Piece of Evansville history could soon be heard again - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Piece of Evansville history could soon be heard again

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The Vanderburgh County Commission is considering a proposal from the University of Evansville to restore the historic pipe organ that's been a fixture at the downtown Coliseum for decades.

The organ was made almost 100 years ago, brought to Evansville in 1919 by the city and Evansville College, now UE. 

Back then it was a centerpiece of the city, played at concerts, religious services, even the Shrine Circus.

For the past 50 years, it's been sitting mostly in silence, but that might not be the case much longer.  

In a corner of the Coliseum, there's a piece of Evansville history that few have ever heard of.

"This is a very special instrument because of its size. The number of pipes, and especially, the size of the pipes," said Douglass Reed, the University of Evansville organist.

Close to 4,000 pipes that make the Milton Z. Tinker Memorial organ so special.

"This is a big part of our heritage," Reed said.

It's somewhat unusual name pays tribute to the Evansville Public Schools' first music supervisor.

Now, close to 100 years later, it's another group of music enthusiasts aiming to bring it back to life. 

"That's the exciting thing to me is to continue the memorial to music education, making music.  Making glorious sounds, sounds that are unlike any other sound," Reed said.

"The organ at its best is a moving experience because it's a visceral experience and that's kind of what drew me to the instrument," UE student, Henry Mauer said.

Mauer is a music student at UE. Reed, the university's organist, is one of his mentors.

They, along with school chaplain Tammy Gieselman, are making it their mission to preserve not only Mr. Tinker's memorial organ, but also his legacy.

"We want to keep the memory alive and tell the story to future generations," Gieselman said. 

"But the idea that we can begin a greater cause and kind of transcend just our time at the school, we might not get to see it completed in the next few years. But the idea that we will have an impact on the project is really cool," Mauer said.

The plan is to one day move the organ on campus to Neu Chapel. UE's already raised thousands of dollars for the project. It's money they'll need to nurse the tattered treasure that now barely plays back to health.

Money they believe will be well spent. 

"If you look at the pipes they're all different sizes, different shapes. They make different sounds, their voices are different. Really symbolizes community, just like those of us who are here in this city, on our campus. We're all different," Gieselman said.

A parallel between pipes and people that all has to do with one of Evansville's best kept secrets. 

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