A second key brings the sound of tweeting birds, and another the clopping sound of horse hooves, as if someone is standing off-stage with a pair of coconut shells.
Then he flexes his fingers, leans in to the array of keyboards and launches into a cheery rendition of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”
The organ’s pipes throb, sing and trill with the power of a full orchestra.
Were if not for for the fact Schipper is wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, we could be transported back to the early 1940s, when the Wurlitzer-Strunk organ was in its heyday at the Tuschinski Theater — an immaculately preserved art deco cinema in the heart of Amsterdam.
The Tuschinski was an opulent masterpiece when it opened in the 1920s — its owner, Abraham Icek Tuschinski, took pains to equip it with the best organ his money could buy.
A Jewish immigrant originally from Poland, Tuschinski was killed along with his family in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War and his cinema renamed the Tivoli.
Schipper gives regular performances to parties of schoolchildren and groups on the twice-daily guided tours of the Tuschinski, as well as special cinema events including screenings of the silent films it was originally installed to accompany.
The organ and theater also occasionally attract members of a dwindling group of Wurlitzer maestros — including Americans R. Jelani Eddington and Lyn Larsen and Britain’s Len Rawle.
“There’s always applause. It’s a great privilege for all of us to play,” says Kroon.
“She’s an old lady. You have to be careful with her, but you also have to play her because if you don’t, she will start to fail.”
Pathe Tuschinski Cinema (website in Dutch), Reguliersbreestraat 26-34; +31 900 1458; tours daily at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.; €10 per person