4/34 Robert Morton Organ
Ohio Theatre - Columbus, OH

Ohio's Mighty Morton Continues to Reliably Perform After 80+ Years

As things get older, they tend to need more and more work to keep in good shape. However, according to those who know it the best, the Ohio Theatre's Robert Morton Pipe Organ continues to be a remarkably reliable and stable instrument. The phrase "they don't build 'em like they used to" applies in this case.

For many years the Ohio's Morton was maintained by local organ builder Bunn=Minnick Pipe Organs. Today a group of six, including Resident Organist Clark Wilson, combine forces to work on the instrument, of which much of the time spent is volunteer work. "We do most of the work in house,"
according to Phil Hidy, Director of Maintenance for CAPA.

Regular maintenance includes occasional tuning, inspection of mechanical action and minor adjustments to things such as key sensitivity and pressure. Less frequent but more time consuming maintenance includes releathering of chests, repair and or replacement of electrical components and reregulation of the wind system.  

A pipe organ's organist knows the instrument better than anyone, and Hidy solicits input from Wilson regarding the state of the instrument.
"Clark and I meet and discuss what needs to be done and prioritize the work list," says Hidy.

When possible, larger jobs are planned for the offseason when the organ is not used for extended periods.  "Much of the work on the organ takes a lot of time to do. Releathering a chest takes a long time because of the work involved removing the chest, waiting for things to dry and finally putting it all back together. We don't have enough time to do that during the movies."

Ironically, tuning the instrument takes the least amount of time. "The instrument stays fairly well in tune. The chambers have their own climate control for temperature and humidity." Hidy notes that the organ is usually tuned at the beginning of the movie season and then spot tuning is done prior to the silent film. "There are some ranks you know you'll have to look at more often, but overall things are pretty stable."

Funds for maintenance of the organ primarily come from CAPA, the owner of the instrument. Hidy notes, "The organ has its own budget which fluctuates from year to year depending on CAPA's finances." Other revenue sources include proceeds from the sales of the posters sold during the summer movie series, and from private donations. Hidy states that people can make a donation to CAPA and designate that the funds be used for maintenance of the organ. Information about donating to CAPA can be found here.

to do list

As noted above, the organist knows better than anyone else how well the instrument is playing. Here's a "to do list" written during the summer of 2009 by Clark Wilson for CAPA Director of Maintenance Phil Hidy. Looks like Phil and his crew have a lot to keep them busy!
A short photo essay of work being done on the Mighty Morton's console.
CAPA Director of Maintenance Phil Hidy (standing) supervises Rich Lewis repairing a second touch contact on the bottom manual of the console.

Basking in the limelight, Rich searches for the replacement metal tab which has fallen into the pedal board (yet again!). The tab may have won this battle, but ultimately Rich's persistence won the war and got the tab in place.

console maintenance
With the rails and manuals back in place, Phil examines a misbehaving stop tab on the top rail.

console maintenance
With work on the console done for the day, the process of putting the console back together starts.

console maintenance
Phil and Rich position the top panel of the console.

console maintenance 
Finally, the music stand is installed and the Mighty Morton is again ready for action.

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