Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

'A Grand Instrument' ; UE Professors Hope to Restore Damaged Tinker Memorial Organ

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

'A Grand Instrument' ; UE Professors Hope to Restore Damaged Tinker Memorial Organ

Article excerpt

In a time long gone, crowds gathered in Evansville's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum to hear the city's great organ play. Soldiers home from the Great War took their sweethearts to shows. Choirs sang in harmony with the organ's 4,000 pipes. Orchestras drew pitch and rhythm from their melody. Performers acted within their chorus.

But all that was a long time ago. It's been five decades since the Tinker Memorial Organ roared to life.

The old instrument no longer makes music. Decades of neglect have taken their toll.

"Gradually, the organ was used less and less and less, and nobody was taking responsibility for it," said University of Evansville organist Douglas Reed. "The organ needed repair, and nobody was taking responsibility for it. A big organ like that takes a lot of attention."

Today, most have forgotten - or never knew of - the organ. It's a remnant of a time, a town and a community long gone.

"An organ symbolizes community," said the Rev. Tammy Gieselman, University of Evansville chaplain, gazing at the once-thunderous pipes lining the walls of a backroom in the Coliseum.

"It can move a people, really," she said, without taking her eyes off the instrument. "When I look at this pipe organ in disrepair, I see someone lying in hospice."

Reed estimated it would cost Vanderburgh County, which owns the organ, up to $1.5 million to restore it inside the Coliseum. That's money the county doesn't have. So Reed and Gieselman have proposed another solution.

They have asked Vanderburgh County to give the organ to the university. With a little luck, a lot of work, and a great deal of community support, the two plan to restore the old instrument and have it rebuilt in the campus' Neu Chapel.

There, it will bring to life a part of Evansville's history and continue the nearly 100-year-old memorial to Milton Z. Tinker.


Milton Z. Tinker became the music supervisor for Evansville's public schools in 1868. He remained in the position until his death in 1914, and many at the time credited him with instilling in Evansville's community a sense of musical awareness and pride.

His impact on the community was so great that long before the city even had a place to house an organ, the community planned to buy one in his honor.

That opportunity came with the construction of the Coliseum. It was built in 1917 as a memorial to local soldiers who died in The Great War. Evansville dedicated the new building Easter Sunday that year. The next day, the community launched a weeklong fundraiser to buy a municipal pipe organ. They called it a Fanfaronade.

On April 9, 1917, The Evansville Courier wrote: The Fanfaronade "will afford those who attend, which is expected will include every person in the city and neighboring points, varied programs of high class entertainment every afternoon and evening of the ensuing week. …

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