Organ is pure theatre for Aaron

Aaron Hawthorne
Aaron Hawthorne

Think of family holidays in Blackpool and usually sun, sea and sand or the spectacular beachfront illuminations come to mind.

But Motherwell student Aaron Hawthorne’s abiding memory of the ever-popular resort is the magnificent theatre organ at the famous Tower Ballroom.

A visit to the glamorous venue inspired a keen interest in the instrument and led to the 20-year-old landing an unusual UK title.

Aaron had a love of music from an early age and taught himself to play the piano, but it’s the theatre organ that’s really caught his imagination and which could provide a career path for him.

He’s played accompaniment to silent movies at Glasgow’s Pollokshaws Burgh Hall and will share top billing at the monthly concert there this Sunday, August 13.

Aaron, who’s about to start the third year of a music degree course at Glasgow University, won the senior section of the UK Young Theatre Organist of the Year competition organised by the American Theatre Organ Society.

Enthusiasts travelled from far and wide to the event at Solihull in the West Midlands.

Aaron explained: “My interest started during a holiday in Blackpool when I was about 10. As soon as I saw the huge Wurlitzer organ emerge from under the floor I fell in love with it.

“There’s so much theatre attached to this kind of organ with all the attachments that allow for special effects.

“They were designed to accompany silent movies and at one point there were around 20 in Glasgow cinemas. A few years back I found out there was still one at Pollokshaws and the people there allowed me to practise on it.

“I’ve since had the chance to accompany silent movies. It’s complete improvisation, just watching the film with the audience and playing the music as I go along. It’s brilliant.”

Aaron, a regular organist at Motherwell Cathedral services, and Lewis Scott, who won the UK theatre organ title last year, will team up for a concert at Pollokshaws on Sunday. It starts at 2.45pm and admission is £7, payable at the door.

His experience with the organ has prompted Aaron to consider a new career path. He said: “Originally I wanted to be a school music teacher, but now I’d like to start touring in the UK and see where it takes me.”