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

Morton Console

Like most consoles on larger organs, the Ohio's Robert Morton console is a maze of colorful tabs, keys, and buttons which can make even the well-seasoned organist's eyes go blurry. The four manual, 34 rank organ boasts 324 stops. Click here for a larger image of the above photo.

original console configurationThe Ohio's Robert Morton console used to be a bit simpler when installed in 1928. Thanks to additions made through the years, additional ranks and stops necessitated a third rail of stop tabs to be installed on the console.

To the left is a photo of the console circa 1978. Note that it only had two rails of stop tabs around the organ. The organ went under a major rewiring in 1987 which also included the addition of several ranks of pipes. This required the addition of the third rail of stop tabs. Additional stops were also added to allow the organist greater flexibility thus allowing for almost any rank to be played on any manual of the organ.

Photo source:  "The Ohio Theatre 1928-1978", p. 70.

console view
Here's a view of the console looking down into the pit in its partially raised state. Aside from the four manuals and dozens of stop tabs there are a few things to point out. First, on the left side below the stop tabs are two rows of buttons which are the traps. The single row of buttons above them are the buttons to operate the console's lift mechanism. On either side of the manuals are coupler rocker tabs. Above the top manual is a narrow black row which is the organ's crescendo indicator. Green lights illuminate the further down the crescendo pedal is pressed. On the right side in the front is the programmable memory unit. Several organists play the organ, and the programmable memory allows each organist to set up their own registration. Click here for a larger image of the photo.


The traps are a feature of the theater organ which separates it from its classical counterpart. The traps were important as they allowed the organist to add sound effects for silent films. Keep in mind the theater organ was meant in many cases to replace the house orchestra therefore robust, dynamic resources were needed. The original trap row for this organ had only one row of buttons. A few additions were made which required the traps be split into two rows. Here's a closer look at the buttons.

dial couplers

Nestled on the left side under the bottom row of stop tabs and next to the manuals are these two dials. These allow the organist to couple certain traps with other parts of the organ. The left dial is for the pedal toe stud marked "percussion select". The right dial is a coupler which means if the stop tab is selected to couple this stop with the pedal, the wood block will play each time a note on the pedal is played. 

Below are three photos of the some of the tabs on the organ. There are five different colored tabs on this organ. Red tabs are reed and brass stops, white tabs are flues, yellow tabs are traps, brown tabs are tonal percussion, and black tabs are tremulants. Tabs with green dots are prepared stops. The center photo shows most of the types of tabs. The tremulant tabs are on the bottom right side of the photo. Click on the thumbnail to get a closer look.

tabs tabs tabs

Equally as important are the toe studs on the pedal board. The photo on the left shows the toe studs on the left side of the console, the center photo shows the right side toe studs and levers, and the right photo is a close up of probably the two most often used levers. Between everything are three expression pedals, one for each chamber and the right pedal is for the crescendo.

left side toe studs right side toe studs close up right side toe studs

right drawer

On either side of the front of the console is a drawer. The right drawer is used to hold the microphone when the organist gives announcements from the bench. This is done during the Summer Movie Series and during organ concerts. The left drawer has this interesting set of devices inside. Similar to the rotating dials in the photo above, these dials also allow for coupling of traps to certain stops. The solo harmonics allow for different harmonic pitches to be selected, thus giving different types sound. The harmonics selected were modeled after the pipe organ at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Click here for a closer look.

programmable memoryHere's a closer look at the various devices on the right side next to the manuals. The large on/off switch turns the blower on or off, the knob below it is a dimmer switch for the lights on the console. The three switches next to the knob turn the rail lights on or off, one switch for each rail. The clock is important so the organist knows how much time he or she has to fill before the next feature plays. Finally the large unit is the programmable memory which allows multiple levels of memory including programmable crescendos. And of course, all good musicians keep a pencil handy to make notes for themselves and we can see that one is present at the console. Here's a closer look at this photo.

back of console

Here's something you don't see too often and that's the back of an organ console. This is a view of the console completely lowered into the pit. Originally the console was fixed in place and therefore the back was not decorated. However this was changed to allow the organ to be used more easily with the symphony. Local Columbus organ builder Bunn=Minnick created the decorated back for the console.

The wires at the bottom are for the organ's electric action (at right), standard 120 volts AC, microphone wire, and other electrical gear. Here's a closer look at the back.


Yes, the blower has nothing to do with the console except for the fact that the blower switch is on the console. This is the original Spencer 25 HP blower which, even with all of the additions to the organ, still provides more than enough air to fully power the instrument. The blower sits in a small room below stage level on the same side of the theater as the console. It was was reconditioned in 2004.

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