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Organ a Hit at Madison Square Garden

New York Knicks

The trend of organs at arenas has spread to one of the NBA and NHL’s most venerable venues, as Madison Square Garden has debuted a new organ.

Part of the arena’s soundtrack for both New York Knicks and New York Rangers games, the Roland AT-900 organ was installed at Madison Square Garden before this season, replacing a keyboard. Longtime organist Ray Castoldi is continuing his role at the arena, performing a new instrument that reflects some trends around arenas.

As was detailed here in October, the Winnipeg Jets installed a new organ at the MTS Centre prior to the current NHL season. Organs have long been associated with arenas and stadiums, offering more nostalgic sounds in place of contemporary music. In Winnipeg, the new organ was shaping up to bring back sounds from the past, but offered enough modern technology to produce unique music and sound effects.

That trend has spread to Madison Square Garden. As arena officials noted, newer technology allows for organs to fit into arenas while providing a crisper, more authentic sound. It also seems that this development is taking place beyond New York and Winnipeg. More from The New York Times:

Castoldi’s boss, Marc Bauman, the vice president who produces in-game entertainment at the Garden, had a chance to buy a floor model Roland from a dealer on Long Island. Although it is a digital organ that can produce many types of sounds, the Roland can, perhaps best of all, reproduce the thunderous, pipe-organ sound of a Wurlitzer

That was the sound of sports in a smoky old arena — now the Garden has it, without the smoke.

“People absolutely connect to it,” Bauman said. “This brings us back from all the popular stuff you listen to everywhere else you go. Once you hear this is a much richer tapestry of sound, people say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ A large part of the audience at games are adults, and the moms and dads heard this sound when they are kids.”

Castoldi is happy to report that the number of arenas with live organists is growing, to 22 at his last count. Four N.H.L. arenas now use theater organs, including the United Center in Chicago; the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul; and Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., where the 24-year-old Lightning installed a pipe organ in 2010 for a more authentic hockey experience.

The Times notes in its piece that Castoldi does not at every game, but that his schedule has increased since the new organ was installed. Perhaps as a new organ finds a receptive audience at Madison Square Garden, more arenas will turn to the instrument to mix up their musical offerings.

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