Pilcher Plays Again

What a fabulous concert last week at Memorial Auditorium! About 300 fans of Memorial’s  1929 Pilcher pipe organ gathered to hear the magnificent, monumental instrument play again.

It was a bittersweet, nostalgic event. Many in the audience had their high school or college graduation ceremonies there and had marched in to the sound of the great Pilcher instrument. It is reputed to be the largest organ of its kind ever to be built.

It had a setback in 2015 when thawing ice on the roof sent cascades of water through the roof and onto the organ and its more than 5,000 pipes! It has taken thousands of hours over the last few years for the volunteers and professionals to restore and maintain the organ, and they are still at it! But the results are spectacular!

Last week, a concert was presented on the organ for the first time in almost six years. After a 60-minute concert of various musical pieces that show off the organ well, it was played to accompany a Laurel and Hardy silent film. The event helped raise money for more restoration and was sponsored by the William H. Bauer Foundation, the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society and the Louisville Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Young Donnie Rankin from Ravinia, Ohio, one of the best young organists in the country, played the magnificent instrument.

The organ’s grand console with at least three keyboards is next to the stage and can be raised or lowered. The pipes are hidden behind the walls and are vented in the four corners of the auditorium.

Pilcher originated in England and had offices in New York, Chicago and Louisville. The grand organ was the largest ever built by our Pilcher and Sons Organ Company.

Tim Baker, organist and foundation president, has worked on and played the organ for 43 years and is the organist at Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church.

Most of the work on the organ has been donated. A concert is being planned in the near future in honor and memory of those who have worked on the organ. It is a spectacular instrument and it takes you back in time to when you were young and bussed to Memorial Auditorium to attend the Louisville Orchestra “Making Music” concerts conducted by Robert Whitney.

MANHATTAN PROJECT

The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II. On the other hand, Louisville’s The Manhattan Project is a terrific food at drink lab at 2101 Frankfort Ave., site of what used to be the resale shop, Fabulous Finds.

Even though it has some 20 televisions around its four walls, it is not fair to just call it a sports bar. It is a whole lot more than that, and partners Fred Pizzonia and Kevin Strnatka have knocked themselves out, completely converting the building and part of the parking lot into a charming, quirkily decorated restaurant and bar with a deliciously eclectic menu.

Yes, there is a great house burger and a bistro steak, but there is also tuna tartar and citrus guacamole, oysters Rockefeller, cheese and potato pierogis, and Manhattan Project MACnChz on top of which, for a small extra charge, you can add crab meat, short rib, pork cheek, bacon, seared pork belly, cured ham, pickled jalapeno, caramelized onions, onion straws, roasted hatch chilies or roasted tomatoes.

It should definitely be on your “to-go-to” list.

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE

It is no secret that there is some mighty good barbecue being cooked in half a bicycle store on River Road at Zorn Avenue. Jon Gudmundsson and his wife, Susan, have been at it for five years to quiet – but strong – acclaim. And now they occupy the whole store.

Now, John has come up with something new to go along with the growing national fried chicken craze – smoked fried chicken. I don’t have a lot of room to go into much detail, but you should know he first smokes the whole birds until they are partially cooked, cools them down and skins them, then pops them in his own batter recipe and into the deep fryer.

So far, the chicken is only available after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings as well as after noon on Sunday. And be warned: It sells out fast. More room and more information next week. VT