June 14, 2018
Oklahoma History Center Presents Rodgers and Hammerstein Theme for July Kilgen Organ Performance
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma History Center is proud to present “Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein” as the theme for the next in its series of Kilgen theater organ performances on Monday, July 23, at 7 p.m. This particular performance comes as the History Center opens its newest exhibit, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’: The Birth of Modern Musical Theatre and a New Image for the State,” celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Broadway production’s debut. The featured organist will be Dr. John Schwandt of the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Tickets are $10 for Oklahoma Historical Society members and $20 for the general public and may be reserved by calling 405-522-0765.
The performance history of this Kilgen organ dates back to April 13, 1936, when it premiered to the radio audience of WKY, broadcasting from the Skirvin Tower in downtown Oklahoma City. When WKY moved to their new location on East Britton Road, the Kilgen did not make the move to the new studio. Instead, the Kilgen was sold to the City of Oklahoma City and moved to the Municipal Auditorium (now the Civic Center Music Hall). Renovations to the Civic Center in the summer of 1998 did not include a place for the Kilgen organ, leaving the City of Oklahoma City to consider its fate. Dr. Bob Blackburn, then deputy executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, made a plea to keep the organ in Oklahoma. His intention was to make the Kilgen theater organ a featured part of the new Oklahoma History Center to open in November 2005. The city council agreed to donate the organ to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
After months of repair and restoration by the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma, one of Oklahoma’s most interesting and complex musical instruments is now preserved for years to come.
John D. Schwandt is associate professor of organ and director of the American Organ Institute at the University Of Oklahoma School Of Music. He is a nationally acclaimed performer and is in demand as a clinician, recitalist, leader of hymn festivals, silent film accompanist and as an organ consultant. Dr. Schwandt had the honor of playing the debut performance of the Kilgen organ at the History Center on April 24, 2017.
The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, National Archives and is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.