Wurlitzer Len finds Rye’s ‘Old Lady’ in fine fettle

The refurbished hall of Rye College, now the Milligan Theatre, played host to aficionados of organ music who braved the inclement weather for the return of renowned music maker Len Rawle.

Master musician Len made a brief sojourn in Sussex after spending the past year in New Zealand and Australia, except for side trips to the Isle of Man, to work his resuscitating magic on recalcitrant theatre and cinema organs.

In the past Rye’s Own has known Len’s attention and now he expressed his pleasure at finding ‘the old lady’ - for Rye’s is one of the oldest in the U.K.in full working order - in such fine fettle.

Eschewing the usual organ concert opening of a march, Len appropriately opted for a selection from Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business followed, in case we needed to be reminded, by Here Comes that Rainy Day and Bring Me Sunshine.

A selection of all-time favourites included As Time Goes By, Getting to Know You, I Know Why and in swinging mood I’m Beginnng to See the Light.

The theme from The Magnificient Seven introduced film favourites, numbers from The Sound of Music including Eidelweiss, from South Pacific, Some Enchanted Evening, from the Bond movies, From Russia with Love, closing the first half with The Spy Who Loved Me.

Broadway hits opened the second half with Another Opening, Another Show, and Everything’s coming up Roses from Gypsy. A Gershwin selection included Lady Be Good, The Man I Love, and ‘SWonderful.

Len then gave a brief outline of his early days in the organ world including his mentor George Blackmore (a name new to most of us) playing one of his works in appreciation.

He then gave an account of the fortunes of tutor Michael Wooldridge’s Rye Wurlitzer Academy pupils, three of whom have been selected for inclusion in the awards of the British Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, a great honour for Rye and the success of the Rye Wurlitzer Academy scheme. Len recognised this with the piece Americana.

A selection of cartoon movie music naturally included the Pink Panther Theme, following this with remembrances of singers of the near-past, finalizing with Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World.

Len closed the afternoon with highlights from the pen of Cole Porter, the finale being - what else ?The eternally unanswered question ...’Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’

Marrion Wells