Historic Ellis Auditorium organ finds new life
in Bartlett United Methodist Church Sanctuary.
Original installation in the South Hall of the Ellis Auditorium in downtown Memphis in 1928.
Relocation and renovation by Milnar Organ Company of Eagleville,Tennessee, for Bartlett United Methodist Church in 2002.
History of our Organ
The historic 1928 Kimball Organ, Opus 7035, was built for the South Hall of Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee by the W. W. Kimball Company in Chicago, Illinois. This grand four-manual instrument was used for hundreds of graduations, symphony concerts, and other important events in the South Hall. This South Hall Instrument could be combined with the North Hall Kimball (a five-keyboard instrument) in the Ellis Auditorium, as when it was dedicated on April 9, 1929, with a concert by the legendary virtuoso, Charles M. Courboin. Research shows that the W. W. Kimball Company built the finest pipe organs in America, and the five-manual Memphis Instrument and the five-manual Kimball in the Minneapolis Municipal Auditorium are the only two of its kind built by Kimball. Research also shows that the Strings and Orchestral divisions of the Kimball organs as well as the world famous Wanamaker organs were designed by Charles M. Courboin. In the late 1990’s, when the old auditorium was to be demolished for new construction, the South Hall Organ and the five-manual North Hall Organ were dismantled and stored in the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
The organ committee for the new sanctuary of Bartlett United Methodist Church spent over a year planning, researching, and listening to all types of organs. In the end, the decision was made, with a unanimous vote and much excitement, to move forward with the 1928 South Hall Kimball Organ. Emily McAllister, Lamar King (local organists and consultants), and Pierre Landaiche (general manager of the Cook Convention Center) were extremely helpful as BUMC moved forward. With the blessings of the “Friends of the Kimball” and Memphis City and Shelby County Officials, Dr. David C. Lewis (BUMC’s Executive Minister) conducted the legal and administrative process to secure the organ along with J. D. Oaks (BUMC member and V. P. of MCDR) who supervised its renovation and installation process.
In July of 2001, the Milnar Organ Co. of Eaglesville, TN began to remove the South Hall Organ from storage and embarked on an adventure of restoration and rebuilding of one of America’s foremost concert organs! Knowing that the Memphis Kimball was an extraordinary piece of American history, Dennis Milnar was willing to dedicate his expertise, knowledge, and experience (a labor of love) to insure its preservation for future generations.
Seventeen months later, in November of 2002, BUMC celebrated its opening service in their new sanctuary with a national treasure. The 1928 South Hall Kimball Organ from Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, TN is alive again and speaking well.
A dedicatory recital by concert organist, Diane Meredith Belcher, was given on the Sunday after Easter, April 27, 2003. This was another symbol of a resurrection story.
BUMC knows that nothing like this instrument can or will ever again be produced. The challenge and goal is to preserve a priceless artifact from the past, while passing on to future generations something that is utterly thrilling and thoroughly musical in countless ways.
Kimball Organ Specs