EsteyFest’24 Scheduled for September

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Members of the International Reed Organ Society have chosen Brattleboro, Vermont for their biennial gathering to take place in September 2024. The event will be called EsteyFest ’24 and be sponsored by the Estey Organ Museum, Brattleboro Historical Society, and the Reed Organ Society. Members have been planning a multi-day event to showcase their on-going contributions to reed organ history and preservation, and to promote musical relevance and continued use of reed organs.

The Estey Organ Museum at the Estey factory complex will be the gathering headquarters, where attendees can visit, renew old friendships, and play reed organs, as well as the walk-through Estey pipe organ. The Estey factory complex is on the National Register of Historic places, and stands as a monument to 19th century industrial activity.  Having EsteyFest ’24 in Brattleboro relates that very practical side of the Estey enterprise to the musical culture generated by reed organs and pipe organs then and currently.

The event will emphasize the musical versatility and capacities of reed organs through both presentations and concerts featuring a variety of instruments and music. There will be a screening of the silent film, Nosferatu, using the original score for the musical accompaniment by a chamber ensemble prominently featuring a reed organ.

There will also be opportunities to hear and play pipe organs: the walk-through Estey at the Museum and the 3-manual Estey pipe organ donated by the Estey family to their church, now the performing arts center Epsilon Spires.

The event will honor the many contributions of Nelson Pease with a visit to his enterprises in Palmer, MA. His music store, warehouse, and musical instrument museum comprise the largest collection of reed organs in the world.

The Brattleboro Historical Society will host a get-together of Estey family descendants, to which others are also welcome.  The Historical Society will have the available genealogical materials for perusal, as well as access to its large collection of Estey Organ Company and Brattleboro photos. They will host a talk on the Estey Organ Company in the context of Brattleboro history.  In a related opportunity, Dennis Waring’s book Manufacturing the Muse has been newly reprinted and will be available for sale. The author himself will be available to talk about his far-reaching exploration of reed organs in their 19th century context.

Throughout the event there will be talks about various aspects of reed organs, both music and history.  Prominent ROS members will discuss such topics as: accordions as free-reed instruments, the music of 19th and 20th-century composer and performer Sigfrid Karg-Elert, and “Riley v Burdett”, one of the great lawsuits of the 19th century over reed organ patents.

Demonstrations and workshops are designed to familiarize. There will be a demonstration of “How to get the [musical] most out of reed organs”, using many of the organs in the Estey Organ Museum. Workshops showing practical steps in reed organ restoration will include bellows recovery and reed tuning.  They are designed to help overcome a natural (and commendatory) reluctance to work on these 19th century musical instruments.

Along with the hands-on and educational aspects, there will be opportunities to sit and enjoy beautiful music, including the Festival Concert featuring reed organs and the magnificent 3-manual Estey pipe organ that dominates the space in Epsilon Spires.

The final day of the event will mark Estey Organ Company founder Jacob Estey’s 210th birthday, with a celebration of reed organ music and a cake at the Estey Organ Museum on the Estey factory “campus”.  With fall foliage season underway, attendees will have the opportunity to “get out of town” and take a drive up the West River Valley to The Reed Organ Resurrection Barn of Ned Phoenix.  Ned is one of the founders of the Estey Organ Museum.

Members of the Reed Organ Society are expected to travel to Brattleboro from all parts of the United States, British Isles and Europe. The Estey Organ Museum and Brattleboro Historical Society are hard at work preparing a warm welcome.

Click on the EsteyFest’24 tab above to learn more and register for this event.