Celebrate SPRING in the beautiful Allegheny-Clarion River Valley as ARCA proudly brings back to the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer celebrated silent film scorer and theatre organist, Clark Wilson, on Sunday, May 22 at 2 PM for an afternoon of popular theatre organ favorites and delightful silent movie, “The Freshman”, from 1925 in Foxburg’s Lincoln Hall.
Immediately following the concert, the audience is invited to the Red Brick Gallery for a Wine and Cheese Reception and Exhibit Opening from 4:00 to 6:00 PM for the exhibit of Taylor Banner’s thought provoking mixed media collages and the realistic botanical sculptures of Amanda Lewis.
Clark Wilson is one of the most prominent and recognized scorers of silent movies in America today. He works exclusively with the theatre organ in developing accurate and historic musical accompaniments as they were performed in major picture palaces during the heyday of the silent film.
In his return to Lincoln Hall, Clark Wilson will be performing both popular theatre organ arrangements AND accompanying the Harold Lloyd silent movie, The Freshman.
Looking for a delightful distraction and escape to the world of Football in the SPRING?
The Football-Hilarity in Harold Lloyd’s American silent comedy “THE FRESHMAN” – one of the most popular and successful silent movies of the 1920’s in the heyday of the American Theatre Organ – will surely delight as accompanied by acclaimed silent movie organist Clark Wilson.
The Freshman is a 1925 American silent comedy film that tells the story of a college freshman trying to become popular by joining the school football team. The Freshman is widely considered one of Lloyd’s most hilarious, well-constructed films and was his most successful silent film of the 1920s. It remains one of Lloyd’s most enduring films.
Hugely popular at the time of its release, it sparked a craze for college films that lasted well beyond the 1920s. It was one of Lloyd’s few films to remain widely available after the sound era, and he reissued the film (with cuts) and used extended scenes in compilation films of the 1960s.
Theatre organist Clark Wilson began his scoring career in 1980 and has successfully toured North America with hundreds of film presentations at schools and universities, performing arts centers, theatres, film festivals, and conventions.
As a teaser for Clark Wilson’s accompaniment of The Freshman in his Lincoln Hall performance on the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer, enjoy this YouTube video of another silent movie starring Harold Lloyd – the 1924 romantic comedy Girl Shy – accompanied by Clark Wilson.
Clark Wilson was awarded Theatre Organist of the Year award in 1998 by the American Theatre Organ Society and his recording credits include seven albums. Clark has been organ conservator and Resident Organist at the Ohio Theatre for the Columbus Associate for the Performing Arts since 1992 and is responsible for all music during the annual classic movie series, which also features one or more major silent films each season.
Not only was Clark Wilson awarded the ATOS Organist of the Year award in 1998, but as an acclaimed organ technician and consultant, he also has been professionally involved with over 200 pipe organ installations to date and earned the ATOS Technician of Merit award. He is the only person to receive both ATOS distinctions.
Post-COVID, open theatre style seating has returned to 100% capacity. There is no mask requirement. Please refrain from attending if you are ill or if you have been exposed to anyone with COVID.
Tickets are Adults $25, Members $20, Students $5. Call to Reserve at 724-659-3153 and pay by cash or check at the door. Doors open at 1:30 PM.
Red Brick Gallery Exhibit Opening & Wine & Cheese Reception
Immediately following Clark Wilson’s 2 PM Lincoln Hall concert, the audience is invited to a Meet the Artist Wine & Cheese Reception for the exhibit of mixed media collages by Taylor Banner and realistic botanical sculpture by Amanda Lewis on Sunday, May 22 at the Red Brick Gallery from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM.
Their art exhibit will run on weekends between Friday, May 20 and Sunday, June 26. The Red Brick Gallery is located at 17 Main Street in Foxburg. The 2022 season Gallery Hours are Fridays 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Saturdays 11:00 PM –7:00 PM, and Sundays 12:00 noon – 5:00 PM.
ARIVE EARLY & EXPLORE FOXBURG!
Plan to Make a Day of it in beautiful Foxburg!
Before the concert stop by the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop to shop for that special gift from the first floor offerings of talented Cooperative Artists from the region and view the special exhibit in the upstairs gallery .
Enjoy a walk along the Allegheny River trail or rent bicycles with Foxburg Tours in the morning or early afternoon! Have lunch at the Allegheny Grille with seating overlooking the Allegheny River, or for more casual fare, at Foxburg Pizza with salads, sandwiches and pizza. Save time to enjoy wine tasting at Foxburg Wine Cellars and savor a gourmet coffee and hand made chocolate at Divani Chocolatier and Barrista. Or spend the night in Foxburg in the lovely Foxburg Inn or up the river at Emlenton’s bed and breakfast, The Barnard House.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A native of Ohio, Clark Wilson began his musical training at age nine. While growing up he accompanied numerous stage musicals and was organist at several churches.
Clark was personally influenced by, and subsequently became close friends with Chicago area organist John Muri, who was an original master of picture accompaniment and practiced his art well into the 1980s. His (and Wilson’s) historic style was that of utilizing fine music as a basis for developing a score of musical value.
If the original score is no longer extant, a new one is prepared from the organist’s library and is normally transferred to a cue sheet – somewhat of a “road map” of suggested themes and notated screen actions which keep the organist fully on course. The development of themes in serious pictures is obtained exclusively in this way, and it must be considered the truest way to properly underscore screen action. Nothing is left to chance and wholesale improvisation is not relied upon. Further, the musical style of the time remains intact; no attempt is made to distract from the picture by using themes or styles that entered the musical scene years later. Most important of all, the film remains the focus and star of the performance.
Wilson began his scoring career in 1980 and has successfully toured North America with hundreds of film presentations at schools and universities, performing arts centers, theatres, film festivals, and conventions. His work has led to performances for UCLA, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where, in addition to other pictures, he has repremiered “Wings” for Paramount Studios’ 100th Anniversary, the Chautauqua Institution, Cinequest and San Francisco film festivals, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Packard Foundation’s Stanford Theatre film series, the Atlanta premier of the restored “Metropolis”, and annual presentations at the Atlanta Fox Theatre and for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Society at the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. He is the organist of choice for many of the American Theatre Organ Society’s international convention silent film presentations, and he has scored pictures for Kino International for public DVD release. His performances have received the highest marks from colleagues and professionals, one commenting that his was “the finest use of a theatre pipe organ that I have ever heard”.
Clark has been organ conservator and Resident Organist at the Ohio Theatre for the Columbus Associate for the Performing Arts since 1992 and is responsible for all music during the annual classic movie series, which also features one or more major silent films each season.
Wilson was presented with the ATOS Organist of the Year award in 1998. An acclaimed organ technician and consultant, he has also been professionally involved with over 200 pipe organ installations to date and has earned the ATOS Technician of Merit award, the only person to receive both ATOS distinctions.
A native of Ohio, Clark Wilson began his musical training at age nine. While growing up he accompanied numerous stage musicals and was organist at several churches. Following several years with the Schantz Organ Company as a reed voicer and tonal finisher, Clark’s professional playing career began with his appointment to the featured organist post at Pipe Organ Pizza in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has since been on the playing staffs at the Paramount Music Palace in Indianapolis, Indiana, Pipes and Pizza in Lansing, Illinois, and is currently associated with Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, Arizona, where he is on the organ staff as well as having assisted with the planning and installation of the world’s largest Wurlitzer organ.
Clark’s recording credits include seven albums. He has given all-transcription recitals for the AGO, played for the 1990 Organ Historical Society convention, and performed at numerous National and Regional conventions of the ATOS, as well as giving a series of highly lauded workshops for young people’s Pipe Organ Encounters. Considered one of the finest practicioners of the art of silent picture scoring, he has also been a visiting lecturer on Theatre Organ and photoplay accompaniment for the Indiana University organ department.
Clark has now developed curriculum and has been appointed to the organ faculty at the University of Oklahoma’s Organ Department, where he teaches applied theatre organ lessons, silent film scoring, and the history of the American theatre organ. He has concertized in the United States, Canada, Australia, and England, and done extensive silent film accompaniment, including at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, the Packard Foundation’s Stanford Theatre, UCLA, and the Fox Theatre for the Atlanta premier of the restored “Metropolis”. He plays a silent picture annually on the organ series at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, has scored for Kino International for commercial release, and has performed at both the Cinequest and San Francisco Silent Film Festivals, as well as for the Los Angeles Conservancy .
Since 1992 Clark has served as Resident Organist and organ conservator at the famed Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio (for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts) and was chosen by them to repremier the renowned Chicago Theatre Organ on a bill that included him accompanying popular singer Michael Feinstein. He also headed the professional crew that began restoration on the Chicago’s landmark Wurlitzer for CAPA
Along with a busy concert schedule, Wilson runs his own pipe organ business and is heavily in demand as a tonal consultant and finisher of both theatre and classical pipe organs; he has been given the singular honor of being brought to England multiple times for tonal finishing and consulting. He has received both the Technician of the Year and Organist of the Year awards from the American Theatre Organ Society, the only person to have done so, and his time is now nearly equally divided between concert and technical work. He has been professionally involved with more than 100 organ installations throughout North America and England and has provided consulting and voicing expertise for several different organ companies. in theatre organ styling and silent film accompaniment at the Indiana University School of Music. He has now developed curriculum and has been appointed to the organ faculty at the University of Oklahoma’s Organ Department, where he teaches applied theatre organ lessons, silent film scoring, and the history of the American theatre organ, the first such program to exist since 1929. In addition to several articles published in Theatre Organ magazine, he has recently authored an article on film scoring for The American Organist magazine, periodical of the American Guild of Organists.
The McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer
During the hey-day of silent films between the mid teens and late 1920’s, the variety of entertainment venues across this country centered around vaudeville, silent movies, community sing-a-longs, and other live stage productions in movie palaces in every town, large or small. Thousands of movie houses depended on live musical accompaniment for their silent movies, and while some smaller houses merely had pianos, the vast majority had theatre pipe organs. While these wonderful instruments were not inexpensive, even back then, it was far more affordable to have a “Mighty Wurlitzer” with a few house organists on staff than to pay for a full orchestra or even modest band to perform in the orchestra pit every day.
These organs became wildly popular and several different manufacturers jumped on the band-wagon to join the Wurlitzer company in order to have an organ in every movie house in the land. These organs are also known as “Unit Orchestras” as they can emulate many different sounds from the orchestra – from pipe organ violins to flutes, oboes, trumpets, clarinets, and so on. Also unique to theatre pipe organs was the inclusion of tuned percussions such as chimes, marimbas, pianos, glockenspiels, xylophones, vibraphones, etc. Even a set of tuned sleigh bells was included in the more expensive models. In order to create that special mood for the silents, all sorts of sound effects and traps were also included. Items such as birdcalls, boat whistles, auto horns, doorbells, crashes and thunder, drums, tambourines, castanets, cymbals, and gongs were just some of the “toy counter” items available to the organist. The Wurlitzer organ in Lincoln Hall is one of the best examples of this class of theatre organ.
ARCA’s Wurlitzer contains seventeen ranks of pipes and is characterized by a balanced blend of unmistakeable Wurlitzer ‘sounds”. Built in 1928 at the Wurlitzer Organ factory in North Tonawanda outside of Buffalo and numbered OPUS 1989, the organ originally was installed in Cleveland’s Uptown Theatre. It was played for several years accompanying silent movies. With the end of the silent film era it was subsequently purchased by Richard Wheeler, a Cleveland organist, and remained in his home until Wheeler passed. Paul McKissick purchased it from the Haynes Company in North Canton, Ohio, where it had been in storage.
Paul lovingly and painstakingly rebuilt the instrument over eleven years and in 1999 the restored Wulrtlizer was installed in McKissick’s garage at their home in Lake Latonka near Mercer, PA. The organ became known as the Latona Pipes, and was played in annual benefits concerts to raise money for the DeBence Museum in Franklin. Dr. Arthur and Patricia Steffee attended one of the concerts. When Paul decided to downsize and was seeking a place for the Wurtlizer for the next generation, Dr. Arthur and Patricia Steffee, ARCA’s founders, purchased it to enhance the newly restored Lincoln Hall, on the second floor of the Foxburg Free Library.
Its seventeen ranks of pipes translate to 60 notes per voice or rank, more than 1200 pipes and 6,000 moving parts to make the Wurlitzer sound. Only the relay and computer are not authentic or vintage parts on the organ. The installation included one of Wurlitzer’s most unique features, the decorative ‘Toy Shelf’ of miniature instruments, which are displayed in a rear balcony in Lincoln Hall and are all powered by the organ. The marimba was added and all the associated drums, cymbals, bells and automatic piano produce a balanced blend of unmistakable Mighty Wurlitzer sounds.
ARCA audiences have enjoyed thirteen years of glorious music making on the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer by some of the worlds greatest theatre organists – including David Wickerham, Martin Ellis, Walt Strony, Scott Foppiano, Donna Parker, Jelani Eddington and Ken Double. Jason Wiles is ARCA’s organ technician, maintaining and tuning the organ for each concert.