Posted by: rbbadger | September 30, 2011

R. Jelani Eddington

As far as theatre organs go, Wurlitzer was the most prominent name, though many other builders such as Kimball (who did the first rebuilding and expansion of the Mormon Tabernacle Organ) and even the late, lamented M.P. Möller made theatre organs.  Other famous names in the theatre organ world were Robert-Morton of Los Angeles, Compton of England, and quite a few others. 

Back in late 19th and early 20th centuries, American cities often had huge organs built in concert halls.  An organist would be hired to perform regular concerts.  Since opera was a very expensive thing, then as now, organist would often perform transcriptions of operatic and symphonic works.  One of the most famous of these civic organists, Edwin Lemare, started out as a church organist in the Church of England.  He came to America and thrived as a civic organist and as a recitalist.  Some organists have revived this tradition of making transcriptions.  There is now a greater respect for symphonic organs, such as those built by E.M. Skinner, and even for theatre organs.

One of these transcribers, Jelani Eddington, is a talented organist known for his work with theatre organs.  According to his website, he’s also a lawyer.  I’m not sure that he practices law now, as he seems to have a pretty active career.  You can read more at www.rjeproductions.com.  Here, he plays his transcription of the William Tell Overture at Grace Baptist Church in Sarasota, FL.  The church is a proud possessor of a 1927 Wurlitzer theatre organ.  The transcription is in two parts.

I’ve written before about the massive theatre organ at the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills, IL.  Jasper Sanfilippo made his fortune in peanuts.  His company owns the Fisher brand of nuts.  So while this organ was paid for by peanuts, it certainly did not cost peanuts to build.  The bulk of the instrument is a Wurlitzer, but there are pipes from quite few other well-known organ builders.  This third video features a Leroy Anderson piece played by Mr Eddington on the organ of the Sanfilippo Estate.  Anderson is famous for “Sleigh Ride” among other works.  There is some thrilling video of the interior of the instrument.  You get to see the tremulants at work.  The tremulants provide the vibrato sounds of the organ. 

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Responses

  1. I liked the 2nd one best, probably because it is most familiar. I liked how the stage was set up with the screen so the audience could watch his hands. Pretty amazing! The third piece was fun to watch his feet & hands at the same time. Sure do wish you had access to an organ!

  2. Hello Mr. Eddington!
    I grew up in Muncie IN and my mother Avanell Nunley kept a little boy named Jelani when she operated a Home Day Care. I am 58 years old and now live in Martin TN. where my mother (93 yrs) & father (84yrs) both live. They are both in a nursing home now and doing well. Recently, we were cleaning out some of their personal items after they were moved from their home. I came across a small newspaper clipping announcing your completion on an Internship. I vaguely remember you being at my parents home when I would come to visit occasionally. I thought I would contact you just to see if you remembered my parents. Also, I seem to recall that your father died when you were just a boy. You lived with your mother a few doors down from us on Sixth ST. If I have mistakenly contact the wrong person, please forgive me. I am not generally of the habit of contacting people who my mother kept when they were children. But for some reason, I felt the need to reach out to you. I trust you are doing well and that God is continuing to grant you favor in your going in and coming out. By the way, I remember my mother referring to you as a “VERY SMART” child.
    Sincerely,

    Robert A. Nunley

    • This isn’t Mr Eddington’s website, though I am grateful for your visit all the same. You may visit his website by clicking on the link below:

      http://www.rjeproductions.com/

      I think Mr. Eddington is a very talented organist. I wish him well in all his endeavours.

    • Robert Nunley–I just happened across your comments to Jelani Eddington, and yes, you have the right person. I’m Louise, his mom, and we certainly remember your family! I’m also very good friends still with Karen Thompson, who was a close friend of your family. Thanks for writing, and best to you and all your family. Jelani is doing very well and loves what he is doing.


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