ALBANY — On Sunday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m., internationally renowned organist Nathan Avakian will perform a free concert to dedicate the newly acquired Allen GW4 organ in Proctors’ GE Theatre, kicking off the monthly Proctors Organ Concert Series.
“It will be a combination of traditional theater organ music and brand new music, including rock ’n’ roll and original scores that Nathan has composed,” said Carl Hackert, chairman for the organ program at Proctors. “The way he performs them on the organ is amazing to watch and see. He’s a musician of fabulous technique with a great mind and ear.”
The concert will use the full breadth of the theater’s capabilities. The state-of-the-art GE Theatre offers adjustable seating, acoustics, and a screen as large as the stage with an IMAX audio system.
“The organ sounds fantastic in the GE Theatre,” said Hackert. “It’s going to be a full-fledged organ show.”
Avakian’s riveting new arrangements will also feature new silent films that are connected with his work as a resident organist and composer for the International Youth Silent Film Festival. His October program at Proctors will provide a seasonal flair and atmosphere. Hackert specifically noted Avakian’s “creativity and energy” in his live performances.
“He plays it so that people of any age will find something to marvel at,” said Hackert. “Besides his phenomenal capability technically, he’s a phenomenal musician with a great musical sense.”
The organ being dedicated is a new addition to Proctors and joins another long-running, legendary instrument in the theater. “‘George,’ as the organ is affectionately called, is the new mate to the famous Wurlitzer theater organ in the main theater at Proctors, called ‘Goldie,’” said Brad Day, president of Allen Organ Studios in Delmar.
George was custom built in Pennsylvania by the Allen Organ Company for Kerry Bahl and his wife, Dorothy, who were organists active in the National Theatre Organ Society in California.
The organ contains state-of-the-art digital technology and is modeled after a specification by the famous theater organist George Wright.
“The console is fashioned after the famous French Ornate design created by the Wurlitzer Organ Company in the early 20th century,” said Day.
The organ was purchased from the Bahl estate and is dedicated to members of Hackert’s family and deceased members of the organ society.
“Being the representatives for Allen Organ Company in upstate New York, we are honored to have had the opportunity to help support this project,” said Day.
“George is attracting a lot of attention from organists and our audience because it’s such a beautiful instrument to look at and to listen to,” said Hackert.
Avakian’s dynamic show will herald George’s use for future programs.
“I’ve been playing the organ for my whole life, and I’ve never heard someone play like Nathan,” said Hackert, who is a returning musician for the Proctors Organ Concert Series and has worked with Proctors program since the 1980s. “He is unique in the world of theater organs.”
All of the organ programs in the monthly Proctors Organ Concert Series are free and held monthly on weekdays, with special programs on weekends. Proctors is located in downtown Schenectady. For more information about upcoming concerts in the series, visit proctors.org.
The American Theatre Organ Society Hudson-Mohawk Chapter presents the concerts, promotes them, and participates in their education and restoration of the organs. For information on joining the membership or learning more about the program, contact Hackert at [email protected] or (518) 469-5718.
This story appeared on page 5 of the October 4, 2023 print edition of the Spot