People who only associate organ music with what they hear while sitting in church pews are in for a surprise Sunday when the Susquehanna Valley Theatre Organ Society puts on a concert at the Capitol Theatre in York.
"It's important not to confuse the theatre organ with organs in most churches and auditoriums," says society member and concert co-chair Don Schoeps. "The theatre organ is an American invention which allows a single musician to present all music -- especially music that would require a whole symphony orchestra to present."
The "Pipes and Voices Ring in Spring" concert will feature organist Jonathan Ortloff, winner of the 2008 American Theatre Organ Society's Young Theatre Organist Competition. Ortloff will play the Capitol's renowned Mighty Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ.
"The Capitol's Mighty Wurlitzer is truly a treasure to the community," says society member and concert co-chair Nancy Schoeps. "Although in the '20s most towns in America had one or several, today you have to travel as far as Chambersburg or Phoenixville to find anything like the one at the Capitol. At one time, there were three in York that we know of."
The pipes: The Capitol's Mighty Wurlitzer is an antique prize of the York community. The organ is built from 1920s wood and leather technology and has thousands of pipes, the Schoeps explained. In addition to the pipes, the instrument features hundreds of flying hammers, bells, drums, tambourines and even a triangle.
It's an instrument that Ortloff, who has performed throughout North America, is looking forward to trying out.
"It's a brand-new audience and organ for me," Ortloff says. "I've played at some venues over five times, and while I cherish familiarity, having the chance to explore an instrument foreign to me, and to make a first impression on an audience, is always thrilling and exciting."
Without the society's restoration and preservation efforts, the opportunity wouldn't exist. The nonprofit organization's goal is to preserve and present theatre organ music. Meetings are held the second Monday of every month, and anyone with an interest in theatre organs is invited to attend.
"To have this real theatre pipe organ installed in a real restored theater -- this is a community treasure. Everyone in the York area should be proud," Nancy Schoeps says. "The role of this organ in community life keeps changing."
In addition to special concerts like "Pipes and Voices," the Wurlitzer gets a workout twice a month before Sunday afternoon movies in the Capitol Cinema film series.
The voices: The "Pipes and Voices" concert, as the name implies, will also feature vocalists.
The Central York High School show choir, Celebration, will supply the voices.
"Jonathan Ortloff is sure to lead us through a great demonstration of the Mighty Wurlitzer's range, and give us a good peek at where artists of the future will take us," Don Schoeps says. "We might say the same of Celebration as well."
Celebration is a co-curricular group that rehearses outside of the school day. Students are chosen for the group by audition each September. The vocal group has performed throughout the United States.
Although the theatre organ might seem old-fashioned and out of touch to some, Ortloff is quick to address the skeptics.
"The organ is, after all, a musical instrument; it's more than a machine," he says. "With its variety of sounds, people can connect to the theatre organ on a level they may not even realize."
-- Reach Kyle Dunlap at 854-1575 or email@example.com.
Attending the concert
The Susquehanna Valley Theatre Organ Society concert "Pipes and Voices Ring in Spring" starts at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Capitol Theatre, 50 N. George St., York.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and $13 for student and senior admission. Tickets will be available at the door or can be pre-ordered by calling 717-254-6097 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the organ society, visit www.svtos.org. For more information on organist Jonathan Ortloff, visit www.jonathanortloff.com.