Skinner Player Pipe Organ Preservation
In 2018, Brucemore completed the restoration of the 1929 Skinner player pipe organ that kicked off in January of 2014 thanks to generous support from the following:
- Hall-Perrine Foundation
- Joseph G. Bradley Charitable Foundation
- Myron F. and Esther S. Wilson Donor-Advised Fund
The ongoing care of Opus 754 has been a priority for Brucemore. Conservator Jeff Weiler was hired to preserve this rare and remarkable instrument that is an essential part of the site’s history and fundamental to the visitors' experience.
In 2013, Weiler conducted a survey of the instrument, documenting the current condition of the organ and providing recommendations for future work. The survey revealed the organ was long overdue for a full restoration. Pipe organs should be restored every 50 to 60 years, and for Opus 754 to have survived 84 years without restoration is a testament to the craftsmanship.
- Phase I: Restore the three-horsepower motor, direct current generator, blower room reservoir, player system relay, and pedal relay
- Phase II: Remove and clean all 715 pipes
- Phase III: Restore the organ console and player system in the Great Hall
In addition to being played by an organist, Opus 754 was built with a player function that would read punch scrolls inserted into the console. These scrolls were recorded by the preeminent organists of the day, with selections ranging from operas to the latest popular songs. Brucemore has nearly 100 scrolls in its collection, and while they are too fragile to currently use in the organ, the renovation by JL Weiler included adding a computerized player system to Opus 754 as part of Phase III.
Today, hundreds of songs can be played with the touch of a button. All of the sounds are produced using the original organ components, without any digital amplification. The player system also visualizes on a screen which keys, pedals, and stops would be used on the console to produce the notes being heard if being played by a live organist. On-site experiences utilize this component to allow visitors to hear many of the same songs the Douglases enjoyed.
Weiler, a native of Cedar Rapids and a Coe College graduate, continued his education at Northwestern University where he earned a master's degree and doctorate of music (ABD). He has been professionally engaged in organ building and restoration since 1981. In that time, he has restored organs in Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, and the United States. Some of his recent projects can be found in the Cedar Rapids area, where he returned to his alma mater to restore Coe College's 1929 Skinner organ blowing plant and worked on St. Mark's Lutheran Church's 1928 Skinner organ, the Paramount Theatre's 1928 Wurlitzer organ, and Theatre Cedar Rapids' 1928 Wangerin/Barton organ.
A closer look....
Support Brucemore's ongoing preservation efforts
Preserving Brucemore's built and natural assets is an act of unconditional stewardship. Participate in the rehabilitation of the buildings, gardens, and grounds by making a one-time or annual gift to our preservation projects.