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Removal of Landmark organ strikes a passionate chord

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–The spectacular sound of Lin Lunde’s piano echoes inside his Monument Avenue apartment, but perhaps the sound of music echoing most loudly in Lunde’s mind is from an instrument he began playing at the age of 14, at the Landmark theater.

“This is probably the most famous theater organ in the world,” said Lunde.

Recently the antique Wurlitzer organ that Lunde once played upon was disconnected and stored away. There are only about two dozen of its kind left in the country.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Lunde.

The controversy over the Wurlitzer began last summer. Lunde says renovation management at the Landmark wanted to remove the organ, he claims he was told to open up a few additional theater seats.

After outrage from organ enthusiasts worldwide, city council assured Richmonders that the organ would not be moved. Lunde and others felt relief, that is until this week.

“They cut the voice out of the organ because you can’t play it,” said Lunde.

Just last week after Lunde got a tip from a friend, he went to the Landmark theater and found the cable to the organ cut, cement poured where the playing console used to be and the instrument resting amid a construction site.

“It’s a trust issue,” said City Councilman Parker Agelasto.

He and Council President Charles Samuels were called on the issue and began asking questions. Samuels was told by the administration that the approval for removal came from Richmond CAO Byron Marshall, who was at the time unaware of the organ controversy.

Renovation management has told council members they hope to display the organ console in the Landmark lobby in hopes of finding a donor for it’s expensive renovation, money that isn’t in the budget and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The administration failed to communicate the will of council that’s the way I see it,” said Agelasto.

Lunde still sees hope. “We’re going to get this back, just because they cut the cable and poured concrete doesn’t mean it can’t go back,” he said.