ARCA Presents: Wurlitzer Americana – Dennis James

Updated: Jul 30


Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts is proud to welcome theatre organist, pianist and multi-talented instrumentalist, Dennis James, on Sunday, July 31 at 2:00 PM as he performs a “Wurlitzer Plus” eclectic program on the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer, Lincoln Hall Steinway and Benjamin Franklin’s Glass Armonica. Take a break from summer heat in the air-conditioned comfort of Lincoln Hall for an afternoon of inspiring Americana music in the hands of a musician of ”tremendous artistic scope and range”.

This is a concert you do not want to miss – a Pops mix of Broadway tunes, popular music, marches, and orchestral transcriptions on the Wurlitzer, along with popular Colonial American interest in glass musical instruments, and a grand Gershwin Tribute featuring the Steinway and Jesse Crawford’s solo ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ at the Wurlitzer!

“Dennis James is both a musician of tremendous artistic scope and range, and a scholar who strives to preserve and restore this unique 20th century musical practice. He is without doubt the greatest practitioner of the art of solo silent film accompaniment. He’s a national treasure.”

Dennis has dedicated his professional career to the theatrical traditions of organ performance and furthering public interest in the pipe organ. From the time he began performing while still in his teens, he has been at the top of the organ profession. He has performed everywhere and on the finest pipe organs all over the world, from spectacular movie palaces throughout the United States and Canada to the most prestigious concert halls and theaters in Europe and the Far East.

He takes great pride in continuing the historical professional aspects of playing organ music with silent films and takes great care in collecting obscure historical musical instruments and preserving their authentic period-performance traditions.

Tickets are Adults $25, Members $20, Students $5. Call to Reserve at 724-659-3153 and pay by cash or check at the door. Online purchases are available at alleghenyriverstone.org.

There will be a Meet the Artist reception following the performance at The Red Brick Gallery where you can also meet nature photographer John M. Karian and view his exhibition of stunning images of natural beauty.

In his Lincoln Hall performance, Dennis will focus on the 1761 Glass Armonica, America’s first musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin. After the intermission, there will be a brief segment including the 1919 electronic music device, the Theremin, accompanied by a pre-recorded accompaniment of Dennis at the Wurlitzer organ.

Enjoy a short silent movie in the hands of an organist hailed as “the greatest practitioner of the art of solo silent film accompaniment”. In his early career, James toured for six years in the 70s and 80s as the personal music-for-film accompanist for the one-woman-show tours of Lillian Gish, the ‘First Lady of the Silent Film’.

To open the second half of the concert, he will accompany a short Americana silent film  – Thomas Edison’s 1903 ten-minute Western “The Great Train Robbery” starring G. W. ‘Bronco Billy’ Anderson. 

Highlights of James’ early professional career include a New York City recital at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a two-year appointment as staff organist at the largest pipe organ in the world, the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia.

His many European concert tours have featured several engagements at Vienna’s Konzerthaus to perform at the historic 5-manual Rieger concert pipe organ; a ten year appointment as Silent Film Organist for the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria: and a featured all-Europe organ convention performance shared with renowned French concert organist Marie-Claire Alain. He made his Sydney Opera House debut with three sellout solo performances.

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