The Virgil Fox Allen Touring Organ

Contemporary Keyboard, March 1979
by Bob Doerschuk

Contemporary Keyboard: What led to your decision to ask the Allen Company to build your touring organ?
Virgil Fox: The fact that they have been, since the beginning, the leader in instruments that are not pipe. The fact that they have had courage enough to go into the computer realm. And the fact that they are able to take a magnificently voiced pipe that is the product of who knows how many accumulated generations, and make the sounds of their computer come forth with those overtones. Those are the reasons.

Contemporary Keyboard: What are some of the specifics that you wanted built into the Allen?
Virgil Fox: What I wanted was to have the complete dynamic range with the complete color range. If I am playing a certain piece-for example, I think immediately of the slow movement of the Grand Piece Symphonique of Cesar Franck-there are places that I wish a 16' string celeste to sing out the melody, to augment the melody line of an 8' stop. It was necessary to be able to incorporate all this tonal color into my console, because the kinds of couplers that it would take to do that just don't exist.

Contemporary Keyboard: And this is an example of the kind of features you have not been able to find in other electronic organs?
Virgil Fox: That's right. That is exactly right. Also, the personnel at the Allen Organ Company have devoted themselves throughout all of their existence to the idea that it's one of the most necessary things in the world to play what the composer has written in the most beautiful fashion you can, especially if you're on the road in a different town every two or three days. Can you believe that they have flown one of their technicians to the scene of every concert that I have played east of the Mississippi? They recently bought a new plane, and they're sufficiently concerned to see that all things shall be in good operation to fly to these towns time after time, in case there might be a breakdown. You know, if something is being jarred in a truck for 600 miles before it arrives at its destination, something can break down. Any wire can become unscrewed.

Contemporary Keyboard: Have you ever had any mechanical or electrical problems with the Allen in the middle of a performance?
Virgil Fox: Never, and I hope that I never do. I have had problems with former instruments that I have played while in the middle of a performance, and it is maddening! You feel like turning to the audience and saying, "Well, I'm a swimmer, but I didn't plan on having my arms and legs tied before I got into the water. And right now they're tied. I will do the best I can...."