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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Capitol Theater Pipe Organ in Tulsa

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 12, 2008

Last month, one of my articles was the story of the pipe organ at the Capitol Theater in Steubenville.

 

I recently received a letter from the current owner of that organ, providing more information about the organ, and would like to share that with you.

 

This information was assembled by the Technical Chairman of the Sooner State Chapter of the American Theatre Society in Tulsa, the current owner of the organ.

 

The 1927 Robert Morton organ was purchased from the Capitol Theater in 1966 by the Billy Hargis Ministries, and installed in his auditorium.

 

The Organ Society held many meetings there and sponsored concerts.

 

In 1969, it was the centerpiece of a Theatre Organ Convention held in Tulsa, with several concerts held by well-known artists.

 

In 1978, the auditorium was sold and the Society was given the opportunity to purchase the organ and remove it from the building.

 

They managed to disassemble the organ and its works, and remove it to storage within one week.

 

The Robert Morton organ remained in storage for 5 years until the Society was able to negotiate an agreement with the Tulsa Technical College to allow it to be installed in the new Seminar Center.

 

The architect for the new center was able to construct organ chambers to accommodate the workings of the "Wonder Morton" organ.

 

Installation began in 1984, with the organ being played for the first time in 1986.

 

Today, the school uses it to provide music for graduations and other functions held in the auditorium of the Center.

 

The Society uses it for meetings, concerts, and accompaniment for silent movies, which often have over 500 attending.

 

On the technical side, the organ was installed in the Capitol Theater in early 1928.

 

It has 10 ranks of pipes with a 3 manual console, and all of the sound effects needed to accompany silent movies such as drums and cymbal horn bells.

 

The console is painted ivory with gold trim.

 

When the Society installed the organ at the Tulsa Technical College, they revised the control system with a "Multiplex Electronic Relay."

 

This allows the organ to play itself by copying the performance of an artist.

 

The Society is replacing the leather that opens the valves under the pipes, and has added another 7 ranks of pipes to supplement the original 10 ranks.

 

The Society would like everyone locally to know that when they use the organ for programs in Tulsa, they always announce that their Robert Morton Theatre Pipe Organ came from the Capitol Theater in Steubenville, Ohio.