In the 1950s as more and more Movie Theatres closed their doors forever and many Theatre Pipe Organs which had been in defunct theatres were being scrapped for their metal, small groups of enthusiasts in the USA and the UK got together to try to preserve what they could of this great legacy. Some keen Theatre Organists and fans here in Australia felt that they must do likewise, as very few organs were left and they wanted to save all of them somehow!
TOSA began as just such a group, centred around John Clancy who had bought the 2/13 Wurlitzer from the Civic Theatre in the Sydney suburb of Auburn in 1958 and was building a new house at Wentworthville Sydney, around this organ.
In March 1960, on the strength of a featured article in the Sydney Morning Herald, TOSA held its first meeting at the Paling Concert Hall with the object of attracting members. Palings, being a prominent Sydney music and instrument retailer who also sold Hammond Electric Organs, kindly donated the use of the premises without charge and even provided an organ to be played at the meetings. Several of the Sydney Theatre Organists also freely gave their time and talent to play for the TOSA members at these early meetings.
Rod Blackmore and Geoff Aspinall began the task of documenting the specifications of all the Theatre Pipe Organs in Sydney and Suburbs. They recived assistance from Peter Rowe, curator of the Wurlitzers in the State and Capitol Theatres, and also from organist David Devenport and Reubert Hayes, last resident organist at the Regent Theatre.
Through negotiation with managements, TOSA was able to hold some concerts through the 60s and 70s in the Prince Edward Theatre ("Theatre Beautiful"), the Capitol Theatre and the Arcadia Theatre Chatswood where playable instruments remained. The Prince Edward closed in 1964, and TOSA members raised £1200 ($2400) to buy the 2/10 Wurlitzer, which had been made famous by Noreen Hennessy in the 'heyday' of Theatre Organs. Removed from the theatre in 1965, this organ was refurbished and installed in Marrickville Town Hall, being triumphantly reopened in 1968.
The Capitol Theatre 3/15 Wurlitzer, which had been maintained by TOSA members since 1963, was bought by TOSA in 1972, but having nowhere to install it had to put it into storage for 16 years until finally finding a new home in the Orion Centre Campsie where, after refurbishing, it was officially reopened in 1988.
Regular public concerts are presented at both of these venues, and members have the opportunity to play both organs monthly, and other social activities are arranged regularly. The events page has all the details.