Alyssa Morin

Keeping old-fashioned entertainment alive: The Old Town Music Hall hosts a music-filled benefit

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Tony Wilson at the Mighty Wurlitzer. On Sunday he will play a “Musical Blast from the Past” to benefit the Old Town Music Hall

Tony Wilson at the Mighty Wurlitzer. On Sunday he will play a “Musical Blast from the Past” to benefit the Old Town Music Hall

The Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo is a South Bay gem.

For 46 years, the music hall and theater has run as a non-profit art space showing silent and classic films and holding ragtime, jazz and American Songbook concerts on piano and its Mighty Wurlitzer grand organ. Owners Bill Field and the late Bill Coffman have relied on the support of patrons and the community since 1968 to provide old fashioned entertainment to the beach cities.

On Sunday night, the friends of Old Town Music Hall are reaching out to the community with a music-filled benefit to keep the theater alive. Renowned organist Tony Wilson is headlining.

“This benefit was Tony’s idea from the start,” said James Moll, a volunteer at Old Town. “He insisted.”

By Wilson’s request, all proceeds from Sunday’s show will benefit Old Town Music Hall to help preserve the golden era of organ-accompanied silent films, classic feature films, and music. His loyalty to the music hall is decades old.

“One day, over 40 years ago, a family friend took me to the Old Town Music Hall where I met Bill Field and Bill Coffman,” said Wilson. “I was stunned at the size and beauty of the pipe organ there and was afraid to ask if I could play it. But Bill Field was very welcoming and gave me an opportunity to play the organ during my visit – something that I will never forget to this day. Bill was one of the very few in my very early days of music who encouraged me, and gave wonderful advice about performance and registration.”

“If it weren’t for Bill Field, I might not have had the desire to pursue my passion for playing the pipe organ,” Wilson continued. “That is why I am so passionate about all of the proceeds for this show going to benefit the Old Town Music Hall.”

Wilson will be stationed at the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, one of the West Coast’s largest pipe organs, and will play a variety of songs as part of the benefit’s “Musical Blast from the Past.” Selections will include popular songs from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, as well as pop songs and Broadway tunes. Vocalist Paul Revier will accompany him.

“I plan to open the program with a short medley of two high-energy and upbeat pieces that include ‘Take The “A” Train’ by Billy Strayhorn, made popular by Duke Ellington, and then ‘Rock Around The Clock,’” Wilson said. “I will also be playing the Beatles’ ‘Here There and Everywhere,’ a super fast and technical samba entitled ‘Desconocido Samba,’ two songs from the Broadway musical ‘South Pacific’ and plenty more.”

Also joining Wilson will be guest artist John Reed-Torres, an Old Town regular and 23-year old ragtime piano prodigy.

“John is quickly making a name for himself as a prolific composer of ragtime,” said Wilson.  “He is following in the footsteps of classic ragtime greats like Scott Joplin, Arthur Marshall and James Scott.”

To top off the evening, the program will step further back in time to the cinema of the 1920s. Old Town Music Hall founder and proprietor Bill Field will take his own turn at the Mighty Wurlitzer to accompany a 10-minute silent comedy film.

“We’re all very excited about this benefit show,” Moll said. “And it’s the perfect event for someone who may not already be familiar with Old Town Music Hall.”

Musical Blast from the Past takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in the Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond Street, El Segundo. Doors open at 7 and reservations are highly encouraged. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Old Town Music Hall, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tickets, $20, cash or check only, and can be reserved by calling the theater at (310) 322-2592.