The W.W. Kimball organ, Opus 7073, of the Adrian Phillips Ballroom is one of the largest original installations left in a public entertainment venue in the nation. Designed with the accompaniment of motion pictures in mind (all films before 1927 were silent), it is especially good at creating the illusion of a full symphony orchestra as well as producing an incredible array of unique sound
effects such as birds, trains, sirens and gongs. All of these sounds are (as with
the organ in the main arena) produced by compressed air acting upon organ
pipes and orchestral instruments hidden behind the walls of the main stage.
There are no electric amplifiers or speakers included.
Recent restoration efforts led by the non-profit Historic Organ Restoration
Committee (HORC) have returned approximately 75% of this instrument to
operation and it is now featured for regular silent films throughout the season in
addition to the noon concert series when the main arena is in use.
The Ballroom is, itself, a room of gigantic size. It is 181 feet long, 128 feet wide,
and 75 feet high. It seats 5,000 people (including the rear balcony). The organ
is situated in two chambers, one on each side of the stage in the standard
arrangement for most theater organs of the era. The console is located in the
musicians balcony (a transposed orchestra pit actually) half way along the inner
side of the room about 110 feet from the nearest chamber and about 150 feet
from the left chamber (facing the stage).
It was the intention of Mr. Lincoln Dickey, the first manager of the Hall to use this
room as a dance hall and also as a motion picture theater. Therefore, he wanted
an organ of orchestral type, or as he viewed it a “theater organ”. Emerson
Richards, architect of this instrument, (also of the organ in the main hall) was
unwilling to design the organ for the limited purpose of accompanying motion
pictures (something which sound pictures were soon to displace) and therefore
proposed an instrument that was orchestral in character but would likewise have
the foundation of a true pipe organ. Therefore, he departed from the usual
design of 8 to 15 “units” of orchestral reeds, flutes, strings and diaphones all on
high wind pressures and included proper choruses of diapasons, mixtures and
reeds in each chamber. These choruses consist of 20 voices never normally
found in theater organs. Upon this, Richards added 22 voices of the unit
character. The combination proved to be an outstanding success and an organ
of solid but brilliant character resulted. Because of this combined character, this
organ is much larger both in number of pipes and decibel output than any theater
organ ever built and the console is also larger in the number of stop controls than
any similar organ.
The instrument was completed in 1930 and dedicated in a recital by organist
Rollo Maitland on May 25th of that year.
Fore more information, visit www.boardwalkorgans.org.