From: Steve LaMannna, February 2008

I spent about an hour on the phone with Clark Wilson, who has spent 4 weeks at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, along with John Struve, Harold Wright, and one other fellow whose name escapes me.

The Riviera was originally the 3 manual that the factory used to demo an in-theatre sound when a prospective client was in Buffalo...the 4 manual demo being Shea's Buffalo. The Riviera had the famous "Victoria's Secret" design, which kept onlookers entertained while listening...

In the 1970's, the Niagara Frontier Theatre Organ Society, under Randy Piazza, expanded the organ from 12 to 17 or 18 ranks, and made it into an in-your-face pizza organ...ear splittingly loud, percussions in the orchestra pit, etc. etc. At the time, this served the purpose very well, as it played monthly to packed houses of organ fans. The organ was maintained by very hardworking members of the chapter, even to this day, and the theatre has been protected beautifully under the watchful eye of the new executive director.

In the last few months, the decision was made to bring Clark & Co. up there to see about the organ's needs, and to bring it to a concert level organ once again. After a month of unending work, this goal has been well accomplished. In the course of this, the following has been completed:

Regulators have been rebuilt, winding adjusted, and, I believe, blades added to the blower.

The percussions have been taken out of the orchestra pit, as well as the traps. They have been relocated to the stage on movable carts, so that they can be used, or not, but are now out of sight. A Tibia extension, which was put in the theatre, has been relocated backstage.

The 16' extension of the Posthorn has been removed from the Solo Chamber. The Tibia and Vox that were added to the Main Chamber have been removed and the two voxes combined to make one good set back in the Solo. Virtually all pipework has been re-regulated, fixed, repaired, etc. so the organ is now singing one happy tune.

None of this, by the way, is to take away from all the good work the local chapter has been doing to keep the organ going, but they were maintaining an instrument that had been adapted in the 70's to act more like a restaurant installation. The chapter worked very hard to keep everything going, but did not have the exceptional skill sets the team had that was in there the past month. What was needed was a virtual rebuild and tonal finishing of the best possible caliber.

I asked Clark what he thought of the instrument now, and he said that he now would tell any top touring organist to book a concert there, without exception.

I was also curious to know if there was any pipework left from the original installation. To my surprise, he said "Most of it." It had just gotten lost in the shuffle. This was great news.

It is rare that something like this happens, and even rarer when a theatre thinks enough of the instrument to devote substantial dollars, and, trust in a team of great technicians. I think all of our hats should be off to what they have done.

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