Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The 25 Posts of Christmas: Christmas With Larry & Mo

One of the coolest theaters that I have ever played is the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. Over the course of the past few years, I have played all but one of the Fox Theaters in the United States and each one is an amazing work of art. There was a special added treat to the one in Atlanta in that I befriended the amazingly talented organist, Larry Embury. Larry is The Fox Theatre's Organist in Residence and he presides over the thunder-and-whisper majesty of "Mighty Mo." Mighty Mo is the Fox Theatre's crown jewel. This irreplaceable relic of movie theater lore is a masterpiece of organ design, capable of producing sound as delicate as a dainty piccolo to wall-shuddering accompaniment for a battle scene. The organ was custom-made for the Fox Theatre in 1929 for the then astronomical price of $42,000.00 by M. P. Möller Inc. of Hagerstown, Maryland. It's the second
largest theater organ in the world with 42 ranks, four manuals and 376 stop tabs and 3,622 pipes, spread out over
five chambers, ranging in size from a ball point pen to 32 feet tall and big enough around for a man to stand in. In 1963,
Joe Patten, The Fox Theatre's retired technical director collaborated with organist Bob Van Camp and a few members of the American Theatre Organ Society to restore the organ. With financial support from the Fox, over the course of nearly 9 months, Patten spent hundreds of hours painstakingly rewiring the organ with 36,000 feet (nearly seven miles) of new wire, rebuilding the entire organ from the inside out. For all of this work, Joe Patten received no payment. His only request was that he be allowed to take care of the organ until the day he dies. His is currently in his 90s and still takes care of Mighty Mo. As a thank you to Patten, the Fox Theater renovated a back section of the building and turned it into an apartment where Joe resides rent free. He is known as "The Phantom of The Fox". When I was there, I was given the rarest of all opportunities to tour not only Joe's apartment but to actually go inside the organ and see the 100 + instruments and pipes. It was pretty amazing! The reason I tell you all of this is that Larry Embury gave me a CD of him playing Christmas Carols on Mighty Mo as a present. It is entitled, "Christmas At The Fox: Holiday Fun With Larry, Carols and Mo". If you are ever in Atlanta, be sure to stop by the Fox and try to make it to a performance with the organ. Tell Larry the Dartman says Hello! Here is "Christmas At The Fox". Enjoy!

Larry Embury-Christmas At The Fox

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