ATLANTIC CITY — A few of the 33,000 pipes in Boardwalk Hall’s organ — the largest organ in the world — are in tune again.
A team of professional volunteers started the five- to 10-year process of restoring the organ this week.
“Our plan is to get this section here mostly playable, even though it won’t be completely restored, and that will give us something demonstrate while we finish the restoration project of the rest of the organ,” said Carl Loeser.
Loeser has been Boardwalk Hall’s organ curator for the last four years. He’s spent that time repairing the organ workshop and planning the restoration project.
“The organ enthusiasts, some of them think it’s kind of a Mecca,” he said. “Others think it’s silly and it’s too big. In terms of the physical scale, it is bigger than anything, pipe organ-wise.”
Construction began on the Midmer-Losh Organ in 1929 and was completed in 1932. It’s been in disrepair for more than 10 years.
Terry Strauss and her team were also in the Boardwalk Hall workshop documenting the restoration process. Strauss is the producer for “Ultimate Restorations,” a documentary show that has aired on PBS.
“When we found out about this pipe organ we thought, this is perfect,” she said.
Steve Jones, of Hammonton, was one of the volunteer restoration workers. He started working with organs 20 years ago, after he painted a car for his now partner Chuck Gibson.
“Then he asked me to paint a set of pipes, so I painted some pipes,” Jones said. “Then he asked me if I wanted to work with him, and I said, ‘OK.’”
Jones has since developed a love for the organ and restoration.
“As soon as I got involved in organs, I knew about this organ,” he said. “In the organ community everybody knows that this is here.”
Eric Dolch has been playing organ for more than six years. Three years ago he was hired as the music director at St. Nicholas of Tolentine on Pacific Avenue. Soon thereafter he discovered the Midmer-Losh Organ and got involved with the restoration project.
“It’s really wild,” he said. “It’s got issues. It all doesn’t function as it should, but I play at a big building, and I’m used to playing big stuff. But still, you sit down at this and the building is empty, and you look over your shoulder, and it’s, ‘Holy cow.’”
Dolch said it allows the organist to play all kinds of music.
“It can handle just about anything from Bach and early music through theatrical, and we’re really hoping that one day we’ll be able to use it in rock concerts. I can’t see much of anything that it won’t be compatible with.”
Phish and other touring acts have asked if they could use the organ during their live shows.
“We’re in a frustrating position now,” Loeser said. “People are aware it’s being worked on, but it’s not quite ready for public consumption.”
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