Le Gaumont-Palace en 1911
Tommy Desserre en 1931
of the Cinema Organ aims to :
• Promote the cinema organ, its repertoire and building, particularly the Christie Organ installed in the Pavillon Baltard at Nogent-sur-Marne by organizing concerts and musical events.
There have never been many cinema organs in France, and now the only instrument that is still accessible to the public, which is also the most important of all those ever installed in the country, is at risk of being abandoned.
This organ which has a special place in the memory of the French (particularly Parisians), was originally installed in the Gaumont Palace cinema in Paris. Built by Hill, Norman and Beard in 1930, this organ was inaugurated in 1931 at the Gaumont-Palace, which was reopened after renovation and modernization.
Despite the impressive size of the building that could accommodate over 6,000 patrons, the instrument was relatively modest in size, 15 ranks over 4 manuals (pipes and machinery was installed 30 meters above the stage). This small size, however, did not prevented it from becoming one of the favorite attractions of Parisians when they went to the Gaumont Palace.
In 1930, talking pictures became more and more prevalent, and although some famous silent films had success (Chaplin, Sennett, etc ...) the Gaumont Palace Christie organ predominantly came into its own at the intermission. It then sang out the popular tunes, accompanied the dancing girls, or featured in concert, perhaps playing with a full orchestra.
Originally clad in Rosewood, and placed in the middle of the stage, dressed all in white, this impressive console rose and fell under the colored spotlights. Everything contributed to the spectacle and wonder of the audience.
The most famous organist and the one that most people remember was Tommy Desserre. He remained as long as the Gaumont Palace was open. We should also not forget George Ghestem, Bernard and Simone and Roy Gilbert, who succeeded on these keyboards !
Despite its 6,000 seats and being the largest cinema in Europe, the Gaumont Palace became increasingly empty, the space it occupied more and more the subject of interested from sponsors and other investors. And eventually the inevitable happened - the Gaumont Palace closed its doors in 1972 and was slated for demolition, with uncertainty about the fate of the Christie organ. It was expected to disappear with the audience !
Today, however, this instrument is still with us, thanks to the eccentricity (or rather should we say genius!) of Alain Villain, who grew to love the instrument and disassembled it at his own expense, but prior to which recording one last album and film of the organ with Tommy Desserre.
With help from roofers and craftsmen, organ builder Jacques Probst, dismantled the instrument in the few days just prior to demolition. The instrument, saved "in extremis", was stored for 5 long years until 1976 when it was sold at auction and purchased by the town of Nogent-sur-Marne (it was classified a historic monument the morning of the sale! ). Assembled by Bernard Dargassies from 1978 to 1979 at the Pavilion Baltard (old Parisian halls of the famous French architect transformed into a theater) where he spent some wonderful times supporting many parties and other gala events of all kinds.
Alas since 2004, the instrument has been played less and less and maintainable reduced until it is no longer maintained at all.
Le Gaumont-Palace en 1931