Organs To Orchestrelles - The Musical Museum In Brentford Re-opens

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 14 November 2007
photo of a gallery with many instruments including a large pipe organ

The Musical Museum is home to a wide-ranging collection of instruments from organs to musical boxes. Courtesy The Musical Museum

Brentford’s unusual museum of automated musical instruments, the Musical Museum, is re-opening in new purpose-built premises on the Hounslow suburb’s High Street.

The official re-opening will take place on November 27 2007, but sneak previews are available over the weekend of November 24-25, when the Friends of the museum will also hold a fundraising sale of memorabilia and ephemera.

“We are thrilled to finally be opening our doors to visitors,” said Michael Ryder, Chairman of the museum. “We moved out of St George’s Church in Brentford High Street, our original home for 43 years, in June 2006. And what a sight that was as volunteers took on the arduous task of moving well over 40 tons of instruments and equipment by van and by pushing them along Brentford High Street.”

“Since then we have been on a true roller-coaster ride,” he said, explaining a series of hiccups with building contractors, and the challenge of getting the giant lift, which can hold up to 50 people, constructed.

“At times we have felt a little like the characters in that Flanders and Swann song, ‘The Gas Man Cometh’, as we have lurched from one drama to another!”

photo of a grand Wurlitzer organ

The Wurlitzer rises in a grand auditorium. Courtesy The Musical Museum

Until now the museum has always been staffed by volunteers. Now there's a newly-appointed General Manager, Dave Gibson, and over the next few months there will be a new education officer and other staff.

The museum contains one of the foremost collections of automatic musical instruments in the world, from the tiniest of clockwork musical boxes to the self-playing Mighty Wurlitzer. Other items on display include sophisticated reproducing pianos, orchestrions, orchestrelles, residence organs, violin players and historic musical rolls.

The second floor of the new museum houses a concert hall with seating for 230, complete with stage and orchestra pit from which a Wurlitzer console will rise to entertain visitors, just as in the cinemas of the 1930s.

“I would like to thank all; the Heritage Lottery Fund (who awarded the Museum £1,853,000); volunteers; Friends; and the London Borough of Hounslow for the tremendous support they have given us over the past two years,” added Mr Ryder.

“Now we can all enjoy the fruits of our labours and turn our attention to enthusing visitors of all ages about the history and delights of automatic musical instruments.”

There will be a grand opening of the museum in spring 2008.

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