Organist David Hegarty is well on his way to playing a new, massive one-of-kind instrument being built just for San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre.
“The console, the control panel, everything that you see, is done,” says the veteran musician, who performs almost daily at the Castro (on a loaner organ) and is hosting an event at the theater on Sunday to provide an update on the years-in-the-making project.
So far, about $400,000 toward a $1 million goal has been collected for the Castro Symphonic Theatre Organ, which is under construction by West Virginia master organ designer and builder Allen Harrah.
With 400 pipes, seven manuals (keyboards), more than 800 stop tabs, 120 speakers installed in the theater and a digital system that replicates sounds of a full orchestra, the instrument, when completed, will be the world’s largest hybrid organ, capable of producing popular, theatrical and classical music.
Calling it his friend Harrah’s “magnum opus,” and acknowledging hundreds of hours he has donated to the project, Hegarty adds, “I can say, unequivocally, it will be the most versatile organ in the world.”
With a goal of installing the instrument in April 2019, Hegarty and members of the nonprofit Castro Organ Devotees Association (which was established upon anticipating the loss of the aging 30-year old “Mighty” Wurlitzer, which was taken out of the Castro in 2015) are feeling a “sense of urgency” about fundraising efforts.
They note that the CODA project is completely independent of the Nasser family, which has owned the beloved 1,400-seat Castro Theatre — but not the organ — since the days of silent film.
“After five years of construction work on the project, I look forward to actually playing the entire repertoire on the instrument. It’s going to be a sonic experience beyond anything people have experienced, from quiet romantic music, to thunderous dynamics – it will fill the room like no one can imagine,” says Hegerty, an organist since age 15 who came to The City in the 1970s (and moved from Noe Valley to Vallejo less than a year ago).
On Sunday, he’ll show a video on the status of the organ campaign, as well as play a “detailed” concert of standard theatrical repertory, no doubt including his signature — the theme to the 1936 movie “San Francisco” — a tune he’s played thousands of times at the Castro.
IF YOU GO
An Organ-ic Experience
Presented by Castro Organ Devotees Association
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.
When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 10
Admission: Free, donations requested