Jack Moelmann and the Wurlitzer Organ at Radio City Music Hall

About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my cousin in Florida mentioning some retired Air Force colonel’s quest to rent out Radio City Music Hall’s auditorium to play the organ. I hadn’t heard a word about Colonel Jack Moelmann up until that point and the storyline probably wouldn’t have caught my attention without her pointing it out.

I thought about it and thought about it; and finally decided to go.

I must admit to not being too much of an organ fan. It’s a fine instrument and the one at Radio City has, with some qualifications, claim on being one of the biggest in the world. Hey, they call it “the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ”. That’s a very cool name. 

I have to admit that I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to the organ, except in Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Godda-Da-Vida and Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue (the last link actually has a sound file).  Neither was played last night, but I think the last one would have brought the house down.  My best memory of an organ itself is meeting the uncle of a good friend and watching him build part of a world class organ for a large Virginia church.  Amazing.

So I got in and had a pretty good seat. There are actually two organ consols in the place. One to the audience’s left and one to the right. I made a guess that the one on the left would be the focus of the performance and before the show started I managed to catch a quick photo. This is the last of the “good” photos because they banned flash photography. I gotta bunch of lousy pictures. You’re going to see the best of the worst from here on out.

At first, the place was pretty empty and I wondered about the turnout. I was pretty much there to support a retired Air Force colonel (just like my dad was) and his pursuit of his lifetime dream. (Actually, I don’t know how long he had the dream but I like to think of it as a longtime, even lifelong, quest.)

Radio City Music hall has about 6,000 seats from what I understand. The place did start to fill up, but I don’t think it hit the halfway point which is what I figure he would need to break even. The crowd was pretty eclectic, but certainly skewed toward retired types that appeared to be retired military.

Well before the above picture took place, something very nice happened. I was sitting there and some guy in a white jacket appeared and talked to some people near the front. I really only noted him because of the white jacket and how out of place it was. He then went to a couple of other rows and I started to suspect it was the Colonel. I hadn’t seen any interview or any picture that I could recall.

As he did a little bit of wandering, he came and started talking to some people two rows ahead of me and their words indicated it was Colonel Moelmann. He started talking and I recognized one of his phrases from an article I read; something about the Rockette’s wouldn’t come because they cost $90,000.

I shoulda taken a picture, but I didn’t. Interestingly, nobody near me did either. I just couldn’t believe that the show’s star was coming out to greet his audience only about 15 minutes before the show.

Anyway, the show started with an introduction by Fr. Gus Franklin and Nelson Page. They were front and center on the stage, but that area wasn’t used again until the very end of the show.

After about a two-minute intro, Jack Moelmann came out and climbed onto the organ’s seating. For the period of his main playing time, he got on and off that thing about six times, each time we all wondered (and he wondered aloud) whether he was going to fall off the elevated perch. There didn’t seem to be much room between the back of his (movable) bench and the edge of the perch. How he didn’t fall at some point remains a mystery. Of course, the guy was probably walking on clouds anyway.

Colonel Moelmann wasn’t alone in his playing. Early on, he was joined by Russell Holmes (the pianist for the Queen Mary 2 liner) playing on the organ consol to the right. I tried to get a photo of it, but no luck.

The Colonel played for about twenty minutes or so. Most of his repetoire was pretty standard songs from the thirties and on. His first one: The Trolley Song from “Meet Me in St. Louis”. One of the most modern ones? Rubber Ducky. He did some Cole Porter, too.

He was followed by a fellow organist, Walt Strony. The picture below is pretty much the sort of thing we saw all evening. During his conversation with the audience, Colonel Moelmann stated that one of the “rules of show business” is not to turn your back on the audience. Well, with the Radio City setup, there was no way to not have your back to the audience.

The next organist was Lew Williams. The next picture is such that both he and Walt Strony were hard to tell apart.

At the very end, they went to the main stage and Col. Moelmann was presented with an award from the Theatre Organ Society International. The members of his Church sent flowers and the Colonel told us to get out.

The program itself was pretty standard. There was the first medley from Moelmann. He was joined by Russell Holmes for a few tunes. Walt Strony and Lew Williams did a few themselves, giving the Colonel a chance to take a breather. He came back to lead a sing-along. There was an intermission and then each of the four did some more playing. Plus, Fr. Franklin played some at the end with Moelmann.  There was one classical piece performed, I believe by Williams.  Lots of Broadway tunes.

One or two items. His playing was fine, but his three main accompanists were much sharper. No problem. Second, there was so many other sounds coming along with the organ playing that it seemed that the organ was played almost as much as a synthesizer than just a regular organ. I don’t know these things, but some of the sounds were such that they may have been recorded to play at the touch of a button rather than the sound changing because of the flick of a switch. For example, some bell-type sounds were very fast and there didn’t seem to be any corresponding movement in the organists bodies to show that they were being created on the fly.

But that’s of no consequence. It was good to see somebody’s dream come true. To his credit, the Colonel said that he his main dream was to entertain us, but however you cut it; seeing him do this accomplishment was one of the main entertainments of the evening.

-H

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Events, Manhattan, Mid-town

39 Comments on “Jack Moelmann and the Wurlitzer Organ at Radio City Music Hall”

  1. John McCall Says:

    Thanks for this review. Many of us theatre organ aficianados could not be a the Hall last night to support our friends and artists, so it was grand to get almost instant feedback today–and from someone who is not a theatre organ enthusiast per se. By the way, I can assure you that all the sounds you heard last night came from the Wurliter! Remember that theatre organs were originally seen as orchestral cost-effective substitutes for silent films, so many symphonic effects were a part of their musical make-up: like, typani, xylophones, chimes, cymbals, sirens, “horse hoofs” etc. Although this is one of the last Wurlitzers built, and one that never saw silent film work until some revivals much later at the Hall, all those effects are there. They are NOT electronic recreations–they are the real things in the chambers!

  2. a friend Says:

    Thank you so much! I could not be there either, but would have loved to be. Part of the magic of theatre organ is all those extra sounds, and the secrets that allow the performer to make them happen without the audience seeing how he did it. Yes, they are real bells, a real siren, and so on, all designed to create the sound effects for a silent movie, but now also used to delight and entertain on their own.

  3. jrb Says:

    “I don’t know these things, but some of the sounds were such that they may have been recorded…” This is the problem with anyone being allowed to have a blog. You’re correct, though: you don’t know these things.

  4. Jack Stewart Says:

    I haven’t heard Colonel Moelmann play in years but I knew this had to be good. i first heard Jack play when he played recordings for us while we were students at Bradley University. Later, he took me and another buddy over to a church he played at in Peoria, Illinois and let us listen to him practice. Jack was great at improvization. This had to be a great evening.

  5. Tom Hoehn Says:

    I was there, but due to a delay in the trains from Newark to NYC I missed Jack’s traditional opening number of the “Trolley Song”. . The rest of the program was great as far as I was concerned — All the organists Walter Strony, Lew Williams, Russell Holmes and Fr. Gus Franklin did a tremendous job considering the amount of time allotted for practice and the layout of the Music Hall Wurlitzer being different than most other organs.

    It was a very enjoyable evening and I can’t wait for it to happen again, of course Jack will probably have to sell his house and car and dog to make it happen again.

  6. mike cierski Says:

    I wish i could have been there…….you have to do it again sometime…LOL!

  7. Tom DeLay Says:

    We came from California for the event and had a blast. Hearing Lew play the familiar Widor Toccata was a treat–I had never heard any form of classical music played on the RCMH instrument before.

    Jack (and TOSI) started a wonderful trend. Who will be the next person/organization to pick up the ball and present another program on this wonderful old Wurlitzer?

  8. Bob Ralston Says:

    You brought your dream to reality, and in doing so you truly made organ history. Bravo!

  9. TOMMY Says:

    I have heard the Radio City WurliTzer in person once. The first theatre organ recoding I ever bought was Ray Bohr at the Radio City City. What I discovered lated was that the organ heard on the recording was played at the RCMH sound studio which was about a 3/14. The intensity of the reeds and strings, gave my old pair of Radio Shack Realistic tweeter such a jolt—-they almost causht on fire. Im sure glad someone stole my AR 3as When im tired playing the organ I just plug in my Fender Bass guitar,and hook more tibias and drums to the organ and wire some more”Junchen” boards. Hope to hit NY in the future, and get some good bagels and pastrami I I have been trying to make good bagels for years, but the secret is in the NY water!. im better at making NY pizza with Italian sausage. Vaccum cleaners? my shop vac is fu;;.

  10. http://fastingforweightloss.net Says:

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the information coming. I liked it!

  11. Victorina Says:

    What you want to discuss and how you discuss various issues is left to you, which again is
    an advantage especially if you are creating an online talk radio station.

    As an Internet broadcaster, it is high time that you pick on
    these available opportunities and add that $ilver sheen to your broadcasting
    happiness. Organizing employees, maintenance of radio station as well as layout and other details are very simple
    and therefore creating a radio station online
    is a lucrative deal for those who want their own stations.


  12. Webcams can do a lot of things, such as video conferencing,
    virtual advertising, workplace or home surveillance, event broadcast,
    and many other functions. Car kits are Utilized by the users in
    their Auto mobiles to Find the way through directions and keep on connected with the Cell phone
    continuously. There are twelve programmable G-Keys on the left side of
    the keyboard.


  13. I have been in touch with many musicians, artists that I would have never heard before.
    In my case I listen to all music that is submitted to me before I include it on
    my playlist. Most stations will give you names of their more popular hosts and ask
    you to talk with them.

  14. tommylee.com Says:

    Body is solid and is made up of magnesium alloy which makes this camera durable to
    last longer. This 12 megapixel camera is capable of capturing 3D photos
    too. Some cameras are simple point and shoot while others have many different modes for taking pictures.


  15. Believing that you are actually starving, it releases chemicals that actually make it harder
    to lose weight in an effort to conserve energy. Cucumber
    contains sterols which can help to lower cholesterol and
    prevent carbohydrates from converting to body fat. Then leave it a while
    until your tummy lets you know that you’re hungry again before opting for a healthy snack.

  16. Jodi Says:

    It was starting to get dark and Jeff has been gone a long time.
    Are you going on a lighthouse tour of the Oregon Coast.
    Most Coleman camping stoves powered with propane fuel even have electronic ignitions to save time and energy.

  17. Garrett Says:

    The developers are saying that Defiance is a pixel perfect shooter, so if you aim at your target’s head it WILL be a headshot instead of the invisible dice rolling a 5 and telling you that you somehow missed. However, every character in the game (even supporting players) should be presented in this same detail. Harry Potter Hogwarts is one more entry into this new series of LEGO board games.

  18. Rosetta Says:

    As the medium is not limited to any particular geographical or demographic region, advertising
    on internet radio would give the business an international audience base.

    Listening to Internet radio is a breeze for anyone who’s familiar with the World Wide Web. Most radio stations on the Internet have offline counterparts.


  19. Use the following checklist to handle the legal issues on your own, or to have a
    better understanding of what your real estate lawyer is doing on your
    behalf:. For party of that kind, one can buy beer online
    from ebottleo and can have the liquors delivered at their doorstep
    within 24 hours. Years ago, I was in search of a house; all my efforts
    were futile, I was at the point of giving in when a friend of mine introduced me to this company.


  20. Rеduced appetitte enables one to take less food, which
    restricts fat to enter into body. Add to that the danger of using Phenterminе
    for periods onger than a few weeks. Amphetamineѕ (including Addeгall, Vyvanse,
    phentermine and dextroamphetamine) tend to cause decreased appetite
    as a ѕide effect.

  21. google.com Says:

    Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google,
    and found that it is really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels.
    I will be grateful if you continue this in future. Many people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!


  22. Wonderful article! We will be linking to this particularly
    great content on our website. Keep up the good writing.


  23. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.


  24. What’s up to all, the contents existing at this wweb page
    are in faact awesome for peoplpe experience, well,
    keep up the good work fellows.


  25. I never installed any copyright stuff online/offline. I know what i did or not. i just want to remove this warning from my computer but don’t know how. can anyone help me??.


  26. I believe that is one of the such a lot vital information for me.
    And i’m happy reading your article. But want to statement on few general issues, The site style is ideal, the articles is in point of
    fact great : D. Excellent job, cheers


  27. Additionally provides exclusive digital advertising and marketing business information &
    statics, commentary from digital media trade consultants, and in-depth digital advertising sources
    Get Informed !


  28. Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins
    to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any
    suggestions?

  29. Leer MáS Says:

    Leer MáS

    Jack Moelmann and the Wurlitzer Organ at Radio City Music Hall | Famous Ankles


  30. With regards to optimizing your Facebook blogposts for marketing success,
    everything boils down to content.


  31. Hi there, constantly i used to check website posts here in the early hours
    in the morning, because i like to find out more and
    more.

  32. bmw i8 0-60 Says:

    For BMW enthusiasts, information of a BMW M3 pre-production discovery implies something:
    BMW will soon announce the day in 2007 when its latest M Collection vehicle will certainly be readily available
    in supplier showrooms. Styling cues from the BMW M3 will discover its way to the brand-new version from front
    wing vents to twin exit exhausts along with the common M series recognized emblems.
    The BMW K75, three-cylinder, designs were created from
    1985 to 1996.


  33. I have leearn a few good sttuff here. Definitely alue bookkmarking
    for revisiting. I wonder how much attempt you place to create the sort of excellent informative site.


  34. Testimonials and previous click here clients’ complaints.
    Aside from needing electricity to function. The object was a roundish amber colored orb of light.

    Step 4Get QuotesHomeowners choose an electrician very carefully is often a person who will not only give you
    the chance to request more in depth questions regarding their knowledge about getting electrical work
    done?


  35. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am encountering issues with your RSS.
    I don’t know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting
    identical RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond?

    Thanx!!


  36. Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for info approximately this subject for ages and yours
    is the greatest I’ve discovered till now. However,
    what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain in regards to the source?

  37. Oren Says:

    I am no longer sure the place you are getting your information, but
    good topic. I must spend some time studying more or
    working out more. Thanks for magnificent info I used to
    be searching for this information for my mission.


  38. where to buy paper car mats

    Jack Moelmann and the Wurlitzer Organ at Radio City Music Hall | Famous Ankles


  39. Я читал эту часть письма полностью о в Сходство из новейший и предыдущие технологии, это удивительный Статья.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: