My unexpected trip to the Music House Museum

Blogging from my bberry again. 1.5 days left of vacation.

My trusty Subaru continued to live up to its reputation and started making some horrific squealing noise last night, forcing me to drive 40 miles SW to Traverse City this morning for inspection. The diagnosis: Something lame needs replacing, but its not urgent.

On my way back to Central Lake, I drove by something called the “Music House Museum.” I like music and local museums, so I did a U-turn (Michigan turnaround, we call them here) to check it out.

From US 31, it looks like a nondescript white barn that you would easily pass going 60 mph. Don’t let that fool or deter you — inside it’s a treasure.

A vast collection of player pianos, music boxes, nickelodeons, and a room-sized, 20 foot tall Belgian dance organ (pic below) — the only one of it’s kind in the US — are the highlights. A guide took me and a newlywed couple on a 1.5 hour tour, demonstrating each machine and the mechanics and history behind it. One piano played the final movement of “Rhapsody in Blue” using the same music scrolls punched in a real-time recording session with George Gershwin. Goose bumps!

There’s also a Wurlitzler Theater Organ, which took 20 years and $130 k to restore. The organ accompanied silent movies, complete with sound effects including horse clomping, sleigh bells, bird whistles, and grasshopper chirping. The sound from the pipes is deep and rich, rattling the rib cage. A few times a month the museum rolls down a screen and shows classic silent films, and renowned organists come to accompany the films. That’s awesome in my book.

Check it out if you’re in the area. One of my top fave museums ever. Simply magical.

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