The Temple Theater, Meridian, MS. 39301

Home of the Robert Morton 3/8 Theater Organ

This is the Temple today (April 2009).
Under new ownership - there are already many "clean-up dress-up" projects underway.

As the theater's construction was being completed, a deal was struck with the Saenger Bros. - who operated a chain of movie theaters in the South. Under that deal - the Saenger's would be responsible for booking and operating the theater - which would consist primarily of motion pictures - which at the time - were silent films. To accompany these films - and provide entertainment in it's own right - a Robert Morton 3 manual 8 rank (pipe voice) organ was installed. The organ today is one of only two such instruments still in their original installation in Mississippi - the other being the Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg.

The Robert Morton in the Temple has been under the care of Frank Evans since 1972; with the Magnolia Chapter being chartered and becoming the "official care-takers" in 1976.

Frank Evans testing the organ after a repair.

Open Console - (anyone can play) after a MCATOS meeting
Dalton McAlpin and Frank Evans
Mississippi Public Television -"Walt's Way"
Meridian's Temple Theater

Blue Ribbon Theaters
Turner South Visits
Meridian's Temple Theater

Specifications of the Meridian Temple Robert Morton 3/8

Console PipeWork Left (Solo) Chamber PipeWork Right (Accompaniment) Chamber
Keyboards Diapason 85 Notes
Tuba 85 Notes
Tibia 73 Notes
Kinura 61 Notes
Flute (Bourdon) 97 Notes
Violin 73 Notes
Violin Celeste 61 Notes
Vox Humana 61 Notes
Solo Manual 61 Keys
Great Manual 1st Touch 61 Keys
Great Manual 2nd Touch 61 Keys
Accomp Manual 1st Touch 61 Keys
Accomp Manual 2nd Touch 61 Keys
Misc. Left Chamber Misc. Right Chamber
Xylophone 37 Notes
Orchetra Bells 37 Notes
Chimes 20 Notes
Toy Counter 12 Special effects
Tibia Trem
General Trem
Swell Shades 12 actuators
Chrysoglott 49 Notes
Vox Trem
General Trem
Swell Shades 12 actuators
1st Touch 32 Pedals
2nd Touch 32 Pedals
Stop Tab Rails 120 Tabs
Preset Pistons 15
Preset Programming:
     Accompaniment and Pedals
          Left pull-out drawer
     Great and Solo
          Right pull-out drawer
Tuba Rank to the left - Kinura Rank to the right - and traps to the rear with the swell shades visible behind.
The swell shades with their "motors". Like all things in a theater organ - the work is done by air pressure - controlled by electric valves.
Some of the many electrical cables can be see at the left - these wires carry the note and control information between the console and the pipes, etc. in the chambers
Here is one of the relays that handles the switching and distribution of various note signals.

This relay is the "Great" relay - which connects the great (center) manual of the console to the pipes and tuned percussion. The majority of Robert Mortons installed in theaters had only two manuals - and contained all of the needed relays for it's two manuals within the console itself. Since the majority of organs were so equipped, this was the "standard build" for these consoles. These consoles are quite full - and very heavy compared to consoles which have all of their relays external to the console. As is the case here - in order to add an additional manual - an expansion "kit" was added to the organ - which added the third (or fourth) manual, an expansion of the tab rails to accommodate the extra tabs for the manual - and an external relay installed in one of the chambers to connect the additional manual to the various ranks and tuned percussion(s). This relay has 21 sections - 21 "stops" on the great manual. If you look at the picture of the console above (the one looking over Frank's left shoulder) one can see the Great Stop Rail - with it's 21 tabs. The Solo Stop rail is above the great stops; the stop rails for the Accompaniment manual and the Pedals are on the left side.

This is a traditional electro-pneumatic relay that works like all other things in a pipe organ: a wire from a control switch (tab) is connected to a valve which allows air to flow into a bellows type device inside the chest. The bellows pulls on a metal rod that then operates (pivots) the armature of one of the giant multi-contact "relays" above. Each armature carries the contacts for an entire rank of pipes (or chimes, etc.) - so has from 20 to 85 contacts. As the armature pivots down and back - it carries it's contacts into "contact" with the mating "fixed" contacts on the "back board" - "coupling" the signals from one rank with another. A much more detailed discussion of Robert Morton Relays, and relays in general is covered in one of the "TechTalks".
Here is a closer look at the relay - with some parts noted.
Various ranks in their chests - and the supply ducts that feed air to the chests.
Traps (percussion) can been seen at the back - between the two towering rows of Diapasons.
The Diapasons are so long - that they can't "stand up straight" in the chamber - so are "mitered" or folded over to fit.
One of the "artifacts" of issues over the years. Sometime in the mid to late 1960s - the Kinura Rank was replaced by another Vox-Humana rank. The story goes that an organ "person" wanted a Kinura rank - and figured no one would notice "the trade". Well - it was noticed - but lacking "proof" of who had absconded with the Kinura Rank - (other than rumor in the Organ Community) there wasn't much anyone could do about it. In the early 1990s - a rank of Kilgen Kinura were obtained - (without their chest) and fitted to the Vox Humana chest. So while the chest still bears it's original markings of VOX-HUMANA - if one looks closely at the top of the closest pipe - left -marked as KIN noting it's membership in the Kinura Rank. The original VOX-HUMANA is in the Right Chamber - which is why people do a double-take seeing the Vox-Humana label on the chest in the Left Chamber.
Frank Evans diving into the chamber to replace a failed flexible coupling to one of the Trems. The "trem" or Tremulant Unit produces a constantly varying pressure in the duct supply to the chests down wind from it. This varying pressure causes the pipe's tone to vary much like the natural vibrato of a vocalist - or the vibrato a string musician might impart to their instrument by varying their fingering. The Spencer turbine produces 500 cubic feet of air per minute at approximately 15 inches of water column pressure. Each chamber - has regulators that reduce this pressure suitable for the pipes down wind that require less pressure. In addition to the regulators are the "trems" which provide the "vibrato" sound that is very much a part of the Theater Organ "Sound". Here - the "box" at Frank's feet is the control unit - and the actual "tremulant" is the larger box behind. Springs set the primary characteristics (depth and speed of vibrato) while weights are used to make minor adjustment. This Trem is the Tiba Trem - the "General Trem" can be seen right behind him.
One of the next repair projects - walked into the chamber a few nights ago - and roughly half of the chimes were laying on the chamber floor - the leather lacing that holds them had failed. Pretty typical of keeping a nearly 100 year old organ in good playing condition... there is ALWAYS something to work on!

If these mighty instruments interest you - come on and join us in keeping these wonderful gifts from the past making beautiful music!

Copyright © 2009 The Magnolia Chapter ATOS. All rights reserved.