Staggadds new organ to instrument collection

Published on Thu, Aug 16, 2007 by Jack Kintner

Read More News

Stagg adds new organ to instrument collection

By Jack Kintner

Don Stagg’s collection of keyboards grew by one last winter when a Whatcom County family gave him a piano case reed organ, something that’s so rare that Stagg, a world-renown expert in the field, said he has seen only one other example.

“It’s amazing,” he said, “you’d swear it was a spinet (upright) piano to look at it.”

The instrument has 88 keys, three small brass pedals jutting out the bottom and a nearly flawless red oak cabinet.

Stagg said he thinks it’s from somewhere in the last 20 years of the 19th century, between 1880 and 1900, judging from the simple art nouveau decoration on the front panel.

A sharp-eyed observer will spot the levers on the left and right “key cheeks,” small wooden blocks that lie just outside the keys, that are the stops with which one can change the sound.

Like most reed organs, foot pedals create a vacuum that draws air through the metal reeds, but in this case the pedals are masquerading as the two outside pedals on a regular piano.

The middle pedal on this instrument, when lowered and slid into a lock, couples the notes in the center of the keyboard. “It’s a common device found on reed organs that allows the player to sound an octave by hitting just one key,” he said, “but is usually operated by a knob that’s pulled. Here it’s another part of the charade.”

“Tastes change, people change,” said Stagg, when asked why such an instrument would be produced. “It looks like a piano but still sounds like a reed organ. For some parlors, to be up to date you’d want a piano, but many people prefer organs, I guess.”

He said that the instrument was purchased new for a member of the family that passed it on to him, but it was seldom used. “It was passed on to a county family who’s downsizing now, so after a few months’ work it’s as good as new,” he said.

Pointing out that if you look inside the upright box it’s completely empty, as the organ assembly takes up much less space than the strings and action of a piano.

Stagg calls his 26 acres just outside Blaine the Double O Ranch, “for organ orphanage,” he laughed.

Several tenant horses wander his field and through his picturesque old barn, and inside is an amazing collection of 24 organs, from small electrics to huge pipe organs, seven grand pianos, two upright pianos, two clavichords and a double harpsichord. “And an accordion,” he smiled.

Stagg said that if the garage door is open at his place at 4079 H Street Road then he’s home, for those who would like to see his collection.

For more information call Stagg at 332-4034.