A Tactile Tour of Alaska’s Theatre Organ

As a Deafblind person in a complicated relationship with music, stepping inside this theater organ deepened my appreciation and understanding of this extraordinary instrument. Alaska’s only working theater organ, older than the state, continues playing lovely music thanks to the Alaska State Museum, talented organists, and the passionate locals and tourists who attend the free Friday concerts.

Descriptive Transcript

Two rows of small red and white levers called stops spread out in an arch over two rows of piano-style black and white keys. We zoom in on Haben’s hand feeling the stops.

Haben: Juneau, Alaska received a theater organ in 1928, and an organist providing soundtracks for silent movies. That organ is now in the State Office Building.

Laurie’s hands dance over the keys and her feet press down on wooden pedals as she plays “A Whole New World.”

Haben: Laurie Clough is one of the few people with the skills to play this really complex instrument. There are over 500 pipes of different sizes, bells, drums, cymbals and so many more things in there.

Inside the glass enclosure, Haben touches one of the pipes, tambourine, triangle, and drum.

Haben: I stepped inside as she was playing and I felt an amazing humming as the sounds soared through the room.

She smiles as low notes reverberate inside the organ.

Haben: If you’re ever in Juneau on a Friday, stop by the State Office Building atrium from 12 to 1 pm for a lovely performance.

The camera pans to Laurie playing “A Whole New World.” Panoramic windows behind her show snow-capped mountains.

(Rousing mix of xylophone, bird whistles, triangle, and pipes.)

Laurie enthusiastically plays her own original piece for the organ, and people cheer and applaud. She smiles and waves.