Our featured organ this month is Mighty Mo, the magnificent 4/42 Möller Theatre Pipe Organ installed at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mighty Mo was custom-made for the Fox Theatre in 1929 for the then astronomical price of $42,000.00 by M. P. Möller Inc. of Hagerstown, Maryland. It is the second largest original Theater Pipe Organ in the world with 42 ranks, four manuals and 376 stop tabs, having been surpassed in size (but not melodic beauty) around 1933 by the 4/58 Mighty WurliTzer at Radio City Music Hall. There are 3,622 pipes spread out over five chambers, ranging in size from a ball point pen to 32 feet tall and big enough around for a man to stand in.
The Organ was valued at $400,000.00 in 1974. Its value today is incalculable. This irreplaceable relic of movie theater lore is a masterpiece of organ design, capable of producing sound as delicate as a dainty piccolo to wall-shuddering
accompaniment for a battle scene. From Beethoven to Sousa, Mighty Mo has no rival in ability and versatility.
Looking at Mighty Mo fom the front of the stage.
A Bit Of History
By 1954, Mighty Mo was in such a state of neglect it just quit. On January 1, 1963, the Fox's Möller Pipe Organ was unplayable. The instrument was unplayable because, over the years, many of the single strand wires connecting the console to the five chambers had broken because of the friction caused by the continuing up-and-down motion as the console moved on its elevator for its performances.
Yet, by November of that year, the Pipe Organ was in the best shape it had been since its creation and installation by Möller! Joe Patten, the Fox Theatre's retired technical director (who had fallen in love with this grand and complicated instrument) collaborated with organist Bob Van Camp and a few members of the American Theatre Organ Society to restore the organ. With financial support from the Fox, and over the course of nearly 9 months, Patten spent hundreds of hours painstakingly rewiring the organ with 36,000 feet (nearly seven miles) of new wire, rebuilding the entire instrument from the inside out.
The piano from the Picadilly Theater in Chicago was added to the Pipe Organ by Mr. Patten in 1965 and, by virtue of an intricate device designed and created by him, is played from the console.
Under the expert management of Joe Patten, Mighty Mo has been carefully maintained in its pristine condition since 1963! The organ has been entertaining audiences since its reintroduction to the public on Thanksgiving Day that same year. Patten maintained it up until his recent retirement, and continues to oversee its care as a volunteer. His records and technical wizardryassure that Mighty Mo will be singing loud and clear for future generations of theater organ enthusiasts.
It takes enormous skill and musical virtuosity to play this behemoth, and most theatre organists from all over the world consider a performance on Mighty Mo to be the pinnacle of their career. Bob Van Camp was the house organist for more than 25 years at the Fox. When he died, Patten and Atlanta Landmarks board member Robert L. Foreman Jr. sprinkled his ashes in the attic over the organ chambers.
Larry Douglas Embury presides over the thunder-and-whisper majesty of Mighty Mo. Larry's CD/DVD album entitled Sonic Bloom from the Fox was the world's first theatre organ recording created especially for surround sound-home theatre systems.
"The recording perfectly combines various sound sources...another sparkling facet to this musical/visual delight."
ATOS Theatre Organ Journal
A Closer Look at the Console
Looking down at the enormous console of Mighty Mo.
A close-up, looking at the left bolster end plate.
Center stops on bolster and fallboard.
Left bolster containing the Pedal and
some of the Accompaniment stops.
The back rail and center bolster containing
the great stops, tremulants and second touches.
The right bolster curve containing the solo stops.
The right bolster containing the Orchestral stops.
The toe studs and swell shoes, looking left.
The toe studs and swell shoes, looking right.
A Look Inside The Chambers
The wind required for the organ is supplied by a blower which is powered by a 75-horsepower motor. This electro-pneumatically operated instrument is so vast and complex that it has real instruments in it such as a marimba, xylophone and glockenspiel. The Fox Theatre's grand piano can be remotely played from the massive organ's keyboard.
Mighty Mo can produce sounds like a clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and all other orchestral instruments, as well as sounds like thunder, a fire bell, chimes and a steamboat whistle, just to name a few of its many tricks.