Born: January 23, 1893; Daventry, England
Died: May 22, 1980; Pasadena, CA
English organist Reginald Foort is a legend among enthusiasts of "theater" or "cinema organ." He was educated at the Royal College of Music in London and, after as a lengthy stint as a choral conductor, began playing as an accompanist to silent movies in 1926, at the tail end of the silent era. Foort is one of the most recorded organists in history, and his recording career began in 1932. Foort's very first session produced his version of the hotRead more Frank Trumbauer tune Choo Choo, a record regarded as a technical miracle at the time and subsequently recognized as a milestone in the history of organ recordings. Named staff organist at the BBC in 1936, in 1938 Foort commissioned the Möller Organ Company to create a "portable" theater organ that could be broken down and taken by truck from one engagement to the next. While it did not prove a very practical instrument, the portable Möller did have a great sound, and after World War II, it was installed into the BBC's studios.
Foort left the BBC in 1951, never returning to England to live and spending the rest of his life in the United States. He continued to record prolifically into the 1970s, and one project that remains highly regarded was a five-album series for Cook Binaural recorded in the 1950s at the Mosque Theater Organ in Richmond, Virginia. The first couple of items in this series had to be credited to "Michael Cheshire" due to contractual obligations. In 1975, the BBC decided that they no longer needed a pipe organ and sold the portable Möller to a pizza parlor in San Diego. By 1980 the Möller was re-installed permanently into Pasadena Civic Auditorium, and Foort himself was present when it was first rolled out to the public within this venue, although he died only a couple of weeks afterward.
More of an improviser than a composer, Foort's arrangements of standard classical fare were relatively simple compared to that of other theater organists, and he seldom "showed off" when playing pieces that were not his own. However, during his heyday some of Foort's original improvisations became well known in England through his popular BBC broadcasts, in particular a dramatic piece called "Dust Storm" is fondly remembered by those who remember the days of the London Blitz. Read less
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