Largest pipe/digital organ…


The Castro Symphonic Theatre Organ will be a magnificent 400-rank pipe/digital hybrid with a full piano-length keyboard and a full orchestral sound library. Seven manuals will make it the largest (working) console in the world. It will be unlike any instrument of its kind—capable of authentically representing the theatre organ, the symphonic organ, the classical organ, and the symphony orchestra.

A fully restored Wurlitzer/Kimball theatre pipe organ will replace the current pipes, preserving the familiar cinematic sound. Additional wind-blown pipes, classical in style, will also be installed in the existing pipe chambers. An all-pipe organ of this magnitude would cost many millions of dollars and would be physically impossible to install in this theatre. Fortunately, cutting-edge digital sampling technology now allows us to greatly enlarge the resources of the instrument and dynamically distribute the sound throughout the auditorium, providing a thrilling surround-sound musical experience in an acoustically reverberatory environment appropriate to whatever style of music is being played.

We are expanding the theatrical sound of the instrument to encompass the full specification of the beloved San Francisco “Fox Special,” the Wurlitzer that was moved out of San Francisco when the Fox Theatre was demolished in 1963.

In addition, this new organ will be capable of providing the virtual sounds of the symphony orchestra. 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. This orchestral sample library ( is prominently used in the film-scoring industry. In short, any musical (or synthesized) sound can emerge from this instrument, sounding totally realistic and under multiple layers of control.

Allen Harrah, acclaimed pipe and digital organ builder (already responsible for two major organ installations in San Francisco, one in Los Angeles, and a huge six-manual organ in Hurricane, West Virginia), brought his expertise to this project, together with Castro organist David Hegarty, with whom he worked closely in the past. Harrah collaborated with R.A. Colby Organbuilders, who have provided the new console, and Walker Technical Company, who are providing the digitally sampled organ voices and the audio system.