine.
Before the keytar was invented, the 4/26 Wurlitzer was the height of innovation, with its ability to mimmick orchestral sounds like the tuba and other horns, strings, and accordions—the instrument even has its own built-in drums and xylophones. Some say that, without 4,000-plus seats muffling it, it sounds better now than it did then.
Tickets for the afternoon show on Sunday, Oct. 8 are $15 and available here.