G E O R G E  W R I G H T

"A Legend In His Own Time"

(August 28, 1920 - May 10, 1998)

A Remembrance By Terry Charles

Remembering GEORGE WRIGHT, and his many appearances on the Kirk Pipe Organ Concert Series, I humbly pay tribute with a few mental notes (flat or sharp).  After the tragic 1977 fire at the Kirk, the pipe organ was dismantled and out of the building for several months.  For my efforts in the pending total renovation of the organ, then a 4/31, members of the Kirk inquired of then Pastor Ted J. Wehling as to what "special" consideration they might do in return for my efforts.  Essentially, at first, I said "thanks, but this is a labor of love" - or "get out of the way, we have a LOT of work to do."  Persisting one day, the Kirk's senior minister swayed me to say, "Well!  Let's invite George Wright, Virgil Fox and Ann Leaf to celebrate the re-opening of the concert series with me."  ...and so, with the heartfelt and amazing support and approval of the congregation, the request came to fruition.

Backing up a bit - several friends and I  flew to Detroit to hear George at the Senate Theatre for the Detriot Theatre Organ Club, and to Chicago for his appearance at the Chicago Theatre for the American Theatre Organ Society Convention.  So, we had "met" the man, albeit briefly.

Of course, remembrances of telephone conversations with George, and the extending of the invitation to come and perform on our pipe organ, are deeply embedded in my mind.  Acceptance of our invitation came about and then - I began to SHIVER in my well tremulated boots!  Jeepers, "THE" legend was indeed coming to play our organ!!  Months went by and one evening I found myself greeting him at Tampa Airport.

He was a TOTAL JOY to work with - we ALL had great fun!!!  With the seating capacity of the Kirk at about 660, his concerts were repeated THREE evenings!  Audiences were, of course, in awe of this world famous, SUPER talented man.  His innovative playing of the Kirk Pipe Organ, without second touch, perhaps should not have amazed us but it certainly did.   

George Wright was to return to play the Kirk Organ on several concert occasions.  One season, two interesting little remembrances, come to mind.  On the last evening of his three performances, just prior to the opening, we discovered a blown fuse in one of the two 15 hp blowers.  George was as calm as "he" could be - "I" was nuts!  We didn't think it a fuse problem at first, requiring several painful minutes to deduce the problem's precise origin.  What amazed me about George was - he kept reassuring "ME" that all would be OK - and IF NOT - he would invite everyone back tomorrow - not to worry!  

During intermission on the occasion of his last concert that season, he said to me, "You know Terry, this organ isn't all Wurlitzer, and it doesn't have second touch, BUT IT ALL WORKS, and wonderfully so and I love playing it!  I would like to be a permanent guest every year or year and a half or so."  What a treasured time his appearances were, for all of us at the Kirk.

About the business of second touch - while practicing he would call for me to come and watch him play something, creating his own second touch utilizing three manuals - he got a kick out of it and I LEARNED A LOT!  As I have said, we had GREAT fun - and the multitude of reason's for the admiration I held for this man's genius for so many years became so very obvious...  Indeed, George Wright WAS "A Legend In His Own Time!"

And then we remember, of course, those dinners and conversations!  Oh yes, there's the story about the bottle of Boodles Gin, too...  ah, but for another time!

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