Pipe organs tend to have a boring reputation. A massive, loud instrument with wind and pipes. A churchgoer pressing the keys with thin, wrinkled fingers. For many people, yawn.
Carl Loeser, curator of the pipe organs in Boardwalk Hall, recognizes that perception.
“The traditional organ community tends to be interested in a somewhat narrow period of time and style,” he said. “We’re hoping to attract a wider audience.”
So when Loeser looked at the 80-year-old Kimball pipe organ Monday, fresh off a truck from Arizona after being refurbished to its most restored state in decades, he thought about the rock band Pink Floyd’s most popular album.
“Why not do ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ on the organ? And that could be an hour-long program,” Loeser said.
By the spring, such performances could be possible for Boardwalk Hall, as work continues to return the Kimball and Midmer-Losh organs to use. The two instruments, both built in the early 1930s and designed by state Sen. Emerson Richards, were staples of the building, but decades of neglect and water damage put their futures in doubt.
The Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society has worked for years to refurbish the instruments. The Kimball organ now features a restored console, refinished cabinets and rechromed pipes — courtesy of the aptly named Ken Crome, a Flagstaff, Ariz.-based organ restoration expert.
When the instruments are in use again, concert musicians such as Lady Gaga, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen could include pipe organs in their performances, Loeser said. And you wouldn’t necessarily need someone sitting at the keyboard.
“Musicians could digitally plug into the organs and make them part of the ensemble,” Loeser said.
Performers also could record and play back their organ music. The organs have received a series of technological upgrades, including electronically controlled air systems.
For now, the Kimball — big as a bedroom — is located in the Boardwalk Hall lobby. Workers will sequentially replace sections of organ pipes, checking mechanisms and finding the right sound. With the improvements, the instrument will soon sound as it used to, Loeser said.
“I’m dying to hear this thing,” he said. “Everybody is.”
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