The MTOS Story
The Manasota Theatre Organ Society (MTOS) was founded in November, 1991. The first project was the renovation of the 1926 Aeolian Duo Art pipe organ in the Charles Ringling mansion, now part of the University of South Florida New College in Sarasota. This residence pipe organ was not in playable condition when the Chapter approached USF and proposed renovation of the instrument. An agreement was reached whereby the Chapter would restore the organ to its original condition in exchange for occasional use by MTOS meetings. After several thousand hours of volunteer labor, the organ finally “spoke” again.
The Chapter met there once a year for several years, to the delight of our members who enjoyed hearing and playing this orchestral organ. Sadly, it has not been possible for MTOS to maintain the organ and it has declined a bit over the years.
In 1995, member J. Tyson Forker said he wanted to see a theatre organ installed in a public venue in the Sarasota area. He said he would supply the necessary funds needed if MTOS members would do the work needed to rebuild and install such an instrument.
In 1996, MTOS found a Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ in a warehouse in Miami, Florida. The instrument was originally installed in the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1927. On a couple of hot August weekends, members convoyed to Miami with a rental truck and removed the organ, piece by piece and hauled it back to a warehouse in Sarasota. The organ was completely disassembled and rebuilt by MTOS members.
The Chapter reached an agreement with the Grace Baptist Church on Bee Ridge Road whereby MTOS would add ranks suitable for church use and install the organ in their existing pipe chambers. The organ was expanded to 32 ranks. The church would use the instrument for their services and for classical and religious concerts, while MTOS members would hold meetings there and would present theatre organ concerts there. Provision was made for practice time for members and for artists preparing to perform.
Throughout the project, daughter of Tyson Forker, Carole Scutt continued to supply financing after Mr. Forker’s death in 1997.
With Allen Miller’s tonal design, the organ has turned out to be a world-class instrument!