Three nationally acclaimed organists will perform a lively and varied repertoire on the historic Wurlitzer pipe organ at Grace Church in Sarasota.
(Sarasota, FL) Manasota Theatre Organ Society (MTOS) is bringing three world-class organists to perform on the historic Wurlitzer theater pipe organ it owns and maintains in Grace Church for the 2014 season. The fully restored instrument has four keyboards, and 32 sets of pipes totaling more than 2,000 pipes ranging from pencil-size to 16 feet in length. One of America’s busiest young theater organists, Mark Herman, will offer his unique blend of sensitivity and sophistication on January 19; prominent silent film scorer Clark Wilson will accompany the 1927 silent film comedy, Girl Shy, starring Harold Lloyd on February 16; and celebrated theater organist Jelani Eddington will entertain with popular songs and his signature orchestral transcriptions on March 16. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Performances are at Grace Church, 8000 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Concerts are at 2:00 p.m.; doors open at 1:15 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 941-379-6301.
“When people hear ‘organ music,’ they think heavy, somber, stuffy,” says John Fischer, president and concert chair of the Manasota Theatre Organ Society. “But they couldn’t be more wrong. These performers are not just carrying on a rich American tradition; they’re known for their great showmanship and thoroughly entertaining performances. We’re talking Fun with a capital F here!”
On January 19, Mark Herman will showcase his passion for music from the 1920s and ’30s. Herman has garnered both audience and critical acclaim for his interpretations of popular classics and his technical skills and musicianship. In 2012, the American Theatre Organ Society named him the Organist of the Year—the youngest person to ever receive that honor. Herman’s recordings include “Premiere” and “A Kid in the Candy Store.”
At his February 16th concert, Clark Wilson will perform his original score to the 1924 silent movie, Girl Shy, a romantic comedy starring Harold Lloyd. Wilson is one of the leading scorers of silent photoplays in America today, composing exclusively for the organ to create historically accurate musical accompaniments for works from the heyday of silent film. Film critic Leonard Maltin lauded Wilson as a “master of silent film and showman of the first order.”
Celebrated concert organist and recording artist Jelani Eddington will create a multi-textured tapestry of sound on March 19. Eddington has headlined at numerous national and regional conventions of the American Theatre Organ Society, and has toured across America and the world. In 2007, he accompanied the classic film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, on Finland’s largest pipe organ as part of an international organ festival. Eddington has also produced more than 30 theater organ albums on some of the best-known and most dynamic instruments in the country including two on the instrument he will play here in Sarasota.
“These three individuals are among the most esteemed organists practicing in the world today,” says Fischer. He adds that the organization’s celebrated pipe organ is equally amazing—a legendary Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. According to Fischer, the instrument had been originally installed in the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville in 1927. A MTOS member discovered it in a Miami warehouse in 1996.
“That’s when we knew we had a rescue operation on our hands,” says Fischer.
And what an operation it was.
“On a couple of hot August weekends, members convoyed it to Miami with a rental truck,” Fischer recalls. “Volunteers removed the organ, piece by piece and hauled it back to a warehouse in Sarasota.” MTOS members then lovingly disassembled and rebuilt the grand old Wurlitzer. Despite the thousands of hours of volunteer labor, the restoration costs for materials and necessary professional support totaled more than $250,000. The restored instrument debuted in 2001 and today, the organ enjoys a new home and a new purpose at Grace Church in Sarasota where it is heard weekly as part of worship services, and monthly as it is utilized for meetings and concerts presented by the Manasota Theatre Organ Society.
“The grand old organ has one universal purpose,” says Fischer. “It exists to enrich the lives of listeners with the sounds of beautiful music. I’m happy to say, thanks to the work of MTOS, it’s doing exactly that.”
About Manasota Theatre Organ Society
Manasota Theatre Organ Society (MTOS), a branch of the American Theatre Organ Society, was founded in November 1991. Its first project was the renovation of the 1926 Aeolian Duo Art pipe organ in the Charles Ringling Mansion, which is now part of New College of the University of South Florida. MTOS strives to promote the awareness of America’s theater pipe organ heritage and continues to present concerts featuring the 4/32 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ located at Grace Church in Sarasota.