Another part of this eclectic collection on display is rare theatre pipe organs. Through the passage of time, theatre organs have truly become an important part of our history. They were designed in the 1920's to be the accompaniment for silent films. They have an orchestral sound of just about every instrument and a superb fullness and quality that is unmatched by any one instrument. This was very advantageous to the silent film industry as the sound built drama and suspense to what would have been flat and lifeless. There were approximately 6,000 theatre organs built and in the 1950's with the advent of "Talkies" (sound film), and with the introduction of television, the film industry no longer needed them. As time went by, with seldom use, these magnificent instruments fell into disrepair.
Today, less than a couple hundred remain the world and it is with great pleasure that a few of them have been conserved here in Las Vegas. Beginning in 1979, Phil started collecting theatre organs and parts. The famous Roxy Theatre Kimball Organ console was the first organ console he acquired. The massive job to install it, along with piecing together the many parts previously obtained, required the work of many builders. Unfortunately, upon commissioning them, he encountered several of unprincipled character who created much difficulty and hardship. As in every story there would be no Victory without these conflicts and challenges and ultimately this did not deter him from his goal.
Upon completion, the famous Roxy Theatre Organ was placed in his hotel, the Ramada Classic in Albuquerque. From 1982 to 1995 this organ was played within the hotel by ATOS Hall of Fame organist, Kay McAbee. The grand ambiance he created over the years through his prodigious musical talents still imprints a memory within the hearts of many who were fortunate to be part of this history. As with the certainty of change however, the organ he played for many years was later dismantled and stored again to await its new life in Las Vegas.
During this time Phil also heard news of another organ which was to be dismantled and stored but as fate would have it, was able to save it from an uncertain future as well. It was the Grande Barton Theatre Organ from the Granada Theatre in Kansas City which was developed for many years by Bob Maes. Having over 35 years experience in this field, it was only logical that he accompany Phil to Las Vegas to assist in locating a suitable home that would be the best location and to help put it all together.
Later that same year the Chicago Stadium closed down and the Barton Organ console that once played in the stadium had to be placed in storage. It was built in 1929 and is the largest free standing pipe organ console in the world. Sadly while in storage a fire destroyed most of the organ but as fortune would have it, the life of the console, even though it was beaten by time and much of the paint faded and chipped, was spared and able to be refurbished. Much of the ormolu was broken or lost and this had to be remade "as" well, completing the restoration at a cost of over $100,000.00. Now restored, its bold presence brought out by the majestic color and intricate details, has now been meticulously brought to life by the artistic talents of Rebecca Conway.
Bob Maes and his crew of pipe organ technicians even included a custom computer to control the massive organ. It was redesigned with a touch screen interface that takes electrical information from the keyboards, stores it, and then transfers it back. This allows the actual organ to play songs of an ever expanding repertoire exactly as the organist played it so that the music can be enjoyed at anytime. The presence of this organ upon entering the room gives an ambiance like no other. It is as if the organ is not part of the room, but rather the room is like a chamber that is part of the organ. The walls above, surrounding it are lined with hundreds of massive organ pipes, tuned percussions and sound effects that when played breath life into the room. It is as if you were walking into a living chamber of rich, vivid, and enveloping sounds that bolt electrical charges, striking a chord within something much more.
Today, Phil's home is the only home in the world that houses two theatre pipe organs. The "Gallery", now built where the pool use to be, accommodates the second organ, and ever expanding art collection. Originally a Wurlitzer Pipe organ, (from the Sheridan Theatre in Chicago) was installed in this room. The main organ was retained but the console was later sold and replaced by the Roxy Theatre organ console. Bob Maes and Rebecca stayed on to design this room as well, and with the addition of beautiful marble floors and deep Cherry woods it gives a sleek finish which resonates scales of vibrant ambient tones and complements the decorative purplish hue of the console. Of the two theatre pipe organs, who could choose between them as each has such differing appearances and tones of astounding beauty?
All this, and so much more can be discovered here at the Maloof estate and is too good for just one man to sit and enjoy by himself which is why he has opened his home up to others to share in this experience. This collection is preserved in reverence to our grandparents and theirs before them who helped to create the very foundation to where we stand today.
This is not just one man's large home and collections in which to glean admiration, no, it is part of something much greater and larger in scope which has now been entrusted to our memory.
Uncle Phil Maloof Las Vegas, Nevada Copyright 2009-2014