Sorry I’ve Been Away So Long!

Tuesday, October 8th 2013

From now on, either Sunday night or Monday morning is BLOG TIME every week!!

It has been an interesting start to the Fall season.
Today (Sunday, October 6), I am flying home to Atlanta after spending 18 of the past 20 days on the road. I’ve been through Florida, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Louisiana, and of course, Georgia.

Much of what I’ve been working on involves not only the ongoing fundraising efforts, but finding homes for instruments. As I like to say, “We can’t have our playtoys if we don’t have a playpen!”

Of particular note was the most recent trip to New Orleans. The Saenger Theatre is now open again, operating not as a movie house, but as a home for Broadway, big name entertainers, and more.

On behalf of ATOS, I have been working with Cindy Connick, Executive Director of the Canal Street Development Corporation (the government entity helping to create a new New Orleans theatre district), and David Anderson, president of Ace Theatrical, the Houston/New York-based entity now operating the theatre.

These two are theatre organ fans, and while we faced and then got past the frustration of no initial budget for the organ restoration at the Saenger, the fact is these two worked hard to save the organ, and now begin the campaign to bring it back.

We began more than two years ago when my first visits helped to answer some initial questions they had. We were also impressed by the fact that from Day One, these two told architects, engineers and planners that the chambers were OFF LIMITS to air conditioning ductwork, electrical conduits, and other “stuff” that can ruin a chamber space.

Both Cindy and David are adamant that the old, original console, nearly ruined by Katrina, will be restored. They had no interest in finding a replacement console.
And the rebuilt orchestra pit still features a completely separate lift for the Robert-Morton console. That involved a LOT of money that might have been spent elsewhere, but was steered for the future home for the console.

My Atlanta friend Lee Lanier helped arrange travel, and we had two great events in New Orleans to kick off the fund-raising for the organ. There will be a complete article in the January-February issue of the journal showcasing the great work done here.

We also spent a lot of time with Mike Fitzgerald, who was the late Dr. Barry Henry’s partner. Mike will be directly involved in all efforts toward the Saenger, as he and Barry loved this theatre and the Robert-Morton organ.

What’s more, Ace Theatrical is the entity re-doing Loew’s Kings in Brooklyn, which will eventually house the Paul VanderMolen four-manual Robert-Morton. And in talking with Ace officials, who also operate the San Antonio Majestic, we started dialogue about getting that Robert-Morton back on line.

Our hopes are that Ace Theatrical’s footprint for operating theatres around the country will grow. They like having theatre organs in their historic theatres.
Good for Ace!!! Good for ATOS.

Our organization needs more partnerships like this, with solid theatre people who understand the advantages of having an instrument in their theatres.

Meanwhile, my Florida travels involved working with a new talent. Kristof is the organist at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and the five-manual Walker organ. I did something I had not done since 1975. I played the organ for a hockey game! CHARGE!!

I sub’d for Kristof one night, then spent some time with this talented keyboard musician showing him the “ropes” around a horseshoe console, and some of the secrets of playing theatre style. He’s a quick learner. After a day at his job with Disney in Orlando, he heads to Tampa on game night in time for a quick rehearsal and then the music for the contest. We have a new fan of theatre organ in this talented church musician and jazz artist, and his efforts will bring the sound of the theatre organ to thousands (the arena seats nearly 21,000 for hockey) every game.

I will be back to the Tampa area to do some follow-up with Kristof, and I will be playing for the Manasota chapter meeting October 20, and see what new chapter President John Fischer is up to.

Future travels include Lafayette, IN for a screening of Phantom of the Opera at Long Center; the LA area (flying on my birthday no less); a one week stop in New Zealand to pinch-hit at the Hollywood Theatre in Auckland; holiday programs December 6 for Dick and Linda Wilcox at the “firehouse Page” in Union City, IN and December 8 for the Central Indiana chapter meeting at the Warren Performing Arts Center.

Keeping my washer and dryer busy and my bags packed, we hope we are having an impact on many levels!

Back next week, I promise, and NO TRAVEL ‘til October 16th. Hooray!!