History of the Robert-Morton

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Click Here to see a photo gallery of the original project to install the Robert-Morton into the Kansas City Music Hall.

Life for the Robert Morton unit-pipe organ presently installed in Kansas City's famed Music Hall began just down the street at the opulent 4000 seat Loew's Midland opening on October 27th, 1927 played by P. Hans Flath. The organ was utilized by the theater until sometime shortly after the end of World War II when larger screen sound movies came into vogue which spelled the end for stage shows and in-house organ music.

The organ then lingered in growing disrepair until the theater closed and was re-born in the early 1960's as a major-league bowling team home. The stage sported four regulation lanes from stage-back to over the orchestra pit, which included the organ console. At that time a local organ technician brought three-fourths of the organ back to life which enabled use of the instrument for the short-lived run of the ill-fated bowling franchise housed in the strongly overstated Louis XIV decorated Midland so typical in the late 1920's.

The original Robert Morton pipe organ was purchased and removed by Robert Fray and placed in his home. Later Mr. Fray moved it again into a new setting tailored specifically for the rather large 20 rank instrument. Mr. Fray built his new home around the organ.

Bob Fray in 1959 with his 2 manual Wurlitzer Style D, again with the Robert-Morton in 1965 and in 2000.

The organ then traveled to California and was put to use by a family restaurant business in the Solana Theater in Solana Beach, California. This was a regrettably short time in what was actually the "Organ Power Pizza Parlor". The instrument was then given to the Ohio Center for the Performing Arts in Columbus, Ohio as a parts organ for their "sister-organ" at Loew's Ohio.

The organ then remained in rough storage until a group of local theater organ enthusiasts was formed and eventually purchased the organ in 1984. By this time the organ had traveled all over the nation and the general condition was quite bad, due mostly to unprofessional, careless handling. Yet, the group of dedicated hobbyists proceeded to rework what was repairable, found replacement parts for those items missing and adding an additional seven ranks of pipework. It was during this time that a secure home was sought for the installation of the Robert Morton.

Gratefully, a new home was ultimately found in the venerable Convention Centers famed 2400 seat art deco Music Hall. It was a marriage meant to be for the Music Hall had originally held organ chambers (2) but were never filled back in 1934-5 when the structure was completed.

The group of enthusiasts then began the process of securing a tax-exempt (501)(C)(3) status from federal and state agencies so as to assure furtherance of donations required to carry the organ's use and presence on in its' new home at the Music Hall. The then small group (8 people) formally named itself Kansas City Theater Pipe Organ, Inc. and began the tremendous process of reinstalling the partially-rebuilt Robert Morton organ back into the Hall. It required over 15,000 man-hours to complete the project which culminated in the organ's re-dedication on September 25, 1995.

There were actually two dedications - the instrument was enlarged to it's present 28 ranks and rededicated on September 15, 1995 featured by the William Jewell Fine Arts Program for a showing of the classic 1926 silent film "La Boheme" starring Lillian Gish with Dennis James at the console of the reborn Robert Morton organ. Lyn Larsen presided over the Robert Morton organ on Dec. 2, 1995 at the Music Hall for its second public outing.

Today, Kansas City Theatre Pipe Organ, Inc. has almost 100 Club members who all enjoy and participate in a varied format of public and Club activities all tied directly to the Music Hall's Robert Morton organ, its preservation and enhancement. The Club has dedicated itself to the enhancement of the organ through constant physical upgrading, public presentation of only the finest artists and development of various educational programs to bring knowledge and interest from all faucets of community life, for young and old alike.

The instrument has not only been assured of a more secure future but has seen more than $225,000 spent on the instrument's rebuilding. This represents an enormous contribution by not only community residents but interested people from all over the country. This brings praise to Kansas City, its' residents and helps enhance the city's varied national appeal.