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Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

ISO organ debuts

September 23, 2009

Today, IBJ reporter Kathleen McLaughlin chimes in with a report of the ISO’s latest acquisition.


The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra had its new Wurlitzer on display inside Hilbert Circle Theatre Tuesday. And if you know anything about the history of theater organs (and I didn’t until this afternoon), you might think it somewhat appropriate that one ended up at Hilbert Circle. Theater organs were equipped to replicate orchestral sounds so they could accompany silent films. Hilbert Circle opened in 1916 as a movie house.


So, does the ISO have any plans to bring silent film back to the theater?


“Not on the horizon. No,” ISO spokeswoman Jessica DiSanto said. “We are primarily an orchestra hall.”


The ISO is preparing instead for the organ’s debut on Oct. 23 and 24 with Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3. The guest organist is Martin Ellis.


The 1931 Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ, style 240, actually came into orchestra hands back in 2003—as a donation from the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society. Since 1968, it had been stored at the home of a private owner in Fairfield, Ohio.


But restoration doesn’t come cheap. Thanks to a a bequest from Sally Reahard, repairs were made and  and eleven ranks of pipes were added to make the organ suitable for symphonic works. The work was performed by Carlton Smith Pipe Organ Restoration of Indianapolis.


The Wurlitzer is the first organ the ISO has owned since its inception.


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