Ottawa Valley Theatre Organ Society

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The exterior of the historic O'Brien Theatre in downtown Renfrew, Ontario. This theatre was built in 1929 and will soon house the Herbert Park Memorial Theatre Organ

Ross Robinson our fearless leader and Society President, pauses while installing pipes in the chamber. He lists his occupation as "Industrial Archeologist" because he spends so much of his time resurrecting ancient pieces of hardware.

The backstage area in the O'Brien Theatre. The backstage wall is on the left; the theatre screen and loudspeakers are on the right. The two adjoining pipe chambers are above; they were built 9 feet above the stage to allow room for percussions and storage below. Some of the unenclosed pipes are visible at the rear; they were installed first and occupy the full floor to ceiling area on both sides of the chambers.

Wiring the Chests

The Society's Baldwin Cinema II gets a workout


                               Fact Sheet         May 3, 1996

Name of Society: Ottawa Valley Theatre Organ Society

Location:        Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Established:     1989

Status:		 Non-profit, non-incorporated organization, registered as
                 Canadian charity # 0820019-22

Mission:         To help preserve the theatre organ's role in music history 
                 and to increase public appreciation of theatre-organ music.

Board:           Ross Robinson, President (industrial archeologist) 
                 Ted Devey, Vice-President 
                                         (retired telecommunications engineer)
                 John Batts, Secretary (university professor) 
                  Mrs. Joyce Lavigne, Treasurer 
                 Jane Love, Fund-Raising Chairman 
                                                (retired businesswoman) 
                 Joe Calverly, Technical Advisor (church organist) 

# Members:       30

Assets:          Baldwin Cinema II electronic organ
                 1920-vintage Warren 3/13 theatre organ
                 1929-vintage Robert-Morton 3/7 theatre organ
                 Additional pipes, percussions and miscellaneous pieces of
                 unknown origin

Main Project:
We are currently refurbishing the Robert-Morton and Warren theatre organs 
and are installing them in the O'Brien movie theatre in Renfrew, Ont., a 
small (population 8,000) town in the Ottawa valley. The O'Brien Theatre 
(built in 1929) is an ideal site for a theatre organ, having ample room 
behind the projection screen. The theatre interior is being restored 
to its original movie palace glory by owner Murray Adolph.

The story of how the two theatre organs ended up in Renfrew is an 
interesting one.

The Warren organ was built in Woodstock, Ontario in 1920 and was installed 
in the Capitol Theatre in Winnipeg. In 1947, it was removed from that
theatre by Herbert Park, a local engineer and collector. He hoped to 
install the Warren organ in a shed behind his home, but that plan was 
foiled by a job transfer to Ottawa and his later ill health.

The Park family moved the organ parts to Ottawa over four years (1958 to 
1961) and stored them in a couple of garages. The parts were later moved 
to the Park's home, occupying most of the basement, closets, living room, 
garage and several outdoor lean-tos and sheds. Unfortunately, Mr. Park 
died before seeing his dream realized of having the organ rebuilt in a 
public venue. In 1990, Mr. Park's widow donated the organ parts to the 
Ottawa Valley Theatre Organ Society, and we are proud to have made 
progress on assembling them in one place.

Since 1990, Society members have delighted in uncrating, assessing and
cataloging the pieces from at least four different organs donated by the 
Park family. Society President Ross Robinson referred to it as "an 
oversize jig-saw puzzle that has taken us several years to solve." 
Initially, the pieces were stored at the homes of four members and an 
old barn in the country.  More recently, a City of Ottawa warehouse 
was procured where the pipes could be laid out and assembled on 
their chests. (Fortunate, too, because the barn was destroyed by fire
in 1995 - after we had moved almost everything out of it.)

It took the Society four years to find a suitable venue for the Warren 
organ. At times, we almost gave up hope of finding a location. The 
organ's (hopefully) final move occurred in 1995 when it was trucked 
to Renfrew to the O'Brien Theatre, with surplus pipes being kept in 
another warehouse in that town. Work on chambers, wind lines and 
electronics is proceeding with the help of three federally funded 
workers, Society members and other volunteers from the community. 
We have presented silent movies and concerts using our Baldwin 
electronic organ and have received good media coverage and encouraging 
community support. When finished, ours will be the only theatre organ 
in Canada installed in a commercial movie theatre.

The 3/7 Robert-Morton organ was originally installed in the Majestic 
Theater in Santa Monica, CA. It was later used in a Seventh-Day Adventist 
church and came to us through Robert Maes of Pipes & Palaces 
Productions of Kansas City. Its 7 ranks are being augmented by another 
Morton Kinura rank and various Warren pipes. The Peterson relay control 
system and traditional console will become the new "front end" for the 
Warren organ. We still have the original Warren console and hope to 
refurbish it some day to provide dual-console capabilities.

Our goal now is to start up the Robert-Morton organ with seven ranks 
of pipes and a few percussions as soon as possible, then add the 
Warren ranks and additional percussions over time. The "Herbert 
Park Memorial Theatre Organ" will be used for concerts, 
to accompany silent movies, and for instruction.

Future plans include a new or expanded control system and 
expansion to at least 21 ranks.

The Warren organ, after being "on the move" and in storage since 
1947, has finally found a new, permanent home. Our Society's 
Secretary, Dr. John Batts,says, "That the Warren organ has survived 
at all is a tribute to individual generosity by ordinary Canadians who 
have realized that too often in the past, treasured artifacts have 
perished because of carelessness and complacency."

If you'd like to help us with this project, please send donations to:
Mrs. Joyce Lavigne, Treasurer, 494 Raglan St. S., Renfrew, ON, 
                                                   Canada K7V 1R8..

For information about this project or our Society, E-mail us at:
   John Batts, Secretary 

(We do not currently subscribe to the PIPORG-L list.)

Pipe List for the Herbert Park Memorial Theatre Organ ===================================================== (Pipes are from both the Warren and Robert-Morton organs. We have built two chambers (main and solo) behind the projection screen. Some of the ranks listed below are unenclosed because they are too big to fit into the chambers.) MAIN: Open diapason, 8' extension, 16' diaphone Tibia clausa, 8' extension, two 16' bourdons Clarinet, 8' (if we can salvage enough pipes) French horn, 8' (if we can salvage enough pipes) Solo string, 8' Celeste string, 8' Vox, 8' Concert flute, 16' bourdon SOLO: Open diapason, 8' extension Tibia, 8', 16' bourdon Cello Tuba, 8', 16' extension Trumpet, 8' Kinura Oboe, 8' Quint, 8' ECHO ORGAN (unenclosed, at the rear of the theatre): Solo string, 8' Celeste string, 8' Salicional, 8' Vox Humana, 8' Concert flute, 8' Marimba harp Xylophone (Some of the echo organ ranks may be transferred to the main or solo chambers.) PERCUSSIONS: Chrysoglott, marimba harp, xylophone, chimes, glockenspiel, tuned sleigh bells, drums, cymbals and various other traps

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