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. Last year, thanks to the generosity of many donors and supporters in addition to the Madison Community Foundation, Overture Center was able to pursue the restoration of the 1927 instrument with the goal to have it ready for 2019/20 Duck Soup Cinema.
It took a six-man crew four days to disassemble the 90-year-old pipe organ before it was loaded onto a semitrailer and driven to Reno, Nevada, to undergo a complete overhaul by Crome Organ Co., a family-run business for three generations and 123 years of service.
Despite the best of intentions by everyone involved, Crome Organ Co. ran into some unexpected problems delaying the completion of the work and as a result, the organ will not be ready for the 2019/20 Duck Soup Cinema. It is expected to be returned to the Capitol Theater, completely restored, in 2020.
Fortunately, Duck Soup Cinema will go on as planned! For the coming year, an Allen Organ will be used in place of the Grand Barton Organ. The Allen Organ Company has been providing organs for churches, theaters, schools, sports venues and more since 1937 and we’re confident will be an excellent replacement in the interim.
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 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
Vance Tang and Jody Tang,
in memory of Donald Dietzler and in honor of William Dietzler
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