Farewell, organ

Mar 082011
Authors: Samantha Baker

The 1927 Wurlitzer Organ, which has been a little-known treasure housed in the Lory Student Center since 1983, will give the first of a two-part farewell performance tonight in the LSC Theatre.

“This is really an incredibly unique opportunity for students and community members to see,” said L.J. Ankarlo, coordinator of general programming for the Association for Student Activity and Programming.

The organ will play as the accompaniment to the 1920s silent film, “The Mark of Zorro.” The film will be played above the LSC Theatre stage as Bob Castle, resident organist from the Paramount Theatre in Denver, sits on stage, dictating the sounds of the film through 1,400 pipes that will radiate across the theatre.

The purpose of the event highlights the historical purpose of the instrument.

The theatre organ was originally developed in the early 20th century to accompany silent films. Due to the complexity of the instrument, the theatre organ was capable of replacing the sound of an entire 40-piece orchestra as well as providing sound effects to accompany the films.
Ankarlo encourages students to attend tonight’s performance, noting that the opportunity is a rarity. “Even if it’s not your type of music, you can say ‘I’ve been there, done that and heard this type of music played,’” Ankarlo said.

Bruce Freestone, technical service coordinator for the LSC, said while the organ has always been thought of as a jewel in the LSC, it’s a jewel that has rarely been used and is difficult to maintain.

“Everyone is very sad to see it dismantled,” Freestone said.

During spring break, the organ will be dismantled and removed from the LSC theatre before renovations begin in June. Freestone said that because of the proposed plans for the new theatre concern a lack of space and interest in the organ, it will not be put back in the theatre. Instead, the organ will be packed away and left in storage with a location and future still unknown.

With the retirement of CSU’s organ, only three Wurlitzer organs are left in Colorado.

Freestone said the LSC, CSU, College of Liberal Arts faculty and a handful of community members hope to find a new home for the organ in a suitable venue.

The organ was first housed in the Piccadilly Theatre in Rochester, N. Y., later moved to The Three Coins Restaurant in Louisville, Colo. and finally in a pizza parlor in Provo, Utah. In Utah, the organ was purchased by Marian Cook who commissioned it to be rebuilt and restored and subsequently gave it to CSU in 1983 in memory of her husband, John Brown Cook.

Since its installment at CSU, the reign of the organ has been driven by professor Robert Cavarra. Cavarra was responsible for bringing the organ to CSU and revitalizing the organ movement in Fort Collins. This led to three other organs being installed, including a Casvant Freres in 1969, which is now housed in the University Center for the Arts. Since Cavarra’s retirement in 2000 and death in 2008 though, the organ has seen little use.

Despite pressure of staying in and studying during mid-terms week, Maggie Burdue, a sophomore biology major, expressed serious interest in attending the performance.

“Where else would you go to something like that?” Burdue said.

Connor Neuhaus, a senior zoology major, agreed.

“[An organ] has its own sound to it. To hear a good organ with good acoustics is unmatchable,” Neuhaus said.

Tonight’s film and performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the LSC theatre and is free and open to the public. On Friday, a more traditional concert will take place as Kevin Utter and Doug Thompson will perform, with accompaniment by Harold Ferguson on saxophone. This event is also free and open to the public and will be held in the LSC theater at 7:30 p.m.

Staff writer Samantha Baker can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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