Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2012

90-Year-Old Organ Restored at The Virginia Theatre

By Jeff Bossert

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(Duration: 4:12)

A re-dedication ceremony on Saturday will showcase a sound from the Wurlitzer Hope Jones Orchestral Organ that experts say has never been heard before.

Music comes out of the 900-pipe organ as Dave Schroder and John Buzard tinker with instrument. While Buzard has just completed the nearly $150,000 restoration project, Schroeder is living out a childhood dream by playing at the theater.

A music teacher at Bismarck-Henning High School, Schroder calls himself a 'closet theater organ freak.' That's due in part to the late Warren York, who rose from the orchestra pit playing the Wurlitzer for more than 20 years.

"He could sit and play anything," Schroder recalled. "He would play it in G-flat or F-sharp, or whatever has the most black keys. I said, aren't you making that awful difficult on yourself? He said if it was good enough for George Gershwin, it's good enough for me."

York passed away last July, but Schroeder said his friend will be there in spirit for the organ's re-dedication ceremony.

Buzard said by adding two ranks of pipes, the Wurlitzer should produce a sound no one has heard since its installation.

"One of the fellows that has acted on our behalf as a consultant told us, 'This is of course after we'd done all our work.' He said, 'You know John, this organ could have very easily wound up in the dumpster for as much work as was really required to bring this back to life,'" Buzard said. "I certainly appreciated that having gone through the process of restoring it all this last year."

Started in Dec. 2010, the restoration was supposed to have been completed in November, but John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders undertook what Buzard calls the equivalent of open heart surgery on the Wurlitzer.

Buzard's staff had to take it apart twice before discovering small cracks in the organ's chest, which meant control air escaped into the atmosphere. He said wind generated below the stage wasn't properly making its way through the pipes.

"What volunteers had tried to do in order to make the organ louder - they'd actually damaged the pipes in order to make them speak louder and the problem was is that the organ never got enough wind from the blower," Buzard said. "From 1921, that 90 year old problem had never been troubleshot."

Virginia Theater Director Steven Bentz said the organ's restoration will also make it more appropriate for new kinds of performances:

"It was really to be an organ that would play under silent movies," Bentz said. "That's different from an organ that's put into a space in kind of a concert hall setting. I think what they're doing - and have done - is bringing that along- making the organ much more powerful."

On Saturday night, award-winning organist Chris Gorsuch comes in from the West Coast to see what a refurbished Wurlitzer can do.

Bentz said there is not an exact playlist as of yet for the two-hour concert, but Gorsuch will accompany 'Liberty' - a 1929 silent film starring Laurel and Hardy. The evening also includes a presentation on the organ's restoration, and an exhibit of Virginia artifacts.

Categories: History, Music

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 05, 2012

Urbana City Council Approves Naming Courthouse After Burgess

Urbana City Council Approves Naming Courthouse After Burgess

The Urbana's City Council Monday night approved a resolution to name the city's federal courthouse after Champaign County's first African-American elected official.

Categories: Civil Rights, History

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 20, 2012

Rehab Expected Soon at UI’s Natural History Building

A building on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus that has hosted classes ranging from geology to zoology is close to getting a major renovation.

Built in 1892 by campus architect Nathan Ricker, the Natural History Building is on the National Register of Historic Places. But nearly half of the facility was shut down in 2010 after engineers found structural problems.

On Thursday, the U of I's Board of Trustees hired a construction company to complete $70-million worth of upgrades. The work is being paid for by local funds, including a deferred maintenance fee that students pay, as well as donations. Geology Professor Stephen Marshak said work may begin as soon as this summer, but requires alternate space for moving lots of research and teaching labs.

He said most of the building's interior bears little resemblance to the original design, and that's one of the goals of an architect. Marshak said in some cases, the building's appearance is worse than conditions in Lincoln Hall before upgrades started there.

"There's termite-eaten wood. There's places where the plaster is falling off the walls, and the paint is peeling off," he said. "The floors are wrinkled. The rooms are basically unusable, In fact, even now, even though we had to compact ourselves into the northern end of the building, there are large areas of the building that are not closed, but are just not occupied because they're unusable."

Marshak, who's also the U of I's Director of the school of Earth, Society, and Environment, said one goal is returning the building to its original design. He said the largest single addition was in 1908, which wasn't constructed properly.

"Then there was a third part that was built in 1924," Marshak said. "They were all built with the same design, so that the building looks fairly consistent, but if you look close, you'll see that there's slight differences in brick color and things like that. But what gives it its historic character is the original Ricker design."

The work still requires $11-million in funding. The goal for the Natural History Building is to be finished by fall of the 2015 at the earliest.

Categories: Education, History

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 13, 2012

Several Events Scheduled to Remember Rev. Martin Luther King

There will be music and speeches at Friday's Martin Luther King Jr. Countywide Celebration in Champaign. It's the 11th year for the annual program which is just one of several area events remembering the accomplishments of the late civil rights leader.

But besides looking at King's legacy, the program also looks at the contributions made by Champaign-Urbana area residents. Celebration Committee member Joan Walls says the Doris Hoskins Prestigious Community Service Award will go to Champaign Consortium director Al Anderson.

"When you look at Al's biography, he talks about wanting to make a difference", says Walls. "He talks about being raised in Cabrini-Green, one of the nation's most dangerous public housing complexes in the Chicago area. And it's always been a passion for him not only do great things for himself, but to reach out and be of service to so many others."

Others being honored at the Friday program include Donna Camp, for her work in organizing the Wesley Evening Food Pantry, and Carlos Donaldson, who worked for the desegregation of Urbana schools as a member of the Urbana Neighborhood Committee.

In Danville, activities remembering Dr. King include the annual march and motorcade through the city. Danville Human Relations Administrator Sandra Houston says everyone is welcome to walk or ride in the event, which begins Monday morning at 10 AM at the corner of Main and Logan in Danville.Along the way, participants will stop at the Martin Luther King monument at the corner of Jackson and Williams for a small ceremony. Then, it's on to St. James United Methodist Church at 504 North Vermilion, for the celebration service at 11:30 AM.

Houston says the event, which started in 1986, is a happy time for the participants. "We recognize we are a city of different cultures and ethnic groups, and it's just our time to come together and fellowship with each other", she says. "People are there because they believe, they believe in civil rights, they believe in and human rights, and they believe in the legacy of Dr. King."

At the Eastern Illinois campus in Charleston, members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity will mark the 25th anniversary of their Martin Luther King March and Candlelight Vigil on Monday afternoon. The event is open to the EIU and Charleston community.

The march begins at 5:30 PM at Thomas Hall on the EIU campus, with participants proceeding to the Martin Luther King Union, where a vigil program will be held in the Grand Ballroom at 6 PM.

Khelan Todd of Alpha Phi Alpha's Zeta Nu chapter at EIU says the march and vigil brings students and faculty together. "It's very warm and welcoming", says Todd of the annual event. "I think the students and the faculty really enjoy it."

Other Champaign-Urbana programs remembering Martin Luther King:

FRI, Jan. 13th: MLK Countywide Celebration, 4 PM, Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S Neil, Champaign. Keynote Speaker: State Sen. Kwame Raoul. Music: Noah Brown & Company and Mo' Betta' Music program, directed by Nathaniel Banks.Free to the public.

SUN Jan 15th, The annual Martin Luther King Community Celebration, 5 PM, University of Illinois Krannert Center.

MON, Jan. 16: The Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast, 8:30-10:30 am, at the Vineyard Church, Urbana.

MLK Day Events in Danville:

SUN Jan. 15: MLK Scholarship Banquet, 4 PM, Days Hotel, 77 N. Danville. The recipient of the annual MLK scholarship will be announced. Banquet admission: $20. Reservations taken through noon on Friday, Jan. 12th, at Danville Human Relations Dept., 217-431-2280.

MON Jan. 16 MLK March/Motorcade, Vigil & Service, motorcade beginning at 10:30 AM (lineup starts at 10AM) at corner of Main & Logan, with 11:30 AM Service at St. James United Methodist Church, Danville. Info: Danville City Hall: 217-431-2280.

MLK Day Events in Decatur:

SUN Jan. 15, 4 PM Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gospel Concert. Free. Antioch Missionary Baptist Church 530 W. Mound Road Decatur, IL Info: Tony Carson, 520-7260.

MON Jan. 16; "Remembering the Dream" panel discussion, Old King's Orchard Community Center, 815 N Church St., Decatur IL.

MLK Day Events in Charleston;

MON Jan. 16 MLK March and Candlelight Vigil, with March beginning at 5:30 PM at Thomas Hall on the EIU campus, and Vigil at 6 PM at the Grand Ballroom of the MLK Jr. Union. Open to EIU and Charleston community. Contact: Khelan Todd, khelantodd@gmail.com

Categories: Civil Rights, History

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 02, 2012

Chanute Air Museum’s Financial Picture Improving

Things are looking up for the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul.

After it looked like a bleak financial picture might cause the museum to close, the last year has seen an improved bottom line.

Nancy Kobel is president of the museum's board of directors. Kobel tells The (Champaign) News-Gazette that the museum has enough money to cover payroll until the end of January.

She said that's a lot better than in August 2010 when the museum had only enough money to cover about two weeks of payroll.

Kobel said the board's efforts to promote the museum on the former Air Force base have been effective enough to allow them to stay open on Sundays, something they couldn't afford to do last winter.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - December 05, 2011

Former Chicago Cub Santo Elected to Hall of Fame

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Ron Santo was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Monday, chosen by the Golden Era committee almost a year after the Chicago Cubs third baseman died hoping for the honor.

Santo drew 15 votes from the 16-member panel. It took 75 percent - 12 votes - to get chosen.

Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades, eagerly rooting for his favorite team on the air.

Santo received 15 votes from the 16-member panel. Twelve votes are need to make it into the Hall of Fame. Other baseball greats considered included Jim Kaat who received 10 votes, and Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso who each had nine votes. Minoso went on to play for the Chicago White Sox, and he was the first African-American to wear a major league baseball uniform in Chicago.

Santo joined former Cubs teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins in the Hall. That famed quartet did most everything at Wrigley Field through the 1960s except reach the World Series.

His longtime teammate, Billy Williams, was among the Hall of Famers on the committee. Williams said Santo's contributions to the community played a role in the decision.

"The numbers are there. Everybody saw the numbers, the Gold Gloves, and I think they looked at it with a different view," Williams said.

Santo will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Jan. 9. Bernie Williams joins Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.

Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 43 percent - far short of the needed 75 percent in his last year of eligibility in 1998.

Santo's wife, Vicki, said the honor will carry on his legacy, but she said it's a disappointment Santo wasn't inducted before he died last year.

"When his number was retired at Wrigley Field and he stood in front of 40,000 people and said this is my hall of fame, he truly meant that," she said. "I always believed he was meant to be in the Hall of Fame, but obviously not during his life time."

A star while playing with diabetes, a disease that eventually cost him both legs below the knees, Santo died last December from complications of bladder cancer at age 70.

Santo had come close in previous elections by the Veterans Committee. The panel has been revamped several times in the last decade, aimed at giving a better chance to deserving candidates.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 18, 2011

Champaign Co. Board Backs Naming Courthouse After Former State’s Attorney

The Champaign County Board has passed a resolution to name Urbana's federal courthouse after the county's first African-American elected official.

James Burgess was selected as state's attorney in 1972.

The 19-to-8 vote means a resolution with Burgess' name will be passed on to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, and Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson with hopes of gaining their approval. Burgess' son, Steve Burgess, told the board last night he's already talked with two of those three.

"I am waiting for a decision from Senator Durbin whether or not - not to say it's going to happen, but at least make a decision whether he thinks this is the right thing to by introducing a bill," he said. "He may ultimately decide that it's not, and I'm okay with that. But I think I'm at least entitled to having a decision from them, yes or no."

Burgess' effort to place his late father's name on the courthouse has lasted more than a year. Democrat Tom Betz said he knew and admired Burgess, but says the method for placing any name on a building is flawed.

"I have slowly but surely reached the conclusion that it's such a divisive process that we would be wise not to actually name some of these buildings," he said. "Call it what it is - it's the United States District Court for this district. Just as it's the Champaign County Courthouse. I don't think it needs to bear any name other than that at this point."

Burgess, who died in 1997, was a Democrat. But Betz and four other Democrats voted against the measure: Geraldo Rosales, Lloyd Carter, Ralph Langenheim, and Pattsi Petrie. Republicans Diane Michaels, Ron Bensyl, and Steve Moser also opposed it.

Democrat Chris Alix suggested the idea. He calls Burgess an inspirational story for not only his time as a state's attorney and US Attorney during the 70's and 80's, but as a World War II veteran with the 761st Tank Battalion.

(Photo Courtesy of Museum of the Grand Prairie, Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 11, 2011

Construction on Decatur WWII Memorial Expected to Start in Spring

After several years of planning, construction on a World War II memorial in Decatur may finally start.

The project has faced a series of delays because of a lack of funding, but now with about $25,000 needed to complete the memorial; organizers hope to break ground in May. This would be the first phase of the project, which will go up in front of the Decatur Civic Center. It is the brainchild of Pete Nicholls, a World War II veteran who passed away three years ago.

Nicolls' son, Pete, said his father was injured during the war after he jumped on a grenade, and saved the lives of two other soldiers.

"He was very involved in veterans his whole life after that, and around Decatur he realized there were several war memorials, but there was none dedicated to the World War II veterans," Nicolls said.

The monument will include five head stones representing each service of the armed services, and it will have a five-foot globe that is going to be on a pedestal. Nicolls said the pedestal will have a list of area veterans who died during the war. Nicolls said he hopes to see the memorial completed by next year.

Gordon Brenner, who is on the World War II Memorial committee, began working on the project in 2004 with the elder Nicolls.

"(Nicolls) said I know I may not live long enough to see this thing built, and so he said I want someone I know who's going to carry on and see this to the end," Brenner said. "I told him, 'Pete, you ain't going nowhere until we get this thing built.' I said, 'I would be honored to help you.'"

Before Nicolls passed away, he and Brenner spent time researching World War II military casualties from Macon County. Brenner said the memorial will serve as a lasting tribute to about 360 area veterans who died during the war.

Categories: Architecture, History

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - November 03, 2011

Author Wes Moore Talks About Meeting the Other Wes Moore

More than a decade ago, a man named Wes Moore was convicted of murdering a police officer during a botched robbery. What he didn't know was that another man with the same name grew up not far from him in Baltimore. The two frequented the same places, had run-ins with the law, and were fatherless. While one Wes Moore will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the other has a successful career as a businessman, motivational speaker, and author.

In the book titled "The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates," Wes Moore talks about meeting the man with the same name, but a very different life. Moore spoke with Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers shortly before giving a presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the University of Illinois' Alice Campbell Alumni Center as part of the United Way of Champaign County's Pillar Celebration.

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Categories: Biography, Education, History

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 27, 2011

Man Thought to be Gacy Victim, Found Living in Florida

A man thought to have been a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been discovered living in Florida.

After the Cook County Sheriff exhumed remains of eight Gacy victims, the family of Harold Wayne Lovell came forward in an effort to find a match. Instead, they discovered that Lovell had been living in Florida all along. He'd vanished from Aurora in 1977 and had some trouble with the police along the way. Sheriff Tom Dart said the family was convinced Lovell was a victim based on a piece of jewelry found at Gacy's house. But they had no dental records to make a comparison at the time.

Lovell, now 53, has been reunited with his family.

Sheriff Dart said investigations have become more accurate over the past couple of decades.

"Back in the late 70s and prior to that, the way that missing persons were handled as a whole was not very scientific at all. And so people that had concerns back then, now would be the time whether or not they thought they were involved in the Gacy case or not. Come forward and have your DNA submitted," Dart said.

Dart said more than 120 families have come forward to see if their loved one is possibly among the victims. Results could be revealed in two to three weeks.

Gacy was convicted of murdering 33 men and boys in the 1970s. He was executed in 1994.


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