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Published: Thursday, 10/6/2005

Thunder at the Ohio Theatre

Lance Luce Lance Luce

It's a magnificent musical instrument, Nelda Reno says proudly of the organ in the Ohio Theatre.

With close to 1,000 pipes and four keyboards, the restored 1926 Marr & Colton organ maintains a mighty presence in the Lagrange Street theater, where it was relocated and reassembled 20 years ago.

"We keep adding to it and working on it and improving it," said Reno, president of the Toledo Area Theatre Organ Society (TATOS). "It has such a beautiful, lovely tone."

Fans of the distinctively powerful and versatile sound of theater organs will have a chance to hear and experience the instrument in concert Sunday when Lance Luce, a world renowned Detroit-area organist, performs a benefit concert.

The organ, built by Marr & Colton of Warsaw, N.Y., was assembled from two different instruments that originally had been installed in two downtown Toledo theaters, the Rivoli and the Palace. When those theaters were razed in 1968, the city of Toledo stored the organs in an unused fire station.

TATOS bought the instruments from the city for $1, with a condition that the organs remain in Toledo.

But the organs were damaged when the roof of the fire station where they were stored leaked, and the organ society decided to use the salvaged parts from the two organs to make one fully restored instrument.

"It is the only remaining theater pipe organ in the city of Toledo in a public venue," Reno said. There are a few in private homes, she added.

Theater pipe organs have keys and buttons that produce special effects sounds for movies, including claps, cymbal crashes, and sirens, and are different from organs built for churches and other venues, Reno said.

Luce was 10 years old when he first played a theater pipe organ at the Royal Oak Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich.

He is on the staff of the Fox Theatre in Detroit, is a church organist, and has released seven CDs.

Lance Luce will be in concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St. Tickets are $10 in advance, available from the Toledo Area Theater Organ Society, 419-478-5959, or $12 at the door. Proceeds will be used for preservation of the Ohio Theatre organ.

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