The Butchart Chronicles : August 22, 2014
The Aeolian Pipe Organ
Most will agree the Saturday Firework Show is a stunning display of light and sound. What many do not know is that after the show one can linger and enjoy the Night Illuminations and a half hour live recital from the rare Aeolian Pipe Organ, situated in the loft of the Organ Pavilion.
The first Aeolian Pipe Organ, Opus #1477, to appear at The Butchart Gardens was purchased along with a Duo-Art player in 1920 at a cost of $15,325 by Robert Pim Butchart for use in his residence. Many of these self-playing organs, which were built in New York, were placed in the grand homes of leaders of industry of the day. This particular organ was sold by Aeolian’s Toronto agents, Mason & Risch, Ltd. During World War II the organ was sold for use in Stanley Park in Vancouver. It was repurchased by the Butchart family and is presently in storage awaiting refurbishment.
The Aeolian Pipe Organ, currently in The Butchart Gardens’ organ loft is an instrument built in the early 20th century. Organ rolls playing a wide variety of music were available for this ingenious and automatic ‘home orchestra’, which is also equipped with a manual keyboard. The rolls supply written directions for the operator who could offer their own interpretation of the music by using the many stops and pedals on the console. The Opus #1417 model played here at The Gardens was built for Vancouver department store owner, Chris Spencer. It was purchased in 1923. This pipe organ is fully playable manually and boasts nearly 1000 individual organ pipes, twenty tubular chimes and a percussive harp. In 1953 it was sold to a church in Vernon BC, where it was in good use until 1969. At that time it was bought by Christopher Ross, a great grandson of Jennie and Robert Butchart, who brought this remarkable instrument to its present location and supervised its installation in the Organ Pavilion at The Butchart Gardens.
After experiencing the Firework Show, as you walk down the Dahlia Walk, look up to your left at the loft of the Organ Pavilion and listen to Michael Denton or Frank Cammisuli (pictured above) coax ethereal notes from an instrument that is rarely seen or heard - indeed a special treat.