The Grand Barton Organ
Overture Center for the Arts’ Capitol Theater is proud to house one of only a few historic theater organs still in its original home. The Grand Barton Organ has been delighting audience members in the Capitol Theater since it opened in 1928. Ninety years later, the Grand Barton Organ continues to entertain visitors at events throughout the year, including the silent film series Duck Soup Cinema.
Help Restore the Grand Barton Organ
With its shining red and gold panels and eye-catching ivory keys, the Grand Barton Organ still looks striking for a 90-year-old. But all of those decades of making music have left the Grand Barton Organ’s complex components in need of extensive restorations. Give to the Grand Barton Organ Restoration Fund and help ensure this treasure of Madison’s musical history continues to play for another 90 years!
About the Organ
The Grand Barton Organ was built by the Bartola Musical Instrument Company in nearby Oshkosh, Wisconsin. An intricate instrument, only the ornate console, with its 141 stop keys and three manuals is visible to visitors to the Capitol Theater. But the Grand Barton Organ is much more than the console; 1,034 pipes that range in size from 16 feet tall and 18 inches wide to the size of a drinking straw create all the sounds of an entire symphony orchestra from one instrument. The “toys” of the Organ include drums, cymbals and castanets and allow for sounds like fire sirens, birds chirping, and car horns.
The Organ is powered by a seven-horsepower air pump in the basement of the Theater and its signal relay assembly is so enormous, it was installed before the Capitol Theater was completed and parts of the building had to be built around it.
The Capitol Theater’s Grand Barton Organ is one of very few such organs still located in its original home and its majesty was recognized in 1990 by the Organ Historical Society as “an instrument of exceptional merit,” a recognition that is usually bestowed on church organs.
The Organ underwent minor restoration projects in 1995 and 2003, but the time has come for a comprehensive restoration. Give to the Grand Barton Organ Restoration Fund today!
Currently the “toys” of the console are being removed, cleaned, and restored as needed. The rest of the Organ’s restoration will occur in stages to allow for its continued use, particularly during the Duck Soup Cinema series. We anticipate that restoration will begin on the right chamber, then the left chamber, followed by the console and the mechanical pieces. Each stage requires careful disassembly of the mechanical units, meticulous cleaning, and then the replacement or refurbishing of the leather, rubber, wood and metal. A significant part of the restoration will involve resealing the air system which has developed damaging gaps due to decades of the wood shrinking and drying.
“The Barton organ in the Capitol Theater is an important part of Madison’s musical history and culture. As one of the last remaining original theater organ installations in the country, it is important that it remain for future generations to enjoy.” – John Cornue, President, Dairyland Theater Organ Society
“The Capitol Theater’s Grand Barton organ is an increasingly rare treasure today. It is one of a bare handful of theater organs to survive unaltered in its original home and is a tremendously important historic instrument. Its continued use in scoring silent film programs is a joy to see, and its ‘Voice of the Theater’ presence makes Capitol Theater a more unique and special place. Its restoration to full glory will be a hugely significant event for the entire organ world!” – Clark Wilson, Organist
• Capitol Theater’s One-Person Orchestra | Wisconsin State Journal
• Marking Movie History with Duck Soup Cinema | Wisconsin State Journal
Overture would like to thank the major supporters of the Grand Barton Organ Restoration Fund
Foundations and Organizations:
American Theater Organ Society | George Kress Foundation, Inc. | Jennie H. Olsen Charitable Foundation
An anonymous donor | Richard Christofferson | David Dohler
Robert Doornek | Irvin and Vivian Ehrlich | Larry Kneeland
John Kress | Peggy Lindberg | The Pollock Family, in memory of C. Fred Pollock
Reynold Peterson | Ruth Yarborough, in memory of William Yarborough, Symphony Conductor