A recent mechanical malfunction at the Redford Theatre turned into an evening of warm-hearted camaraderie for fans of this classic theater. The 8 p.m. showing of The Maltese Falcon on Saturday, July 22 was canceled because of problems with the sound equipment about a half hour before the movie. Free passes were given to patrons for any future film, and plans are being made for a showing of The Maltese Falcon in 2007.
The all-volunteer staff of the Redford rose to the occasion to still make it a fun evening. Stage Announcer Gregory Sumner broke the news in a humorous manner, and held the 50-50 raffle a little earlier than usual. Organist Tony O’Brien, who had already played a 30-minute concert, returned to the Barton console to dazzle the crowd with a wide variety of selections that ranged from Broadway to classical to his closing number “That’s Entertainment.”
By then, anyone who had stayed around had already enjoyed about an hour’s worth of excellent organ music in a lovingly restored old theater. Not bad for $4, even without Humphrey Bogart.
But there was more. David Martin of the Redford Theatre staff gathered the remaining crowd members around the Barton theater organ for an informal Q&A about the theater. David’s enthusiastic comments covered many aspects of the operation of the Redford, and gave everyone a deeper appreciation for the phenomenal effort that has been needed to save and maintain the Redford.
The painted woodwork of the theater had to be carefully restored from pictures, after layers of other paint were delicately stripped off. David talked about the labor of love shown by the Motor City Theatre Organ Society in caring for the theater, and the volunteer and social opportunities given by the MCTOS.
David also talked about how the theater basically came along with the organ, which was the main focus of the organization that rented and later purchased the Redford. The Barton organ is a historically priceless instrument that is made of many materials (including leather). The temperature and humidity around the organ must be carefully maintained.
The visible part of the organ is a console that mechanically controls different instruments that are stored behind panels above the audience and at the side of the theater. Audience members were later given a glimpse and demonstration of these instruments, which include a gong, bells, a snare drum, metal pipes and big woodwind pipes.
The whole evening felt like another warm summer night that I spent at Tiger Stadium about 20 years ago. It was a Friday night doubleheader with the Red Sox that was delayed twice for rain delays and ended at about 2 a.m. During the delays, fans gathered under the stands, relaxing in the ambience of this impromptu summer party.
I left the Redford about 10 p.m., and many people were still hanging around the stage and the lobbies, making the most of this unique Saturday night.
Copyright 2006 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.