Proctors To Host Rare Albany Symphony Orchestra Concert Using Antique Organ

Apr 27, 2018

Music fans are expected to head to Proctors in Schenectady this weekend for special performances by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Proctors spokesman Michael Eck says it's been about two decades since the Albany Symphony Orchestra played at the theatre.   "And the fact that they're gonna make use of our fabulous Mighty Wurlitzer, ‘Goldie,’ as we call her, is very exciting."

"Goldie" — built in 1931, one of the last years theatre pipe organs were built — was brought to Proctors in the early 1980s, long after the theatre's original organ was sold off in the late 1920s when "talkies" arrived on the scene.

According to Proctors, "Goldie" has three keyboards, 32 pedals and 18 ranks — each of the latter made up of dozens of pipes ranging from less than a foot to 16 feet in length, representing various wind-blown members of the orchestra.

Frank Hackert is chairman of the Hudson Mohawk Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.  "The reason theatre organs existed was because it was too expensive for theatres to operate a small orchestra for every single showing of a silent movie. An unamplified piano would have a hard job of being heard throughout the building. That presented an opportunity to pipe organ builders to create a new type of instrument that was purpose-built for that one job: to accompany silent movies."

“Goldie,” with its 1,400 pipes, is the only fully restored organ within a concert venue in the Capital Region, debuting with the ASO Saturday evening, sharing the stage with New Zealand conductor Gemma New.

Hackert explains the pipe organ represents early 20th century technology based in early telephone system technology.   "The energy that makes these sounds comes from the air supply, 'cause it is a pipe organ. First of all, the reason there's sound effects is because of the role that it played to accompany silent movies. So there's odd sound effects like car horns and horse clip-clops and doorbells, all these kinds of things that are useful in accompanying a silent movie."

In the hands of players like Carl Hackert, Proctors will be filled with melodies of days gone by. Hackert says "Goldie" has been enhanced with MIDI devices to add classical sounds for Saturday's organ symphony.  "That also includes adding a few more sub-woofers, which people sitting in the audience, they'll feel that. The piece has a very big opening in the finale with a C-major chord, so we wanna make sure this is something that gets people's attention. So it has to be tuned like a classical organ and it has to have the supplemental voice of a classical organ in order to pull this piece off."

Albany Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Proctors
HOW MUCH: $63-$15
MORE INFO: 518-694-3300; www.albanysymphony.com