Enjoy some tunes at New Covenant

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 12, 2015

I said that I wasn’t doing another one.

And I thought that I meant it.

But, I am now announcing I will be presenting another piano/music performance to help raise some more needed funds to help with my restoration of the Baker Grand Theatre organ.

Email newsletter signup

I have titled the program, “The Great Songs of Yesteryear,” and the performance will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, and the venue will once again be at New covenant Church on Homochitto Street.

I will be seated at the Steinway trying to figure out where “middle C” is, and Elizabeth and Wil Thomas will be at the microphone providing the vocals.

You might remember Elizabeth and Wil. They provided the vocals when we did the program “Songs of the Big Band Era.” They work so well together, and it carries over to an audience, judging by the overwhelmingly positive response that they received at that performance.

This time, the program will be some of the classic songs from way-back when, and will include such perennial jazz favorites as “It Had To Be You,” Walking My Baby Back Home,” “A Paper Moon,” and maybe a little “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

And, as a response to popular demand, I am pleased to announce that there will be CDs available of my piano interpretations of jazz, easy listening and gospel standards.

The cost of admission? I wouldn’t dare charge for the program! It’s free entry through the doors.

The same goes for the CDs; they are free for the taking.

All I would ask is that, if you feel so inclined, you contribute to a “Love Offering.” All of the monies collected will go to help defray the costs of the theater organ restoration.

And just what is the status of the organ?

The motor which powered the blower was frozen tight, the last I wrote about all of this. I am happy to say that a motor shop in Brookhaven was able to free it up, clean it thoroughly, reinsulate the windings, attach new motor leads, fabricate new sleeve bearings and repaint the frame. I tell you, it looks and runs like a brand new motor! With this motor repaired, it will allow me to reuse the entire old blower system and keep the organ as original as possible.

The manuals are really coming back to life. The keys have been re-bushed and repaired, and I am leaving the original ivories intact. Yes, some are pretty well chipped but there are techniques to repair such. It was appealing to leave the keys unaltered, because it makes me think of the musicians in the past whose fingers on the keys brought forth music and entertainment.

Not to be ignored, the pedalboard is also in the process of being restored.

Scraping, sanding, staining, finishing, re-wiring, re-felting, re-leathering; it goes on and on. Eah component offers a new challenge, but there has been nothing so far that has been insurmountable.

It is a real job, but one that I have really enjoyed.

A picture of some of the restored components was submitted to the American Theatre Organ Society to be shown at their upcoming national convention, and a story on the organ appeared in the newsletter of the Magnolia Chapter of the ATOS. People are taking notice.

I can only hope that some venue opens up where the organ can be on display and used to entertain like it was meant to do. Until such time, I will erect it inside my shop, which I am going to remodel to house it.

But it needs a home! A public setting. A place for folks to sit and enjoy the sounds of a mighty theatre organ. A spot to shine as the organ from the old Baker Grand that was spared the destruction of the wrecking ball.

I’m working on it. And I hope we all get to hear it, soon!

So come on down to New Covenant Friday.

We will do everything in our power to entertain you!


Burnley Cook is a Natchez resident.