Pipe organs have been part of the sights and sounds of Southern Arizona for more than a century, contributing to the lives and cultures of countless residents from different backgrounds.
Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, says the first organ came to Arizona Territory from Santa Fe, N.M., in 1869. Father Machebeuf brought it to St. Augustine Cathedral, from where the small reed organ disappeared in 1967.
The Fox Tucson Theatre obtained a 1925 organ from Yuma for opening night in 1930, but it, too, would not remain with the downtown facility forever.
"Designed to complete the audience experience of watching silent films, the great organ became mournfully forgotten," Clinco says. "Its majestic thundering cords resonated only in the memory of those who had been fortunate to hear it. The great organ was removed from the theater in the late 1950s."
However, the admiration and support for these impressive instruments remains alive and well. The American Guild of Organists' Southern Arizona chapter holds events, performances and tours for those who want to learn more about the past, present and future of this slice of our culture.