- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

MACON, Ga. (AP) - Who remembers hearing the pipe organ in the Macon City Auditorium?

It’s still there, almost all of it. But though big metal pipes are still visible at the balcony level on either side of the stage, the organ has been silent for decades.

The massive and unique instrument now needs extensive cleaning and repair, and the console isn’t even connected. If it’s fixed, auditorium managers say, it could turn the copper-domed building into a major draw.

Mark Butcher, general manager of the Macon Marriott City Center and the Macon Centreplex — which includes the auditorium — played organ and other instruments in church. When he took over Centreplex management in April 2013, he was excited to find the auditorium had an organ.

“When I saw these pipes sitting there, I said ‘What a great addition to this beautiful venue,’” Butcher said.

The organ, which is a cross between a theater organ and a church organ, was built in 1925 by the M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Co. of Hagerstown, Maryland, said David Higdon, the auditorium’s events manager.

The same company made the “Mighty Mo” — short for Moller — organ at Atlanta’s restored Fox Theatre. Butcher and Higdon called experts associated with the Fox to look over Macon’s organ, and they declared it to be in excellent shape, considering its age and situation.

“This organ’s actually larger than the one in the Fox Theatre,” Higdon said.

The Fox organ was custom-built in 1929 for $42,000, according to the theater’s website. It was valued at nearly 10 times that amount in 1974, and today the Fox calls it “priceless.”

The American Theatre Organ Society collaborated on 10 months of restoration in 1963, according to the website.

“Mighty Mo” has 42 ranks of pipes, a total of 3,622 from ball point-pen size to 32 feet in length, according to the Fox Theatre.

Tim Stephens, president of the organ society’s Atlanta chapter, checked an international database of significant pipe organs and found Macon’s on the list: a 1925 Moller Opus 4177, with 61 ranks of pipes and four rows of keys on the console.

“It’s quite an instrument, and it would be quite exciting for that to come back on line,” Stephens said.

The organ is a major original part of the auditorium, said Atlanta resident Ken Double, national president of the American Theatre Organ Society.

“It’s a very special instrument in a wonderful room, acoustically,” he said. Double said he came to inspect the organ several months ago with technician John Tanner of the A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Co. (Moller went out of business in 1992).

Story Continues →