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Keith Schiffhauer works in the keyboard of the Lerner Theatre pipe organ Tuesday March 5, 2013. Schiffhauer is a technician for Bunn-Minnick Pipe Organ Company. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

Karen Freudigman tunes pipes in one of the pipe organ chambers of the Lerner Theatre organ Tuesday March 5, 2013. Freudigman is a technician for Bunn-Minnick Pipe Organ Company. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

Karen Freudigman tunes pipes in one of the pipe organ chambers of the Lerner Theatre organ Tuesday March 5, 2013. Freudigman is a technician for Bunn-Minnick Pipe Organ Company. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

Karen Freudigman works in one of the pipe organ chambers of the Lerner Theatre organ Tuesday March 5, 2013. Freudigman is a technician for Bunn-Minnick Pipe Organ Company. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)
Silent movie at the Lerner to feature restored organ
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on March 5, 2013 at 4:28 p.m.

ELKHART — For the first time in decades, the Lerner Theatre’s newly restored pipe organ will accompany a silent film.

General manager David Smith has been eagerly awaiting a chance to show a silent movie at the theater ever since the organ’s restoration was completed in September. The 1,127-pipe organ is one of three Kimball organs still housed in its original theater.

“It’s been referred to as a church organ with a sense of humor,” Smith said. “The first time I heard it played, I got visible goosebumps because you’ve got this huge theater with 1,700 seats, and the sound just fills the space.”

The theater will host a special viewing of “The General” with organist Clark Wilson performing live as the film plays on screen at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 8. “The General,” a classic comedy starring Buster Keaton, was released in 1926, just two years after the Lerner Theatre opened. Wilson, an accomplished musician, will play a concert before the movie begins.

“He’s done scores for dozens of different silent movies,” Smith noted. “He’s the go-to guy when it comes to putting sound to silent movies.”

Smith said the Lerner’s organ, which made its debut at a concert in October, is the final piece of the puzzle for the theater’s renovation.

“Theaters like this are not complete until they have an organ in place because these movie palaces were built for that form of entertainment,” Smith said.

Tickets for the silent movie are $20 for adults, $17.50 for seniors, $12.50 for students and free for children 10 and younger. Tickets are available online at www.thelerner.com, by calling 293-4469 or by visiting the theater’s box office at 410 S. Main St. in downtown Elkhart.