That Final Night

It was Sunday evening, February 4, 1996. The last time the Organ Grinder would be open to the public.

People had heard the news, and were showing up to experience it one last time. Ironically, like the early days, there were once again people queued up on the ramp behind the console, waiting their turn to order, while watching the organ’s wind regulators bounce merrily along behind the glass, as though the music would never stop.

Today, while recalling a bit of sorrow over those last days, I’m pleased to announce that thanks to the foresight of Ted Welty, one of our Facebook Group members, we have hours of video of the closing performances from a number of Organ Grinder veterans, including the very last song, played by Paul Quarino, and the moment where Paul stoically shut down the console and the spotlights, and the crowd gave their applause.

Ted writes:

My love of pipe organs was conceived by listening to my great aunt, Emalee McClymont, playing her three manual organ in her living room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was trained as a concert pianist and also had her 9′ concert Steinway set up next to the organ so she could play both simultaneously.

Relatives here in Portland (also related to Aunt Emalee) knew we’d love visiting The Organ Grinder, so on our visit the summer of 1974 I was introduced to this magical venue. It was part of the motivation for my move to Portland in the late 70’s.

I had to introduce my own children to this wondrous experience, since my wife had also enjoyed visits during her childhood. Years later, when we heard they would close, my wife supported my desire to preserve this experience. Thus, I was there every evening (even through the snow/ice storm), and the last weekend at The Organ Grinder to memorialize this great friend.

Note to readers: I am still hoping to find more home videos, including of the final night. (Some of you have already been in touch, I still hope you can unearth those old tapes!) Having multiple camera angles to choose from greatly aids in editing, and there’s been some lucky moments already where two people have happened to record the same performances from opposite sides of the restaurant, allowing for the creation of a stereo soundtrack from two monophonic camcorder recordings.

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