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MMD > Archives > September 2010 > 2010.09.23 > 03Prev  Next

Band Organs at Tilden Park, Berkeley, Calif.
By Dan Horenberger

My company, Brass Ring Entertainment, has been taking care of the
Tilden Park carousel and organs under contract with the county
[East Bay Regional Parks District] for close to 20 years.  The
restoration of the building, the carousel and the organ are taking
place in steps as money becomes available.  Over the last fifteen
years more than three million dollars has been spent on the building,
concession stand and carousel.

We restored the smaller North Tonawanda organ about two years ago.
Before restoration it had a blower and vacuum to try to make it
operate.  The organ is now restored back to operating from the pumps.
Along with a complete mechanical restoration, we also restored the
facade; 50 years of Berkeley weather had taken it's toll on the organ.

We had worked hard to get a grant to restore the platform of the
carousel and do the North Tonawanda band organ at the same time.
During this time the building was enclosed.  We had refused for years
to do the organ until the building was enclosed; there's no reason to
restore an organ that would be virtually sitting outside.

A lot of the money for the organ restoration came from a grant won
from American Express.  Right now we are working on several other
companies for grants, but in these times finding donated money is hard
and -- as with almost all carousels -- the carousel doesn't break even
from the operations, so grants and donations are the only way at this
time to get anything done.  Plus besides the organ the animals need
restoration, so it is a big project.

We completed the carousel frame restoration a few years ago after the
carousel was closed by the State of California over safety concerns.
Same for the concession stand -- the county had no choice but to
upgrade it or close it.  So the organs have been put on a back burner
until that work can be completed.

There was a grand opening with many city and state officials there.
We turned the organ on -- within minutes neighbors complained to the
police.  Since the chief of police and the fire department was there
they had first-hand experience on the situation!  A sound level
measurement was taken and we exceeded the maximum so the city asked
for it not to be played.

Later when a state ride inspection took place, DOSH [California
Department of Safety and Hazards] took another reading.  It failed
again.  So if the county turns on the organ they face penalties from
DOSH, a state organization that inspects amusement rides for safety.
The penalty for violating the "red tag" is several thousand dollars.

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has the same problem with their
organ.  This was after a lawsuit was placed against the city about
ten years ago for the intense sound of the organ damaging the hearing
of a child riding the carousel.  The State of California is mandating
the organ be put into a sound chamber so the sound decibels can be
brought down to a safe level.

This can be done without destroying the quality of the sound by the
use of 'tone chutes' like in church organ installations.  This has
just been done at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and we will be doing it
at Tilden Park soon and enclosing the area for the larger organ also.
This is a great plus since in smaller rooms we can control the

There have been several attempts by outside people to come in and
re-voice the organ but as we know that will only destroy it.  Tone
chutes work great because they don't affect the organ -- it stays 100%.
Every time sound has to turn a corner the sound level is reduced while
not muffing or muting the sound.  We have been working on that ever
since the State said not to play the organ.

I'd much rather see the organ 100% unencumbered but, from an operator
and workers compensation stance, we can't compromise the hearing of
the workers or repeated riders.  Also, sorry to say, the new neighbors.
You can expect to see some changes after the first of the year when the
carousel closes for an extended period.

I will talk to the concession operator and make her understand that the
quality of the recorded music has become an issue.  The electronic sound
system is due for replacement but it didn't get into this years budget
due to cuts.  I'll send her up some new CD's.  I know money is very
tight there right now until after their "Scary-Go-Round" and Christmas
events.  I know the electronic sound system is over 20 years old.

Daniel Horenberger - Brass Ring Entertainment
Sun Valley, California 

 [ I asked Dan why the turbine blower wasn't retained.  He explained
 [ that the North Tonawanda organ is now over 100 years old, and in
 [ 2011 the Herschell-Spillman carousel will celebrate 100 years,
 [ thus both are regarded as "antiques" and eligible for special
 [ grants as long as they are maintained in original state.
 [ Dan tells about the weatherproof enclosure and rebuilding the
 [ carousel organ (he was trained by Dave Junchen) at
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Thu 23 Sep 2010, 18:02:04 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Berkeley, Calif, Organs, Park, Tilden

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