Best Match of a New Organ with an Old Organist

Frank Pellico, Blackhawks

Critics' Picks

When the Blackhawks moved from the Chicago Stadium to the United Center in 1994, they found the cost of breaking down and reinstalling the mighty old Barton pipe organ prohibitive (at least by the standards of "Dollar" Bill Wirtz, God rest his puck-pinching soul). So they installed a new Allen organ designed to have the same reedy sound, and to provide continuity they kept organist Frank Pellico to run it. More than two decades into his tenure with the Hawks, Pellico continues to stick to the glorious standards, some of which he no doubt learned at the knee of his onetime teacher Al Melgard, the stadium's old Barton master: the opening strains of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for a penalty, the theme song from The Godfather when an enforcer gets in a fight, "Pretty Woman" for the inevitable high-heeled hottie in the Shoot the Puck contest, and of course the seemingly out-of-place but ever-rousing "Hava Nagila," which Pellico used to play at Wrigley Field when he was the Cubs' organist in the early 70s. (Would that Gary Pressy regularly showed such chutzpah.) Pellico can also master new tricks, however, such as vamping with the Chicago Blackhawks Band power trio on heavy-metal stomps like Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." With former Sox organist Nancy Faust retired and her replacement relegated to day games at U.S. Cellular Field, Pellico pulls out the stops as the best stadium organist in town.