Te Whare Taonga o Kororareka

New music, old instrument – #71

New music, old instrument – #71

For a brief time today, Russell Museum was filled with music of a “historical kind” as its Harmonium or American Parlour Organ was put through its paces by a young visitor from Brisbane.  This imposing cedar giant, seven foot high, with a width at keyboard of 3 feet 8 inches is rarely played but something about it caught 14 year old student Soraya Cunningham’s eye and she asked, “What’s that over there” and “does it work”?  Of course, we had to help her find out.  It took a few tries for Soraya to get the single bellows which force air through the reeds to make the sound to work, but soon she was playing a composition of her own, much to the delight of other museum visitors and her family.

Once the property of the Atkinson family of Te Waimate (Waimate North), the harmonium came to Russell when Clara Atkinson married Otto Neumann, also from Te Waimate, and they made their home here in Pitt Street.  Bequeathed to Mrs Kathleen Brooker by her aunt Mrs Newmann, it was later purchased by the Russell Centennial Trust.  Although its age is uncertain, in books on period furniture, similar instruments are dated in the 1890s.