Imagine a movie in the days before the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, came out. The hero would be racing to save the damsel in distress, or the bad guy was about to sneak up on someone, or the happy couple was finally reunited. How was all that emotion conveyed to all the movie watchers?
The organist is single-handedly responsible for making or breaking a movie at the local silent movie theatre. And in the 1920s, there was a rush to build more silent movie theaters in cities all around the country so organists were in demand.
During last Saturday’s tour of the Ohio Theatre, we were all treated to a demonstration of the original pipe organ, the “Mighty Morton.” Originally installed in 1928, the talented folks at the Ohio Theatre have done quite well to keep it up and running – and in tip top shape. It’s one of the few original pipe organs of this size to still be up and running in its original location, its original theatre.
Clark Wilson has been the organist at the Ohio Theatre since 1992 and is one of the few organists around who is still able to make a living playing for silent movies. He plays for CAPA’s summer movie program.
The Columbus Dispatch just printed an article about Mr. Wilson this past weekend, so I strongly you recommend you read that as they did a wonderful job talking about the history of this wonderful organ within the Ohio Theatre as well as the great work Mr. Wilson does.
I’m not the greatest at taking videos, but here’s a bit of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. I missed the very beginning, but it kind of repeated at the end, so you still catch all the music and various effects. What an amazing instrument!
Did you catch his feet moving? They just moved back and forth like it was nothing!
It was such a treat to hear him play. The docent who introduced him said he had at least 1,500 (memorized) songs in his repertoire. OK – I’m officially impressed! Not only can he play the organ so well, but he can also do all the maintenance and repair work on it meaning that this organ will continue to stay in nearly perfect shape for years to come.
The Summer Movie series is still ongoing, so if you haven’t yet had a chance, you should go out. Little Americans, with Mary Pickford, is playing tomorrow and Friday nights at 730. Check it out!
UPDATE: As of August 7, 2013 – I’ve been advised by the CAPA tour office that one additional tour date has been added thanks to an enthusiastic response to this past weekend’s article in the Columbus dispatch about the Ohio Theatre’s very own Clark Wilson! August 17th is all booked, but August 24th is now available for folks still interested in taking a tour. Click here to learn more and to sign up – reservations are definitely required! (Trust me – it’s worth it!)