Dave Wickerham concert launches McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer Restoration Campaign

Photo by David W. Diffenderfer

What a glorious and emotionally powerful way to celebrate the kickoff of the capital campaign to RESTORE the McKISSICK MIGHTY WURLITZER in Lincoln Hall (in the hands of techno-wizard Jason Wiles) with the spectacular-beyond-genius concert by keyboard artist-extraordinaire Dave Wickerham on Sunday, May 5.  The concert was sponsored by Carole Anderson in memory of her late husband John Anderson, both of whom have been ardent fans of Dave Wickerham and the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Dave had many in the audience in tears and clamoring for more in their standing ovation after two and a half hours of music.


In attendance were Sally McKissick and her son Stewart, the much beloved widow of Paul McKissick who painstakingly over eleven years built the organ which later was purchased by Dr. Arthur Steffee for Lincoln Hall.

ARCA Executive Director John Soroka announced the campaign goal to “Pull Out All the Stops” as we “Make Our Pipe Dreams Come True”, thanking those who already had made generous leadership gifts in its support, including Carole and the late John Anderson, Barbara Bott and Bob Jennings, Dan and Karen Mortland, and Kears and Karen Pollock.

Dave Wickerham demonstrated the “work-arounds” including notes that didn’t play on the console which he had accommodated over the years and he announced his own generous, personal gift to the Restoration Fund.

For ten years, Jason Wiles has tuned and prepared the Wurlitzer and has been on hand during concerts to go into the organ chamber and correct an errant cipher – should there be a ‘stuck’ tone.

Jason informed the audience of the “bandaids” he had been applying over the years to compensate for the “wrinkles” in this hundred year old instrument – and what he would be doing in the next year to give it an artistic/technical lease of another 100 years to thrill and inspire audiences.

“It has been my honor to have maintained the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ for the past 10 years. Because of his creative nature, Paul McKissick was able to Nit a large pipe organ into a small space. For this very reason, however, it has become difficult to service certain portions of the instrument.
The wind chests (components of the organ that physically hold and control the pipes) need to be removed in order to do thorough maintenance and restoration of the organ. This will ensure that all 1,170 pipes function properly. I also look forward to adding a 16′ low note extension (12 bass pipes) to the Tibia rank. At the same time, upgrades also will be made to the keyboards, pedalboard and organ’s electronic control system.”

Dave Wickerham will be working with Jason Wiles as an artistic consultant, knowing the Lincoln Hall Wurlitzer and playing it more often than any other organist.  He shared his rich perspective about the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer Restoration Project:

“Theater pipe organs, like classic cars and other fine antiques need proper restoration at least once every century. The Mighty McKissick Wurlitzer organ is no exception. It’s tired and needs YOUR HELP!
I am truly honored to be back in Foxburg to perform this final concert before extensive professional restoration (by Jason Wiles) begins on the organ – and to officially kickoff ARCA’s fundraising and capital campaign for this historic instrument!
Your efforts will help insure the continued functionality of the Mighty Wurlitzer and the JOY of this AMAZING American form of music performance, for the NEXT hundred years!”

You too can help us preserve this magnificent instrument so that future audiences may experience the treasured sounds of an ‘orchestra of pipes’ – of winds and brass and strings – and snare drum, cymbals and chimes – in a rich journey through the timeless melodies and heartfelt tunes from the Great American Songbook, movies and musicals that will inspire generations to come with the musical grandeur of Lincoln Hall’s McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer.

With your help, the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer will continue to amaze and delight music lovers of all ages – as it did the students from grades K to 12 from Allegheny-Clarion Valley Schools who were bused to Lincoln Hall to experience ARCA’s Educational ArtReach Wurlitzer “Informances” by Dave Wickerham in 2022.

By making a contribution to the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer Legacy Fund, you will help us insure that the organ will be playing music beyond our lifetimes to inspire and touch future generations. Yours will be an investment in musical and artistic posterity – to help us “Make Our Pipe Dreams Come True”. We thank you.

Your contribution in support of the Wurlitzer Restoration Project entitles you to benefits at every giving level. Contributions may be made here on our website www.alleghenyriverstone.org or by printing the donation form below and sending your check payable to ARCA to P.O. Box 215, Foxburg, PA 16036.

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