The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 19, 2014

Lakeside High’s Kimball Pipe Organ to be unveiled at free concert Feb. 8

Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Come February, the walls of Lakeside High School will be alive with organ music.

A three-manual Kimball Pipe Organ will be unveiled at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in Lakeside’s 1,000-seat Performing Arts Center, featuring Walt Stoney, concert organist, silent film accompanist, recording artist and pipe organ consultant. He will play show tunes and popular music. The concert is free and open to the public.

“We want the public to come,” said William “Bud” Hill, retired treasurer of the Ashtabula Area City School District. “The public built the auditorium and we want to build a relationship with the community.”

The Kimball organ was built in 1921 by the W.W. Kimball Co. of Chicago and installed in Lincoln-Dixie Theatre in Chicago Heights, Ill., where it was used to accompany silent movies, shows and intermissions.

After the invention of talking movies, the organs were no long necessary and only used for special events.

In 1970, the organ was moved to Gary Richert’s home in Oak Forest, Ill.

“(Last Spring) In anticipation of his retirement and moving out of the Chicago area, he was looking for a good home for his Kimball,” said Hill, who is Richert’s friend.

 Richert heard that the Lakeside Music Boosters Organ Committee was looking for an organ for the school’s music program and he decided to donate it.

The Ashtabula Area City School Board and the Lakeside Music Booster Organ Committee met and the school board agreed to allow the committee to make building modifications to the theater to allow space for the organ chamber, organ console storage area, blower accommodations and electrical and wind conducts.

Most of the rebuilding and installation costs were paid for by money raised by the organ committee, Hill said.

The school board agreed to pay $40,000 to help with moving and installation costs.

In July, the actual work of removing the organ from Richert’s home began and it arrived in Ashtabula just a few weeks later. Hours were spent on installing the new console wiring and control system, Hill said.

“Everything was cleaned new parts built to replace missing parts and all pneumatics recovered  — all under the direction of Vic Marsillo of Victor Organ LLC of Austintown, Ohio,” he said. “Finally, after many months of work, the organ will be ready to continue its work this coming February.”

Lakeside High School has an excellent music program and is now one of few high schools in the country to have a theatre pipe organ, Hill said.

“An organ is a key part of any good symphony, which is why the Cleveland Orchestra invested millions in restoring its pipe organ at Severance Hall recently,” he said. “An organ is a fine backup for a choral recital, and this organ was designed in part for that type of use.”

The organ will not be limited to the student body, Hill said.

As part of an outreach to the  local community, numerous relationships will be explored with the Ashtabula Arts Center, the Ashtabula Symphony and other community musical groups.

A second concert is being planned for April 11 at Lakeside High, with an assembly for the high school students, which will include short silent films to introduce students to “the days of silent movie theaters and the organs that accompanied them,” Hill said.

A second community program is planned for April 12 with theater organist Jelani Eddington performing. He has received many awards, including 2001 Theater Organist of the Year.