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Dalton McAlpin plays historic organ Sunday

By Staff
RECITAL Dalton McAlpin will play the Temple Theatre's historic Robert Morton Theatre Pipe Sunday at 2 p.m. Photo by Kristi Mueller/The Meridian Star
By Kristi Mueller/The Meridian Star
Aug. 17, 2001
A piece of Meridian history will come to life on Sunday when Dalton McAlpin plays the historic Robert Morton Theatre Pipe Organ in an afternoon concert at the Temple Theater.
The 2 p.m. concert is open to the public and will be the highlight of the quarterly meeting of the American Theatre Organ Society's Magnolia Chapter. McAlpin last played the organ in the late 1970s.
McAlpin first came in contact with the Temple theatre organ in 1966 when a friend brought him to Meridian to see it. Since then, he, Frank Evans and other members of the American Theatre Organ Society's Magnolia Chapter repaired the organ so it is playable.
The theatre organ combines the sounds of a symphony orchestra with an organ.
While Robert Hope Jones created the theater organ, builders like the Robert Morton Organ Co. manufactured thousands of the organs in the 1920s. Today, only a few hundred remain; most are being preserved by individuals.
The organs were produced to accompany silent movies that played in film theaters. With the introduction of "talkies, " the theatre organ was almost wiped out.
In the 1950s, however, the theatre organ
experienced a surprising and unexpected comeback. Groups of enthusiasts began printing newsletters, salvaging organs and installing them in their own homes.
Such is the case in Meridian. In 1972, the Hamasa Shrine gave organist Frank Evans permission to work on the organ at his expense. And with help from family and friends, Evans restored the organ to playing condition.
The console was removed, cleaned and restored. The once mahogany console was painted white and trimmed in gold leaf. Originally built in Van Nuys, Calif., in 1926, the organ was shipped to Meridian and installed by Roy Gimple in 1927.
The pipes and percussion are directly above the fountains on each side of the theater at the top of the curved arch.
What makes the theatre pipe organ different from the regular church organ is the vast array of functions it offers. The organ has 610 pipes and they include flutes, trumpets, oboes and other wind instruments.
The percussions include tom toms, cymbals, bass drum (including the drum roll), wood block, castanets, tambourine, chimes, chrysoglott, sleigh bells, xylophone and snare drum.
The organ can duplicate any musical sound heard at any symphonic concert. Evans, Tommy Dorsey and Sandy Scalco are members of the Magnolia Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, and have been the driving force behind keeping the Robert Morton in operating condition.
All repairs are completed at the expense of each member. Sometimes, the club will stage a concert to raise money for repairs to the organ or the chambers that house the many pieces and parts required to keep it running.
Anyone interested in organs, or music in general, is invited to attend the regular meetings of the American Theatre Organ Society. Anyone who is an organist and interested in playing the Organ only contact Evans and he can make arrangements for anyone to play.
Evans plays the organ regularly, but only to tour groups. Tour groups come from all parts of Mississippi just to see the Shrine and hear the organ.
Kristi Mueller is an editorial assistant for The Meridian Star.

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