Rebuilt organ, Mighty Mo, returns to Atlanta’s Fox Theatre

Melissa M. Munoz

ATLANTA (AP) — Immediately after a $500,000 renovation, the fabulously ornate console of the Fox Theatre’s Möller theatrical organ is back house, prepared to rise out of the orchestra pit and glow at the time a lot more.

Designed in 1929, the Mighty Mo is just one of the biggest theatrical organs in the place, and one particular of the most famous.

“People know about this Möller organ,” claimed Ken Double, who, with Rick McGee, serves as property organist at the Fox.

Double was on hand Tuesday as the Möller was sent from a Lithonia organ builder and dollied back again to centre phase.

The scuffed, cracked and flaking case experienced been remodeled. The cigarette burns (from a preceding organist, back again when cigarette smoking was permitted in the theater) had been erased. The total console was wrapped in a new garment of imitation gold leaf, shining like the Tin Gentleman just again from the attractiveness parlor.



“Look at that!” reported Double, as the metallic skin bounced highlights all around the darkened Fox. “Can you envision what the spotlight will do with that when it comes out of the pit?”

Learning TO Engage in MIGHTY MO



John Tanner, one particular of the craftsmen responsible for the rehab, smiled as he imagined audiences swooning: “Medical personnel,” he mentioned, “will be standing by.”


Setting up for the renovation commenced in the summer season of 2019, when the A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Corporation was introduced on to troubleshoot the Mighty Mo’s difficulties and devise a alternative.

A single of the main difficulties was age. Some others had been injuries, which includes one from the 1970s, when a streaker dashed across the Fox’s phase and fell on prime of the keyboard a rock and roll musician did the identical matter at an additional exhibit. Eventually, the Fox constructed a large metal cage that matches all-around the console when the organ isn’t in use.


But age and time are the organ’s chief antagonists. a cage just cannot secure from time’s use and tear. Arthur Schlueter III, next-generation organ builder, could peer inside the console and see repairs courting back again to the 1960s.

In that era Westinghouse electrical engineer and organ enthusiast Joe Patten was retained by the Fox to set the ailing organ back in performing buy. (Patten would go on to co-found Atlanta Landmarks, the non-financial gain that saved the Fox itself from destruction and kick-began the preservation motion in Atlanta. From about 1980 right until his loss of life in 2016 Patten lived in a 3,600 square-foot apartment upstairs at the Fox, in one of the building’s labyrinthine private parts.)


Two of the organ’s weak details, then and now, were the pneumatic switches inside the console and the bundle of 4,000-moreover wires that snaked out of the base of the console in a trunk as thick as a two-liter Coke bottle.

The wires carried indicators from the console to the pipe chambers, large up on the walls to the right and left of the phase. The pipes and orchestral instruments operated by the console are concealed in these chambers less than ornate archways and at the rear of gilded grills, masquerading as box seats.

Regularly pressured as the organ was lifted out of the orchestra pit on its elevator, quite a few of the wires experienced shorted out.

Schlueter removed the pneumatic relays and the bundle of wires and replaced them with a objective-crafted microcomputer and a couple of trim Ethernet cables.

“They’ve taken this 1920s know-how and introduced it to the 21st century, which is the place we enjoy audio,” said Double.

In advance of the console was eliminated for repairs, the Schlueter organization produced a twin console (which they connect with the Faux Mo) to provide in Mighty Mo’s absence. The idea was that singalongs and concert events (and the occasional silent film) could continue on with the majestic Möller accompaniment while the console was in the shop.

Little did they know that a pandemic would get there and the Fox would be dim for most of that time.

However, developing the remarkably-specific Faux Mo was not a squandered effort, said Schlueter. Trying to keep it in the Fox meant that Double and McGee could hold training, which meant the organ and all its pipes and windchests would be played often.

“It allowed it to proceed to workout,” claimed Schlueter. “It’s 90 years previous. If it’s not finding exercising, it can atrophy.”

Traditionalists may possibly be upset by the improvements to the organ. The first halt tabs, which were made of nitrocellulose (an explosive product also employed in munitions) have been changed with plastic tabs. In the program of getting disassembled, the ivory veneers on the 4 keyboards have been also replaced with plastic veneers.

But each and every part taken out of the console has been saved in the Fox’s archives. Theoretically, if a billionaire needed to place it back again with each other the way it was, it would be feasible.

On Tuesday the time came to put Mighty Mo back on its elevator at stage ideal. This is the variety of ticklish minute that presents Arthur Schlueter Jr. nightmares. Anticipating this exchange, “I couldn’t sleep past night,” confessed the founder of the organ company, as he noticed the reinstallation.

About a dozen males collected all-around the fifty percent-ton instrument, each and every taking an offered hand-hold.

“Please consider off any rings and go your belt buckle out of the way,” termed out a staffer. Then at a rely of three everybody lifted although pulling the dolly out from under the console, gandy-dancing as they stepped around the slats of the roller. “Watch your feet!” claimed another voice.

The gilded throne settled again down on its system devoid of incident. No toes were being engaged.

“It’s most likely nicer today than it was when it arrived in 1929,” explained Allan Vella, president and CEO of the Fox as he peered into the inside.

All heaved a sigh of relief.

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