- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - The Embassy Theatre’s Grand Page organ was moved out Wednesday and sent to Carlton Smith Pipe Organ Restorations, Indianapolis, for maintenance and restoration.

The organ, which has not been out of the building in 26 years, has a rich history. It was built in 1927 at the Page Organ Company in Lima, Ohio, which makes the instrument 87 years old. It was installed in the Embassy - then called Emboyd Theatre - the year it opened, in 1928. The part of the instrument that is being restored is the console, which has five levels of keyboards and three tiers of switches, plus a number of pedals below.

The actual “organ” is the pipes. The instrument contains 1,400 pipes, all creating one note. The pipes are unified, unlike in many church organs where each pipe is a separate entity.

John Foell, organ crew operator at the Embassy, told The News-Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1vP0oAA ) that theater organs tend to be louder and rely on a tremolo to blend the sounds together. When the tremolo is turned off, the organ sounds much like a calliope. Besides pipes to make music, there are cymbals, drums, horns and other sound effects that instruments such as the Grande Page provided to create the soundtrack to silent movies. The console is connected to the pipes by telephone wire that runs under the stage up into the pipe rooms. The pipe rooms have their own heater to regulate temperature and humidity, which can affect the sound of the pipes.

Step into the pipe room, which is just a one-floor ladder climb from the stage behind a metal chained-and-padlocked door, and you will find rows of pipes, and a piano keyboard. Look up and see a drum, tambourine, and cymbal. Look closer and you will find many other instruments connected into the system. Vents in the front wall of the chamber can be opened and closed to raise or dampen the sound.

Bill Zabel, 70, one of the original theater board members, was in the house Wednesday. Zabel, an engineer by trade, designed the circuits for the organ that route what used to be many telephone wires coming from the console into the pipes, through several circuits, which significantly lessens the number of connections.

Zabel patented his technology in 1978. The electronic pipe organ control system, according to the patent is, “a solid state, electronic relay or control system for use in such a pipe organ.” He went on to install the same type of circuitry in 201 organs around the world before he sold the company in the ‘90s.

Zabel watched as six burly men wheeled the organ console out to the truck and loaded it onto a lift on the moving truck. The organ will return next summer fully restored, and with a new white textured finish and gold trim. The current finish is a smooth white one with gold trim, so the new finish will give the console a slightly different look.

Hovering around the console and directing the move was Cletus Goens, a piano specialist from Sweetwater. Goens also plays the organ and is part of the Embassy’s dedicated volunteer organ crew.

Goens said they hope to have the organ back in place in time for the Buddy Nolan Tribute Concert on June 14, with organist Ken Double.

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Information from: The News-Sentinel, https://www.news-sentinel.com/ns

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