March 2014 Program - Rochester Theatre Organ Society

The Lloyd E. Klos Legacy
We return to Lloyd’s seventh series of articles for this story of the return of vaudeville
to the Rochester’s RKO Palace in 1933. It was the time of the great depression and with
‘talkies’ rapidly replacing ‘live’ acts and music in the giant movie palaces, unemployment
was rampant within the entertainment community. As you will read below RKO was doing its part to put people back to work. The article below is from Sept., 1976.
The Rochester Theater Organ Society
Proudly Presents
Jonas Nordwall
Page 1: Morton Downey at the RKO Palace
On September 15, 1933, after an absence of
ten months, vaudeville returned to the stage
of Rochester's RKO Palace Theatre. At the
time, the New Deal's NRA Blue Eagle was
posted everywhere, proclaiming "We Do
Our Part". So, the RKO management, in an
effort to employ stage employees and performers, restored vaudeville.
Headlining the Palace's bill was famed Morton Downey, billed as "The Golden-Voiced
Tenor of Radio". Russ Kahn directed the
RKO pit orchestra known as the RKOlians.
Tom Grierson was at the Wurlitzer, and an
old friend of RTOS, Jay Golden, managed
the theatre.
After arriving at the New York Central Station a day or two before his initial appearance, Downey went to the theatre and rehearsed with Grierson (who played the organ you are hearing this evening), as shown
in the accompanying picture. The next day,
Downey was honored at a luncheon at the
Sagamore Hotel (now 111 East Ave.). The guest was introduced by another Irishman, Rochester's Police Chief, Andrew J. Kavanaugh. Master of ceremonies was
Jack Lee, WHAM announcer.
A portion of the program was broadcast.
Strangely, the return of vaudeville was not covered by the local press, as movies
seemed to be more important in the eyes of the newspaper reviewers, Amy H.
Croughton and George L. David. However, we are sure that Downey must have
sung his theme song, "Wabash Moon".
The Palace's bill the following week was headed by famed tap dancer, Bill
"Bojangles" Robinson.
Front cover design and historical text by Russ Shaner
Auditorium Theatre
Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 2:30 pm
A Chronological History of the Rochester Theater Organ Society
The temperature in Rochester on Saturday, January 18, 1992 reached a high
of only 18 degrees with just enough snow to result in a light attendance of 600 for
Kurt Von Schakel’s debut (and only) RTOS appearance. Although still an active
classical organist today, Kurt is not often heard on theatre instruments. It was a
time for celebration as we noted that exactly 25 years had passed since the Wurlitzer was first played in public at the Auditorium Theatre. February brought an
audience of 1000+ for the first of seven (to date) appearances of ATOS President
Ken Double. An RTOS favorite, Ken is busier than a one-armed paper hanger
today as he travels far and wide to perform on and promote theatre organs.
In March, Fr. Bill Biebel from Erie, PA returned for his third RTOS appearance. Fr. Bill would entertain us once more in 1996 prior to his retirement. Also
in early March we learned of the untimely passing of Lowell Ayers. Lowell
played for RTOS four times and was heavily involved with the resurgence of
theatre organ in the 1970s and 80s. Lance Luce drove over from Detroit to play
his fourth concert for us in April. Still an RTOS favorite, Lance has been with us
seven times since his 1992 show. We ended our concert season on May 16th with
the fourth appearance of Arnold “Hot Socks” Loxam. Another of our favorites,
Arnold would visit us only two more times prior to his retirement and subsequent
passing at age 93 in 2010. In July we noted the passing of Lloyd Del Castillo at
the age of 99. One of the all -time greats, Lloyd played for RTOS three times. It
was noted that he was the opening organist at the Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in 1926.
Australia’s John Atwell kicked off our 29th concert season on September
12th. It was his second of three appearances here. John is high on your Program
Chairman's list of those he would like to bring back again when a compatible date
can be arranged. We welcomed autumn a bit early on October 10th as our own
western New York theatre organ superstar David Peckham made his fourth Auditorium appearance. David accompanied the 1925 silent film “Phantom of the Opera”. It is noted that due to a well placed story in the local newspapers, more than
200 tickets were sold to non-RTOS members and we had to delay the start of the
program nearly 15 minutes to allow everyone to get in and seated. We formally
celebrated the ghosts and goblins on October 30th as 120 RTOS members danced
the evening away at the 2nd annual Eisenhart Halloween party.
Ty Woodward, also making his fifth RTOS appearance, entertained us in
November. He would be back two years later. Then, following a 17 year absence, played here last in 2011. Ty is another on your Program Chairman’s favorites list for future visits. Our December gift from Santa was none other than Ron
Rhode who one-upped David and Ty by making his sixth trip to the RTOS pipes
on December 5th.
The 1992 annual meeting was held at the Eisenhart on December with 10
board members and 30 other RTOS members in attendance. Following the formal
meeting attendees enjoyed refreshments and an evening of seasonal music supplied by members George Boehl and Rollo Clark.
Returning to Rochester for his eighth RTOS appearance, Jonas Nordwall
is an internationally renowned virtuoso organist equally skilled in both traditional
classical and modern/popular schools of musical performance. He has performed
in North America, Japan, Europe, and China and has performed nine concert tours
in Australia.
A Portland, Oregon native, Nordwall’s first musical studies began at age
4 on the accordion. However, his studies expanded to piano and organ at age 10.
In 1970 he graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of
Portland. He studied piano, organ and orchestration with Arthur Hitchcock, a former staff pianist and organist for 20th Century Fox Studios.
Beginning in the mid 60s, Jonas was one of few organists professionally
playing theatre pipe organs. He was the organist for Howard Vollum Estate (cofounder of Tektronix) and later was the Senior Staff Organist for the Organ
Grinder Corporation, performing in both Portland and Denver, Colorado on custom designed Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organs in lavish restaurant settings. Since
1966 he has been a featured artist for many American Theater Organ Society national and regional conventions. The society’s “Organist of the Year” Award was
presented toNordwall in 1987. He is the Director for the ATOS Summer Youth
Appointed in 1971, Nordwall is the organist for Portland’s First United
Methodist Church and assumed the Director of Music position in 1990. He has
played for General Conferences of the United Methodist Church, the American
Choral Directors Association conventions, and regional conventions for the
American Guild of Organists.
Jonas has over 30 highly acclaimed recordings on a variety of labels. His
recordings are frequently heard on the syndicated radio show, “Pipedreams.” Notable national television appearances include the “Today Show” and “Good Morning Australia.”
In addition to his performing career, Nordwall has been a major influence
in the latter 20th century design and manufacturing of both pipe and electronic
organs. He was with the Rodgers Organ Company for over 30 years and presently
is an artist for the Allen Organ Company.
Join us at the Auditorium Theatre on
FRIDAY, APRIL 11 at 8:00 PM
As RTOS Presents
Scott Foppiano