Showing 1 - 25 of 39 comments
RE: “This theatre can be seen right before the "Trolley Car Accident” sequence in the movie “Avalon”. The kids with the mothr come out of the theatre, and you get a great big shot of thr marquee as a trolley car careens out of control from down the side street (which is where I usually park)."
They set up a fake set accorss the street that posed as a gas station."
Mike, the streetcar accident in Avalon was filmed in two locations and made to appear that it was one. As you mention, the streetcar did come down Rosebank Avenue, next to the Senator and as it turned, it derailed and careened into the filling station across the street. Across the street was actually filmed in Canton area of Baltimore City on a set built to look like a filling station. The streetcar was actually a 1:1 mockup of one of the streetcars at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum (www.baltimorestreetcar.org) built by Levinson’s production company. For the record, trolleys never travelled down the side street, but rather on York Road in front of the Senator on the #8 streetcar line. The City of Baltimore, in its infinite stupidity, refused to allow the closing of York Road to properly film the scene as it should have occured.
I was involved with both the Avalon and Liberty Heights (its sequel) filming
I never saw the Roxy, either, but I remember Penn Station as a kid. I get more than a knot in the stomach when I travel to NYC and have to use that poor excuse for a train station … the present Penn Station. Yuck!
The thanks for saving the Hall most properly goes to folks from the Showpeoples' Committee and people like Denpiano. His employer (and he) probably know more about the Hall than space here on this forum would permit. If it weren’t like Denpiano and his colleagues, the Mighty WurliTzer would probably have been sold years ago or worse, hauled off to a landfill. I well remember when I visited there in January 1978 admidst the uproar of the closing of Radio City, a collector from the West Coast had already made inquiries about buying the instrument.
Thank you, Patsy, for your nice comments. I’ve been an organist for nearly 4 decades. I visited the Fabulous Fox in 1991 on a tour, but never got to hear the Mighty Mo (Moller). I would love to hear Larry Embury at the console. The Fox organ, I understand, is in better condition than when M.P. Moller installed it. Sadly, the company who built it went out of business in 1992. Moller built over 11,000 pipe organ in their 117 year history.
Luis, I helped circulate petitions to save the Hall in 1978. I was there the Monday after the annoucement was made in January 1978 that the RCMH was going to close and be torn down. A sad day, indeed. It was through the hard work of the Rockettes and others (The Show Peoples' Committee to Save the Music Hall) that saved this magnificent place.
Quoting Denpiano’s: I’m 53 and think nothing was better than the 60’s and 70’s.
I remember my high school senior class trip to RCMH in May 1969. The movie playing IIRC was Winning. It was about NASCAR racing … I think Paul Newman was in it.
The stage show featured a “mock” NASA rocket launch from the Great Stage since the first moon walk was planed for July that year. It was nothing short of spectacular. The “smoke and steam” coming from the “rocket engines” was provided by C02 fire extinguishers as I found out almost ten years later on one my my “insiders” tours with the one and only Ray Bohr. I saw these used fire extinguishers up above the curved ceiling on the “roof” of one of the prompt side organ chambers. Ray said they never threw anything out at the Hall. Even the original WurliTzer console pedalboards that were replaced were up there. But, I’ve run off track here.
Getting back to the show, I was seated in the front orchestra and during the organ interlude, I got up and walked over to the prompt side console and discovered Ray at the console, much to my delight. A lady and her son were there and we got into a conversation about the Mighty WurliTzer. She told me that their family had an electronic organ just like the one in front of us. I knew that Ray could hear her. I politely told her that she was not listening to an electronic organ by no means but to the largest original theater pipe organ built to date.
Denpiano, I only have two years on you, and the memories of the 60’s and 70’s shows are great aren’t they? I can only well remember standing in line for hours up 50th street, around Rockefeller Plaza, almost to 51st Street, waiting to get in to see an Easter or a Christmas show and MOVIE. And that’s after traveling from train for three hours to New York City.
It was worth making this year’s Christmas Spectacular as usual. My wife and I liked the new digital screen. Since my 1970’s-type private visits, augmented with a too-short one in 2000, are gone, I consider my annual pilgrimage to RCMH my annual “fix.” My Church where I am organist installed a new church organ (digital) last month and I can get a lot of WurliTzer sounds out of it … much to the pleasure of the congregation.
The late Ray Bohr’s “signature” tune was The Song is Ended, But the Melody Lingers On. It’s so appropriate to what we all talk about here as were share our individual thoughts and recollections of this fabulous place.
RE TDTaylor’s: “The concert nature of the Grand Organ came through at the holidays, Christmas and Easter. It was superior to many church organs for religious music. And the pedal on Rubinstein’s "Kammennoi Ostrow” coupled with the orchestra as the altar of a large cathedral appeared in the Easter show was thrilling."
Many people forget that the Music Hall was designed as a concert organ, not a theater organ per se. It is capable of playing both styles of music. There is a very similar instrument from which the Music Hall’s evolved. It’s the organ in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall’s (formerly Convention Hall) Ball Room built by W.W. Kimball. It has 55 sets (ranks) of pipes and the Music Hall has the same 55 sets, plus three more. It is generally thought the Music Hall organ was designed by Kimball (as Roxy was said to favor Kimballs) but it was eventually built by Wurlitzer and the specifications remained unchanged. The pedal on the Music Hall organ is indeed thrilling … even today! Bach’s Toccata from his Toccata and Fugue in d-minor is impressive on the Wurlitzer.
RE PeterApruzzese’s: “From what I understood, the organ always used to be amplified – the microphones were embedded in the outer edges of the chambers. Once when the interior was repainted, the microphones were painted over and ruined and then never used again. As of now, it’s difficult to hear the organ when there’s a large crowd.”
Denpiano would probably give us a definitive answer on this. IIRC, the amplification was only used for the percussions, such as the piano, glockenspiel, chimes, etc. Now, the house sound system is so loud, the organ is “softer” than what’s played through the system. As mentioned previously, there was a time that the loudest musical instrument in the theater was the organ. I agree, there is no reason to blast everyone’s ears off during the show.
It’s difficult to hear the organ when people in the audience don’t shut up when the organ starts before the show. They don’t realize the organ “Prelude” is part of the show. <SIGH> I ‘spose audiences aren’t what they once were. Also, it depends on where you are sitting in the theatre to hear the organ the best. I think Denpiano would agree with me that the center front of the third mezzanine is a great place to hear the entire organ as those seats are fairly adjacent to the organ chambers.
Interesting, Lost Memory. Wasn’t the Moller replaced by a Kimball (per Headley’s book, Exit?
Lost Memory: The Free State Theater Organ Society (in Catonsville, Maryland) owns what’s left of the pipework from the organ. The console was a “straight” type console (like a Church organ) and not the “horseshoe” design.
You might be able to get a commerially recorded CD of the “Old Girl” of Christmas music. Look for CBS Special Products #A19990, titled The Organ PLays Music for A Merry Christmas. You might be able to find it with the seasonal Christmas CD’s amd cassettes. The CD features Dick Leibert at the RCMH Grande Organ and Reginald Dixon at the Tower Ballroom’s Wurlitzer in Blackpool, England. The Leibert numbers are classic Leibert, but the Dixon numbers are clearly Christmas music, set to dance rhythm, typical of Dixon and the Tower Ballroom.
Denpiano, we’ll keep our fingers crossed down here. It would be marvellous to have a current recording of the Old Girl. The last recording I have of her is a private recording by made in 1979 Ray Bohr, including his signature piece, The Song is Ended. I digitized Ray’s tape to CD so it won’t be lost.
Denpiano: Can’t wait. Ask RCB about the time he, Ray et al. were moving a 5-manual Schantz console up a flight of stairs (with a tight squeeze) for a large church in Harlem. Half way up the stairs, some lady was coming down and asked them if they could move back down so she could get by. The lady lost.
Ray started working for a local organ repair company when he was in high school in Nyack, NY. That’s when he himself restored the Style E Wurlitzer at the Rockland Theater in Nyack and starting playing the organ there. And the rest is history. There’s a Reader’s Digest collection of records which has one record with Ray at RCMH. The jacket notes tell that story that Ray used to sneak into Church as a little kid to try out his piano pieces and got caught. I asked him if it were true. After turning a couple of shades of red, he said it was.
I may check to see if you are in the building on December 9th after the show. Be nice to say “hello.”
DavidM: I’ve often thought about what you said. I’ve been going there since 1960 as a kid. I really got hooked in ‘77 through '79 when I tagged along with a friend who used to be an assistant organist there for annual visits to RCMH. During that time, we were guests of the late, great Ray Bohr, the last chief organist there before the format changed. Ray was very, very proud of “The Old Girl” and this is not an exaggeration. He knew her inside and out.
I basically got to see parts of the theater the public never sees (even on the Backstage Tours), experienced making music on the Wurlitzer and enjoying the Christmas Show, from backstage. One time, I got to see what the curved ceiling looked like from on top, over the organ chambers. I well remember the turmoil in 1978 when the Hall was threatened with destruction. I took home petitions for people to sign for the Music Hall. I believe it was the effort of the “Showpeople’s Committee to Save the Music Hall” group, formed by the Rockettes. Yes, the most favorite thing at the Hall is the Wurlitzer, although it is a very difficult on to play, it’s really a concert instrument. Denpiano can fill you in more, I’m sure.
But I digress here. It’s a combination of architecture, stage craft (effects and otherwise), mystique and Art-Deco ambiance that makes Radio City Music Hall the Radio City Music. There are also very fine houses elsewhere, the Foxes come to mind. But, when it comes to the Music Hall, it’s non-pareil. I always equate making a trip to RCMH as worshipping a beauty’s throne (to quote the late Ben M. Hall).
I don’t mean to patronize Denpiano about my thoughts on the Mightiest of All Wurlitzers, but he and his company deserve lots of kudos for their restoration of her. Theater organs are not Church organs and there’s a special talent to service and restore such instruments. Denpiano and his company are fine examples of this special talent. I got to see the organ again in January 2000 after not seeing her since January 1979. The Opposite Prompt console looks like it just came out of the Wurlitzer factory, but the Prompt console, with it additions is an eye-popper. It is actually better than the original, IMHO. It was an emotional experience. Someday, I hope to return for another reunion like the one in 2000. Many classical organista wouldn’t give you three cents' for the organ, but they fail to realize it is a concert instrument … one-of-a-kind built by Wurlitzer. (Many people believe it was designed by another company, W.W. Kimball, and built by Wurlitzer.)
Sure, I’d like to see some of the old format back, too. But for many people who go there, their taste is in their mouths, so management needs to keep the masses coming by using the current show format. <SIGH> I am happy, still, to see it going on in some fashion, though. Better than the place close or worse torn down. Standing in the Grand Foyer waiting for the next show and feeling the rumblings of the organ is part of what it’s all about.
By the way Denpiano, is that the thunder effect pedals being used for Santa’s arrival? IIRC, there’s one based on the Diaphones and the other on the 32' Bombarde. (Call me a RCMH organ junkie!)
Thanks for giving away the begining of the show for me! :( Will be there on December 9th. How’s the Old Girl’s health? Betcha she’s happy to sing out once again with George and Fred at the twin consoles. Looking forward to next week.
Denpiano! Great to hear from you! It would be great to come back for another visit next year. Speaking of Uncle Ray, I gave a concert on a 4 manual Allen George Wright digital theater organ and included several arrangements of Ray’s. My former Music Hall organist friend thought he was back at the Hall hearing Ray play. Glad you are doing the same … even if it is in the middle of the morning … but it’s at the place it should be. Nice clarification on the additional tabs on the Prompt console. I remembered the MIDI tabs now. Hopefully my wife and I will hear her on December 9th, if the musician’s conflict is resolved. Tell the Bishops hello for me.
Denpiano … thanks for sharing your information on the Mightiest of All Wurlitzers. If it weren’t for you and your company, another American Classic would go silent. I believe I met you way back in January 2000 (bitterly cold that day) when a group of four came up to the Music Hall with my friend who was a former RCMH organist and friend of Ray Bohr’s for a reunion for him and the organ. We still talk about the trip. Say hello to RCB and RB for us.
Nice to see you here. Please read what I’ve written about Ray Bohr (all good, of course). Hope that you will be able to share more about the Music Hall with us.
You are entitled to YOUR opinion, but don’t be judgmental in giving YOUR comments.
If you are correct, then what are the sources of information can you quote? I think that I will stick to the information given in the sources I quoted.
Also, seeing the “correct” information you gave about the Saint Louis Fox Theater’s WurliTzer, saying it is a “Crawford Special,” is totally incorrect, cast a shadow of doubt on the reliability of information you give. Then there’s your description of Baltimore’s lamented Stanley Theater as another example. Please do some research first so that we can all learn from correcf information.
Mr. Van Bibber is not even remotely correct about the Missouri Rockets. He fails to give credit to the person who formed the troup, Russell Market. The history of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes begins at the Missouri Theater. Eventually, Markert’s Rockets caught the eye of Samuel L. (Roxy) Rothapfel and they moved to New York City to appear at the Roxy Theater as the Roxyettes, beginning in March 1927.
Russell Markert and Roxyettes were lured away by Roxy when he moved eastward along 50th Street to open the Radio City Muisc Hall on December 27, 1932. In the beginning at the Music Hall, they were known as the Radio City Music Hall Roxyettes. But when Roxy was eventually fired as Director of the Music Hall and the Center (nee RKO Roxy) Theater, the Roxyettes' name was changed to Rockettes in 1934, the name being influenced by the Rockefeller name.
Sources of this information include:
Ben M. Hall, The Best Remaining Seats
Daniel Okrent, Great Fortune
Gail G. Hannah, Radio City Music Hall: A Legend Is Reborn (This is a booklet that was produced by Radio City Entertainment on the restoration of the Music Hall.)
I trust that this information gives correct and factual information about the Missouri Rockets.
According to a Westminster recording I have, Leibert at Home, “Dick Leibert studied the organ at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of Music. He was from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and attended the Moravian Prep School there. He began to play the organ professionally at the age of 14 when he got a job as a theater organist for Loew’s in Washington, DC. Later, he toured for the Loew’s curcuit and played for two years at the Brooklyn Paramount. Against stiff competition, he won the auditions for the permanent post at Radio City Music Hall.”
It has been said that Leibert waited last to be auditioned for the Music Hall job. For his own audition piece, he improvised a medley of everything played by those before him. A friend of mine was an Associate Organist at the Music Hall in the 1950’s and told me that Leibert did the “Gala Supper Shows.”
During his tenure at the Music Hall, he lived in Westport CT. When he retired in 1971, leaving the position of Chief Organist to the late Ray Bohr, Leibert moved to Florida and continued to make appearances. I am not sure but I think he passed on around 1976.
Some of the music Leibert composed was Rosa Maria, Jasmine, English Lavender, Waltz to a Princess and Papa Won’t You Dance for Me? Although I never met him, his style at the Music Hall Grande Organ was his own. He know the instrument intimately and his style could be characterized as being “dark.”
I have also been told that Leibert and Bohr would spend time playing another Rockefeller Center organ before it was removed … the Center Theater’s. This organ was a 4/34 WurliTzer, a scaled down-version of the Music Hall’s (with many of the same ranks of pipes with the same type art-deco console, finished in natural cherry). The Music Hall organ wasn’t the only organ Leibert opened. He was loaned to the Rainbow Room to open its 3/10 WurliTzer (a residence model organ). I recently read that in Dan Okrent’s book, Great Fortune which is about the building of Rockefeller Center. He mentions Leibert a couple of times. Leibert more than likely used the Plaza Sound Studio 3/14 WurliTzer which was in Radio City Music Hall. (The organ, a custom model with a scaled down version of the big console downstairs, is in storage.)
I hope that you can used this information. Also, I hope you consider writing about the Music Hall’s last Chief Organist under the “old” show format, Raymond F. Bohr, Jr. Ray was an extremely talented organist and kindness personified. Ray passed away in 1986.
The Wiltern’s organ was by W.W. Kimball, opus 6644. It had a four manual console and 37 ranks of pipes. Nine of these ranks were for the “echo” organ in the rear of the house. The organ was indeed removed and pretty much sold for parts. The 32-foot Diaphone rank lives on in the new LDS Convention Hall organ in Salt Lake City. The Wiltern’s is another famous organ that had an infamous ending. Won’t people ever learn about these treasures?
The Midmer-Losh was a 3/10, opus #5315. I saw the remains of the organ in 1975 … only the pipework was still there. A older friend of mine was with me at the time, he was once the Cove’s house organist.
The Westbury had a two manual, six rank Midmer-Losh Organ in it. I saw it in ‘75. The console was disconnected and at the rear of the stage and the pipes were still in their chamber. Wonder if anything is left.
Warren and Theatrefan:
Kilgen theatre organs, were often known as Kilgen Wonder Organs in their advertising. They were built by George Kilgen and Sons of Saint Louis, MO. Kilgens were indeed less expensive than Wurlitzers, Kimballs and M.P. Mollers due to their simpler pipe chest construction (and a pain to service). They were also known to purchase pipework from outside sources and did a few other things to cut corners. Kilgen built mostly Church and concert organs. The largest Kilgen organ ever built is up in New York City. It’s the organ in Saint Patrick Cathedral rebuilt by a New Jersey firm along with two stunning new consoles (much better than the Kilgen ones). Kilgen’s business last up until the 1950’s. Talk to most reputable organ servicemen and they will roll their eyes about Kilgen’s pipe chest actions and relays.
The largest Kilgen theater organ was in the Picadilly Theater in Chicago. It was a 4 manual, 24 rankers with a Baldwin Grand piano, playable from the console. I don’t know what happened to the organ, but the piano is happily with the “Might Mo” (Moller) organ at the Atlanta Fox theater.
I well remember seeing the Fortway picture in Ben Hall’s book. As far as anything remaining at the theater, you might become a detective and start looking for long-forgotten organ chambers. It did that once years ago and found two theaters in the NYC area with an intact organ (console and pipes) and another with just the pipes. The one just the pipes was really interesting … the theater was closed and without electricity. So climbing up to the organ chambers was an adventure, if not dangerous. BTW, this was 30 years ago. Sorry! Both of these organs was built by Midmer-Losh of Merrick, Long Island. Midmer built the largest organ in the world in the Atlantic City Convention Hall.
Indeed, Wonder Mortons were 4m/23r as you said. BTW, the prototype Wonder Morton was said be the Morton still playing in the Saenger Theater on Canal Street in New Orleans. Two pieces of trivia here. Radio City’s is a 4/58.
You mentioned C.A.J. Parmentier. Not only did he open the Roxy but he was at the other console at the opening of Radio City Music Hall, along with Dick Leibert. I heard “Cass” Parmentier share a concert at the Music Hall with the late LeRoy Lewis in November 1974 with both of them at either console. It was a tribute to the 25th Anniversary of Ray Bohr’s tenure at the Music Hall. It was a concert not to be soon forgotten. I knew Ray and his impersonation of Parmentier was hoot.
Robert Morton organs, once located in Van Nuys, California, were also built under license by the Wicks Organ Company. The Free State Theater Organ Society has Baltimore’s Metropolitan Theater organ, Morton built by Wicks, up and playing with a WurliTzer console and relay. One look at the pipe work and one will see the Wicks influence.
You hunch is correct! Wow! According to the late Ray Bohr, RCMH’s last full-time organist before the change of format in mid-1979, perfomers did lip sync. The reason was for this was because of a cold/flu/epidemic that made its rounds one time through the performing staff and many came down with laryngitis which had a catastrophic effect on the currently playing show. So, the performers were recorded live to prevent future mishaps.