Capitol Theater's Grand Barton Organ Restoration Set To Begin Next Spring

Overture Center for the Arts and Sandra Gajic, incoming president and CEO, announced the restoration of the Capitol Theater's original Grand Barton Organ can commence next spring, thanks to a successful fundraising campaign with support from Madison Community Foundation. It is one of only a few historic theater organs still in its original home and one of three unaltered Barton Organs still in existence. 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.

"What an incredible gem we have in the Capitol Theater," said Gajic. "A treasure such as this allows Overture to provide the Madison Community with a unique artform, especially through the Duck Soup Cinema silent film series. Thanks to support from our community, our historic Grand Barton Organ can continue to entertain for generations to come."

In late 2017, the Madison Community Foundation provided a $35,000 challenge grant to help restore the organ, and Overture's supporters rose to the challenge, providing generous donations exceeding the restoration goal by the Spring of 2018, including a major gift from Vance and Jody Tang, in memory of Donald Dietzler and in honor of William Dietzler. "We're thrilled to make a gift to complete the restoration of this amazing instrument-and to make the gift in the names of Jody's father and uncle, both of whom were organists," commented the Tangs. "We encourage others to contribute to ensure the Grand Barton Organ is properly maintained forever!"

"The Capitol Theater's Grand Barton organ is an increasingly rare treasure today," said Organist Clark Wilson. "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!"

The Organ underwent minor restoration projects in 1995 and 2003, but a comprehensive restoration is sorely needed. In March 2018, work was completed on the "toy counter"-the traps and sound effects of the organ-made possible by a grant from the American Theater Organ Society.

In the next phase, restorers will utilize only parts and materials that are as similar to the original as possible. Each stage will require careful disassembly of the mechanical units, meticulous cleaning, and then the replacement or refurbishing of the worn components.

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 Overture's silent film series Duck Soup Cinema.

"The Barton organ in the Capitol Theater is an important part of Madison's musical history and culture," said John Cornue, president of the Dairyland Theater Organ Society. "As one of the last remaining original theater organ installations in the country, it is important that it remain for future generations to enjoy."

Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wis., features seven state-of-the-art performance spaces and five galleries where national and international touring artists, ten resident companies and hundreds of local artists engage people in nearly 600,000 educational and artistic experiences each year.

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