How does a harmonium end up at Burning Man – twice?
It all began with a phone call to long time Mission resident, Jim Tyler’s Harmonium and reed organ shop. Robert Hoehn had found a dusty, inoperable, but adorable 100 year old Chicago Cottage harmonium. He asked Jim if the instrument could be operable in time for Burning Man. Jim said, “yes” and offered to do the work for free.
Robert had been given a commission to build a wind operated music pavilion. He designed the wind sound sanctuary with the old Chicago Cottage organ as it’s centerpiece. The combination was a real success.
Robert said “the old girl sang everything from Bach to jazz.” And the music went on all night long. She sang her heart out, literally. At the end of the burn pedal straps were broken and one pull had been yanked off. As you could imagine the instrument was covered with the finest of playa dust. Once again she was speechless.
Sputtering dust she returned to Venice, California her new home. For a year Robert carefully cleaned and repaired the instrument. Jim found a replacement stop to be mated with the stump protruding from her stop action.
The Cottage Organ is now up and running just in time to return to the playa. This time she is adorned with instructions like “Gently pull the stops don’t twist them.” Also the sound board has been carefully “mic-ed” so musicians won’t feel it necessary to pump too hard in an effort to boost the sound. Once again she is ready for Burning Man and her classic sound will once again rock the playa. Stop by the Wind Sound Sanctuary and take a 100 year old harmonium for a twirl