THE "MIGHTY MO" ORGAN
Purchase CD/DVD of the Mighty MO
History of Pipe Organ
The Organ was valued at $400,000 in 1974 and today its value is priceless. It is the giant Möller theatre organ “Mighty Mo” that is the Fox Theatre's crown jewel. This irreplaceable relic of movie theatre lore is a masterpiece of organ design, capable of producing sound as delicate as a dainty piccolo to wall-shuddering accompaniment for a battle scene. From Beethoven to Sousa, Mighty Mo has no rival in ability and versatility.
Mighty Mo was custom-made for the Fox Theatre in 1929 for the then astronomical price of $42,000 by M. P. Möller, Inc. of Hagerstown, Maryland. It is the second largest theatre organ in the world with 42 ranks, four manuals, and 376 stop tabs. The Might Mo was surpassed in size, but not melodic beauty, around 1933 by the
58-rank Wurlitzer at Radio City Music Hall. There are 3,622 pipes spread out over five chambers ranging in size from a ball point pen to 32 feet tall and big enough around for a man to stand in.
The wind required for the organ is supplied by a blower which is powered by a 75-horsepower motor. This electro-pneumatically operated instrument is so vast and complex that it has real instruments in it such as a marimba, xylophone, and glockenspiel. The Theatre's grand piano can be remotely played from the organ's keyboard.
Mighty Mo can produce sounds like a clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, and other orchestral instruments, as well as sounds like thunder, a fire bell, chimes, and a steamboat whistle.
By 1954, Mighty Mo was in such a state of neglect that it just stopped working. In 1963, Joe Patten, the Fox Theatre’s technical director, who had fallen in love with this grand and complicated instrument, collaborated with organist Bob Van Camp and a few members of the American Theatre Organ Society to restore the organ. With the Fox’s financial support, Patten spent hundreds of hours over 10 months to painstakingly rewire the organ with 36,000 feet (nearly seven miles) of new wire, rebuilding the entire organ from the inside out.
The organ has been entertaining audiences since its reintroduction to the public on Thanksgiving Day 1963. Patten maintained the Mighty Mo until his retirement and continues to oversee its care as a volunteer. His records and technical wizardry guarantee the Mighty Mo will be singing loud and clear for future generations of theatre organ enthusiasts.
It takes enormous skill and musical virtuosity to play this behemoth and organists consider a performance on the Mighty Mo the pinnacle of their career. Bob Van Camp was the house organist for more than 25 years.
Images of the "Mighty Mo" organ - click on image to expand
Pipe Organ Specifications
PDF documents (approximately 95k each)
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On January 1, 1963, the Fox's Möller Pipe Organ was unplayable, but by November of that year, the Mighty Mo was in the best shape since its creation and installation by Möller. This miraculous achievement was the work of a team of pipe organ experts from the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.
Bob Van Camp, renowned pipe organist and Master of Ceremonies of the Atlanta Pops Concerts that were held at the Fox, negotiated a deal with Noble Arnold, the distinguished and longtime Manager of the Fox. The agreement stipulated that all the labor to fix the organ would be contributed by the ATOS members, the materials would be paid for by the Fox, the work would be done at night and on weekends when no movies were being shown in the Theatre, and no more than five ATOS workers would be permitted to be in the theatre at any one time.
© Yukari Umekawa
Joe G. Patten, a charter Trustee of Atlanta Landmarks, Inc. that saved and now owns the Fox, became head of the team and Bob Van Camp remained the liaison with Noble Arnold throughout the project.
The pipe organ was unplayable because over the years, many of the single-strand wires that connect the console to the five chambers had broken due to the friction caused by the continuous up-and-down motion as the console moved on its elevator for its performances. Just beneath the console these wires are incased in a large cable. After his analysis of the situation, Mr. Patten determined that the starting point would be to cut and replace that cable – a move considered a radical step by many of the ATOS workers.
Once this was accomplished, the process began to identify and record the location of the wires coming from each of the 3,622 pipes and 120 shutters, connecting each of them to a junction board located in the pit directly below the console.
Second, the wires that came from each of the 61 keys of each of the four console manuals and those from the 32 pedals were identified and recorded. These wires were then connected to another junction board within the rear of the console.
Third, a cable was created and sheathed in plastic. It used stranded wire, which is larger and more flexible, and now extends from the console junction board to the new junction board in the pit below the console. This cable can now adjust to the up-and-down motion of the console.
A tribute to the success and quality of this remarkable enterprise can be found in the fact that, since 1963, only one of the newly installed wires has failed!
With Bob Van Camp at the console, the Fox's "Mighty Mo" performed again in its full glory in November of 1963
Joe Patten added the piano from Chicago’s Piccadilly Theater to the pipe organ in 1965 and, by virtue of an intricate device designed and created by him, it is played from the Mighty Mo console.
Under the expert management of Joe Patten, the pipe organ has been carefully maintained in its pristine condition since 1963.
Famous Organists who have played the Mighty Mo
||Bob Van Camp
When can I hear the Mighty Mo?
Before every Broadway performance, audiences can experience the magic of the Fox's "Mighty Mo" organ, as well as during the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival and The Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker.
American Theatre Organ Society
The American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS) is dedicated to the preservation of a unique American art form: the theatre pipe organ and its music. The membership includes musicians, technicians, and enthusiastic listeners; all are devoted to the preservation and continued enjoyment of what we believe to be a national treasure. Learn more about the ATOS at their website.
Who is the current Fox Theatre Organist?
Larry-Douglas Embury is the Fox Theatre's Organist in Residence and his CD/DVD album from the Fox is the world's first theatre organ recording created especially for surround sound home theatre systems. "The recording perfectly combines various sound sources . . . another sparkling facet to this musical/visual delight." — ATOS Theatre Organ Journal.
Learn more about Larry-Douglas Embury at his website.