DAVE WICKERHAM – Wurlitzer Wonders & Improvisation Requests

Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts proudly presents world acclaimed theatre organist, DAVE WICKERHAM to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Sunday, May 5 at 2 PM in Foxburg’s Lincoln Hall as he “pulls out all the stops” performing Wurlitzer Wonders and Improvisations on the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer.

Master of the console, Dave Wickerham was honored with the “Organist of the Year” award by American Theatre Organ Society in 2011 and has toured the world performing his unique arrangements and peerless improvisations.

On May 5, in addition to performing some “musical salsa” and his iconic arrangements of Latin favorites, including Tico Tico, and the Great American Songbook, Dave will be taking requests from the audience at intermission as he performs an entire second half of improvisations, magically weaving the request themes into an uninterrupted musical tapestry of myriad styles and genres to delight and amaze.  Dave is an unparalleled, genius phenom with improvisation – AND there isn’t a melody that this artist doesn’t know!

Here performing his signature “Tico Tico”.

Brought back annually by popular demand, Dave is a favorite of ARCA audiences – old and young alike – also having delighted local students and teachers from Allegheny-Clarion Valley Schools in theatre organ educational concerts as part of ARCA’s Educational ArtReach Program in 2022.

One of the preeminent theatre organists acclaimed internationally, no one makes Lincoln Hall’s McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre organ sound more glorious or entertains our appreciative  audience better than Dave Wickerham!  And does he make the McKissick Mighty Wulrtlizer percussion shelf ring! Here in Chattanooga Choo Choo from October 19, 2019.

This is world class theatre organ artistry from one of the kindest, gentlest and most generous souls… evidenced by the glow you feel having experienced his inspired, genius performance. http://www.davewickerham.com

ARCA is grateful for the very generous donation of Carole Anderson in memory of her late husband John, sponsoring the concert of David Wickerham and contributing to the Wurlitzer Renovation Project Fund.  John will be long remembered by his ARCA friends for his love of ARCA, the Wurlitzer and Dave Wickerham.  He is greatly missed.

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.

The Wurlitzer Restoration Project

Do not miss this opportunity to hear the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer in this master’s hands, as this will be the only Wurlitzer concert of 2024 prior to a year-long hiatus during ARCA’s Wurlitzer Organ Restoration Project.

Dave Wickerham shares a rich perspective about ARCA’s 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 here in Foxburg, PA is no exception… It’s tired and needs YOUR HELP!

I invite you to join me on May 5, 2024 at Lincoln Hall for the final concert on the Wurlitzer before extensive professional restoration (by Jason Wiles) begins on the organ. I am truly honored to be back in Foxburg to perform this special concert 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!!”

ARCA is grateful for the expert professional services of its Wurlitzer technician, Jason Wiles, who for the past ten years has been maintaining the instrument that audiences have come to love.  Jason tunes and prepares the organ in advance and is on hand during concerts to go into the organ chamber and correct an errant cipher – should there be a “stuck” tone.

Jason Wiles & Dave Wickerham

Jason and Dave Wickerham have worked together closely prior and during performances.  Jason knows the Lincoln Hall Wurlitzer intimately and has been responsible for delivering to ARCA’s guest organists an instrument that allows them to express themselves and delight audiences, without revealing the instrument’s age or “wrinkles’.

Jason has been able to keep us blissfully unaware of hidden defects and his skillful ‘bandaid’ patches which always have allowed the show to go on.

During the renovation, Jason will remove the ‘bandaids’ and perform the major tasks necessary to return mechanical and electrical components to pristine condition.  At the same time, a new, additional set of bass pipes donated by Dr. Arthur Steffee will be installed to provide those body-shaking vibrations we love in the lowest register.

Jason Wiles described the renovation project he will undertake.

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 fit 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.

Dave Wickerham, Marybeth & Arthur Steffee

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.”

At Dave Wickerham’s May 5 concert, the Wurlitzer Organ Restoration Project will be announced – informing the audience how they can participate in preserving the McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer for future generations.

At intermission, thanks will be given to those who have already made leadership gifts – and the invitation will be extended for the audience to make a pledge or contribution this season to support the Restoration Project – purchasing a “Key, Pedal, Stop, Pipe or Rank”  – and, as a result,  have their name put on a plaque to be unveiled at the time of the debut of the newly renovated organ in the spring of 2025.

Post-Concert Reception @ Red Brick Gallery

After the concert, plan to continue the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Red Brick Gallery from 4 to 6 PM, where you can Meet the Artists at a wine & cheese reception for the opening of the exhibit of RBG Artistic Director and landscape painter, JASON FLOYD LEWIS, and RBG Cooperative Artist and wood artisan, MARK DeWALT.  

Responding to the natural landscape of western Pennsylvania, Jason Floyd Lewis’ paintings & drawings of places near his home are complemented by fourth- generation woodworker Mark DeWalt’s crafting of found wood from local forests.

While Mark DeWalt enjoys “blending materials from diverse origins to create something new”, Jason Floyd Lewis is interested in “the various effects of light, air and humidity that can transform the mood of the landscape.”

Before or after Dave Wickerham’s 2 PM concert enjoy Foxburg –
 take a brisk walk in the refreshing Spring air 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 the elegantly remodeled Foxburg Wine Cellars

Savor a gourmet coffee and hand made chocolate at Divani Chocolatier and Barrista.

Make a weekend of it and spend Saturday night in Foxburg in rustically elegant and newly renovated Foxburg Inn where every room has a river view. Reserve early to get the room with the fireplace.

About the Artist

Master of the console, Dave Wickerham was honored with the “Organist of the Year” award by American Theatre Organ Society in 2011 and has toured the world performing his unique arrangements and peerless improvisations.

He was born in Encino, California in 1962. He began playing the electronic organ at the age of four and had his first pipe organ experience at age10. His musical education started at age 7.

When he moved to Arizona in 1976, he became Associate Organist at the famous Organ Stop Pizza Restaurants in Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson. While in, he continued his musical studies with Roseamond Crowley, one of the few remaining descendants of the Louis Vierne line of organists. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson on a full scholarship, pursuing classical organ studies for six years with Dr. Roy Johnson.

In 1984, Dave moved to the Chicago area to become Staff Organist at Pipes and Pizza in Lansing, Illinois. In addition to his performance there, he concertized frequently, as well as ministering musically and serving at various churches.

August of 1990 found the Wickerham family – Dave, his wife and two young children – moving to Wisconsin, where he was one of the featured Staff Organists at the Piper Music Palace in Greenfield, a position he held for 10 years.

In the spring of 2000, Dave ushered in the new millennium with a limited special engagement, as a featured organist at “Roxy’s Pipe Organ Pizzeria”, part of a $26,000,000 expansion phase at the FIESTA Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wickerham’s, now three great kids, spent a year and a half there before returning back home to Wisconsin in August of 2001… For the next three years, Dave resumed his position at the Piper Music Palace and was also the Principal Organist at Williams Bay Lutheran Church in Lake Geneva, WI.

He enjoys concertizing frequently to many audiences including various chapters of the American Theatre Organ Society. In April of 1999, he took great pleasure being a feature artist in Melbourne, Australia for the convention of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia for which he received rave reviews. He returned “Down Under” for a six-week concert tour in Australia and New Zealand during the summer of 2003 and completed similar tours in November of 2012 and October/November of 2015.

Dave also enjoys recording and has recently “sold out” his fourth CD “Sounds of Music” recorded on the famous 5 Manual, 80 Rank Theatre Organ at the Sanfilippo Residence in Barrington, IL. There are two NEW recording projects that are soon to be completed and released as well as additional video concerts.

After seven years as Organist – Curator with the legendary Milhous Collection in South Florida, Dave and his youngest daughter currently enjoy living in Upper Michigan in the historic town of Crystal Falls.  Dave has three grown kids, two married with children of their own.  So, with six grandchildren and concertizing, there are many opportunities for travel – which he does regularly to perform for his fans and friends in Foxburg – where his December 2022 ARCA Educational ArtReach performances delighted students from the Allegheny-Clarion Valley School.


The McKissick Mighty Wurtlitzer

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 seventeen 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.

McKissick Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ – www.denniskeyesphotography.com