Civic Auditorium – Memphis, TN

Builder W.W. Kimball Company
Year Built 1928
Opus Number KPO 7035
Size (man/ranks) V/IV/114
Extant Yes
Condition see history
History Originally there was to be just one organ for the larger (north) hall. But, it was Maurice Hardy of the Kimball Company that suggested an organ for each hall with two consoles. One console would be able to control both organs. The organ chambers as provided by the architect on each side of the stage were deemed unsuitable for the organ, so a new space above the stage was turned into the organ chambers. Structural engineers were called in to make sure that there would be adequate support for the very heavy organs.

The original specification was designed by Maurice Hardy of the Kimball Company. During the design, concert organist Charles Courboin was hired as the consultant on the project. Courboin made three separate revisions to the specification before the final one was agreed upon. There would be a five manual organ in the larger hall with an echo organ, and a smaller four manual organ in the smaller hall. The organs would be completely enclosed in chambers back to back. The organ was finished in the spring of 1929 and Courboin played the opening recital to a crowd of 12,000 people on April 9, 1929.

Tonally the organ was one of Kimball’s masterpieces. William H. Barnes was particularly taken by the three mixtures in the main organ and wrote in the June 1929 “American Organist”, “(all the mixtures are), voiced to be immensely telling in the ensemble; particularly the Solo Mixture is voiced ff and may be heard distinctly over the heavy-pressure Solo reeds. These numerous Mixtures give a brightness and clarity to the tone that have not been surpassed in any organ of any size that has come to my notice.”

In summing up the entire organ Barnes wrote, “Altogether a most effective, resourceful, and well-balanced instrument has been designed and carried out superbly by the Kimball Company.”

The organ was used for numerous AGO events and a regional convention in the years immediately following its completion. However, besides that, no municipal organist was ever appointed, and no recital series implemented, so for a large part of its history this fine organ sat silent. The organ had a revival in the 1970’s and was used for a number of events. However by the 1990’s the auditorium’s future was in question and the organs were removed to storage and offered for sale. The smaller organ was sold to Bartlett United Methodist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee and rebuilt by the Milnar Organ Company. The larger organ is currently in storage and will be rebuilt by Schantz for installation at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma.

Organists Dedicated by Charles Courboin
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