Dr. Steven Ball: Hitting the Right Notes

Steven Ball

Like a sleeping giant, the monstrous Midmer-Losh pipe organ at Boardwalk Hall lay dormant for nearly 70 years. But along came Dr. Steven Ball to awaken the behemoth keyboard and resurrect the largest musical instrument in the world.

“When I arrived in 2013, the organ hadn’t been played publicly in decades. The last time the organ was fully functional was in 1944. Most of the building staff did not even know there was a pipe organ here. It was if no one really cared.”

So, in his position as chief organist and director of outreach for the Historic Organ Restoration Committee, Steven crafted a ten-year, $16 million restoration plan.

“I realized that this instrument had an enormous amount of unrealized potential. In fact, in the 3,000-year history of organ building, this is the highest achievement of the art. But if it doesn’t live and breathe again, nobody will ever know it’s here. ”

Installed in 1932 and storm damaged 12 years later, the organ has 150 tons of metal and machinery, along with over 33,000 pipes that create music without the aid of electronic amplification.

“Because it’s an acoustic instrument, it’s the type of sonic experience you can only appreciate in this one place. There is no technology that can pick up the range of sound waves and recreate this experience.”

Sound production remains the most unique and baffling aspect of the instrument.

“There is no way this organ could be replicated or duplicated in modern times. There’s technology in this instrument we don’t even understand. It’s not just that it’s the largest or loudest organ in the world, it’s really the thinking that went into
it.”

It sounds like the restoration of this organ and Atlantic City might go hand-in- hand.

-John “Yonk” Rosnick

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