16 years at the keyboards

Glenn Tallar entertains diners at Beggars Pizza

by Carrie Steinweg

LANSING, Ill. (January 3, 2019) – In a building on Ridge Road that originated as a movie theatre and is now a pizzeria, live music is provided two nights a week. The musical entertainment isn’t a live band or a vocalist or a D.J. It’s way more unique—it’s a professional organist on a large pipe organ.

Beggars Pizza, 3524 Ridge Road, is housed in the former Lans Theater, which later was transformed into a restaurant called Pipes and Pizza. A large pipe organ was installed to entertain guests of the restaurant. After Pipes and Pizza closed, Beggars Pizza moved in. They revived the pipe organ and again entertained guests with everything from Disney tunes to movie soundtracks.

The movie poster frames and ticket booth are clear reminders that Beggars Pizza used to be Lans Theater. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Not only is the form of entertainment unique, but so is the story of the man who sits at the organ twice a week to play. Glenn Tallar has been playing the organ at Beggars Pizza for the past 16 years. He was only 14 when he started the job.

Glenn Tallar has been playing the organ at Beggars Pizza for the past 16 years. (Photo provided)

Musical family

Introduced to piano and organ at age 5, Tallar comes from a musical family. His mother plays the organ. His brother plays the organ. Both his sisters play the organ. “My dad only could play the radio,” Tallar joked. “But he is a master craftsman and built an organ in the family basement. That’s where I really started to appreciate both ends of the instrument, working the mechanics and playing.”

Tallar learned skills from both parents and he now owns his own organ company, GT Organ Associates LLC, based in Frankfort, Illinois. “I get to travel all over to work on pipe organs,” he said. “We take care of the Rialto and Chicago Theatre organs along with several churches in the area.”

Besides working on the instruments, he is also the organist at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet and the Chicago Theatre.

Diverse experience

“Each of the Chicago, Rialto, and Beggars instruments are totally different. It’s not like a piano where one could sit right down and start playing,” Tallar explained. “The organ is built into the building so tonal colors are going to sound different in each venue. Luckily I get to play all three, so getting used to them is not hard. There is a huge difference from the Chicago Theatre, which is a 3,000 seat house, to Beggars, which was around 600 seats when it was a theater.”

The organ at Beggars Pizza was built by the Barton Organ Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and originally installed in 1927 at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, according to Tallar. “The organ since went through alterations and many owners.” In addition to mastering the keys, Tallar also controls all of the percussion, drums, and cymbals connected to the organ.

The organ he plays at the Chicago Theatre is a Wurlitzer from North Tonawanda, New York built in 1921. Rialto Square Theatre has a Barton organ from Oshkosh built in 1926. Both organs are quite large as they were built for bigger venues.

Diverse repertoire

Tallar’s repertoire is quite diverse. “I have so many songs memorized, so you can hear anything from Joplin to Gaga. There are request slips, and people sure try to stump the organist,” he said. “As far as new songs, usually if I’m getting a song requested often and I don’t know it, it’s time to look into making an arrangement to be played. My audience is always teaching me.”

Some of his biggest requests are the movie theme from Star Wars, the “Happy Birthday” song, the theme from Phantom of the Opera, the opening song from the 1950s television show Mickey Mouse Club, and anything by Michael Jackson or the Beatles. Music from Disney movies are also frequently requested.

Old technology

Tallar has enjoyed entertaining crowds at Beggars Pizza since his early teenage years. “It’s been a wonderful 16 years,” he said. His favorite part of the job? “Seeing how everyone is interacting to technology that’s almost 100 years old and having kids come out and be so overwhelmed by what a pipe organ can do.”

Organ music can be enjoyed at Beggars’ Lansing location on Tuesdays from 5:30–8:30pm and on Fridays from 5:30–9:45pm.

Beggars Pizza is located at 3524 Ridge Road in Lansing, Illinois.

 

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4 thoughts on “16 years at the keyboards”

  1. Hi Glenn, It was so nice to see and talk with you at the Rialto Theater today. I just read your recent post in the “Lansing Journal” and it was very informative and interesting. Thank You, Gene

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