Sept. 17, 2012…Catching up with old friends

Thursday, September 20th 2012

It’s always great fun to head back to Indiana, and this recent trip involved a concert at the Warren Performing Arts Center in Indianapolis on the former Indiana Theatre 3/18 Barton, along with a silent film – Steamboat Bill, Jr. – at Long Center in Lafayette. It is just GREAT to have that wonderful 3/21 Wurlitzer back on line and singing beautifully once again.

Indianapolis provided the opportunity to see many old friends from broadcasting/music days. And there was a wonderful representation of Barton organ-lovers from Joliet who made the trip over, including Jim and Dolores Patak (former keepers of the library and archive for ATOS), Jan Challender, Faye Wheeler, who was her effervescent self as always, Don Walker, and several others who posed for pictures afterwards and made it an even more memorable event.
When I worked in Indy at Channel Six, the ABC affiliate – gads it was 1980-84 – I was privileged to share the anchor desk with long time Indianapolis newscaster Howard Caldwell. A legend in Indy. He has written extensively on Indianapolis theatres – he knew organist Dessa Byrd – he is an Honorary Lifetime Member of CIC-ATOS – and he obviously has a tin ear because he comes to almost all of my concerts there!
Howard is long retired from the anchor desk, but a wonderful friend and one of Indianapolis’ great treasures. It was great to see him again and introduce him from the stage – along with weatherman David James who also attended the show.
And then there is John Royer. I hope every chapter has a John Royer. John is a relatively recent member of CIC-ATOS, having joined a few years ago. I’ve known John since 1974. My senior year in college, I was the organist at Market Square Arena, playing for Pacers basketball games and Racers hockey games, and John was the audio tech in the organ loft/audio control booth. He has made a career handling audio tech needs for every major venue in Indianapolis, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was my “boss” there when I was part of the radio network for the Indy 500 Mile Race.
He has provided CIC-ATOS with tremendous expertise and assistance in areas where one would never guess assistance was necessary. He saved the day at a concert date when the microphone audio went south – he stepped in at the auditorium at Manual High School and saved the day correcting horrible audio issues that ruined one concert event. He provides archival recordings for artists and the chapter without a hint of sending these things off to the illegal realms of the internet. And he is absolutely hilarious. And he loves the theatre organ. Can’t get any better than that. Thanks, John. It was great to see you and spend some time.
I am reminded every trip to Indiana that the chapter enjoys its reputation due to Tim Needler, along with a host of outstanding members who get involved – i.e. Shawn, Barb, Mike, Tom, and a dozen others (you know who you are) – and Carlton Smith, whose expertise makes it easy for every touring artist to perform anywhere that CIC has an instrument or a concert date, including Anderson’s Paramount Page, Ft. Wayne’s Embassy Page, and Long Center’s Wurlitzer in Lafayette.
Speaking of which, that was the sight of a performance of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr. and our thanks to Purdue English Professor Lance Duerfahrd who generated a lot of interest in a lot of college kids who showed up for the performance.
Want to generate a crowd of young people? Hook up with your local college or university and its Film Studies program, and partner on a silent film event. We had a lot of fun, and we are doing Wings November 2nd.
Meanwhile, I took the time to visit with representatives of CATOE, JATOE and the Chicagoland chapters of ATOS and had a healthy discussion on several issues.
Part of the conversation involved an entirely new approach to presenting the theatre organ. CATOE’s Scott May along with PR guru Bob Vorel – CEO of Crest Communications in Chicago - are involved in programming some interesting combinations including Chicago rhythm and blues with the theatre organ. In October, there will be a great marriage of the two at the Arcada Theatre in suburban Chicago with the theatre organ, Scott May, Steven Eaklor, and the band AUTUMN.  I cannot wait to get the reports on how this event is received. Good for them for trying something new that could introduce the theatre organ to a whole new group of music lovers.
We discussed other business as well, including the tremendous work that Dennis Scott of the Chicagoland chapter does in presenting the theatre organ (albeit digital) to audiences almost nightly at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.
Sometimes we miss the focus. While we moan and groan about dwindling attendance at concert events, we forget how many people are enjoying the theatre organ when it is presented properly as pre-show music at theatres using the instrument that way. Dennis Scott has entertained THOUSANDS AND MORE with outstanding music as part of the show at the Music Box.
Dennis has been doing this for YEARS in Chicago, and somewhat quietly under the radar screen of ATOS, but to great response to audiences and arts fans in the Windy City. 
It was an eventful trip to the Midwest. And accomplished while the weather was still wonderful. Will report further on ATOS business and more next week!
~Ken – back home again in Atlanta.