Loew's Jersey Wonder Morton Organ
Photo: Bob Martin, 10/25/07

Wednesday, May 26th was a great and interesting day for the Loew’s Jersey and the Wonder Morton.

First, a contingent from France filmed the interior of the theatre and asked that the Wonder Morton be played so they could record it for an audio/video sequence in their production. Having rarely, if ever, seen or heard a theatre pipe organ, they were dazzled by the sight and fantastic sound of the Morton. Don Hansen was at the console as they video taped him playing the music they were capturing on their audio equipment. They seem to have captured everything from the foot movements to the hands on the keyboards and the stop changes. They made it quite obvious that they found the instrument fascinating to say the least. Afterward, they took several stills of Don at the console. One young man with whom Don was talking said he came from a town in France where they have one of the oldest pipe organs in the world, circa 1400 or so with one keyboard and foot pedals in back of it to pump air while the organist plays. Asked how it sounded, he said “not very good!”

They also had an extended tour of the chambers with Bob Martin to see what made all the wonderful sounds they heard earlier in the morning.

Immediately after completing the session with the French group, work started in earnest with famous band leader Vince Giordano and the professional recording engineers brought in for the project. Noted for his very popular band that plays music from the early part of the 20th century, Vince said although he has played for events at the Loew’s, he had never heard the organ.

For this particular project, he had a unique request. The Morton had to be made to sound like an old band organ. That was an interesting request as the Morton was in fine tune and usually band organs are not even close. As Vince sat next to the console, Don registered the organ in a variety of different combinations until the sound met with Vince’s approval. Then, the fun began. With earphones firmly mounted on his head, the object was for Don to play the organ in sync with the pre-recorded music that was playing through the earphones, adding it as a separate track to be overdubbed on the pre-recorded material back at their studios. Meanwhile, the microphones to pick up the organ were located just outside the chambers and the organ could be heard through the earphones as well as “live” which wasn’t exactly simultaneous. This was done for several “takes” on the each piece of music and there were several different pieces. Other pieces required playing solo organ with the equivalent of a metronome ticking away in the earphones, all using the “band organ” registrations. All told, the process took almost 5 hours to record perhaps 20 minutes of what will be the final product.

After the work on the project was completed, Don played some typical Theatre Organ music to let Vince and the crew hear what the Wonder Morton sounds like as the fantastic Theatre Organ that it is. We later found out that they recorded that music also.

We subsequently found that the music will be used for an upcoming Martin Scorcese series on HBO, “Boardwalk Empire” a story about gangsters and politicians in 1920’s Atlantic City. It is due to start showing on September 19th.

Kudos to Bob Martin and his crew for having the Morton in tip-top shape for these projects. It performed flawlessly for the entire session.

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