Treasured dancehall organ gets touch-up and tune-up from father and son organ restorers
Nestled high above the rest of the Music House Museum is the treasured show-piece organ, Amaryllis. The organ was built by Belgium organ maker Mortier in 1922 before finding a home in Acme in 1981- and through its complex pipes and percussion instruments, it can produce the sounds of a complete orchestra.
The face is decorated with oil paintings, gilded domes, and hand carved rosewood, making it practically irreplaceable- one of a kind.
Kelly Curtis is the Director or Marketing and Development for the Music House Museum, and agreed that the organ was a gem that many are awe-struck upon seeing.
"Mortier named every one of his organs...and this one is the Amaryllis. The very top of it is a painting of his daughter and she has an amaryllis in her hair," Curtis said.
As the story goes, an elderly woman visited the museum and said she was Mortier's niece and the women in the paintings were her aunts. The organ now lays in pieces- being restored by Johnny Verbeek and his son, Jeffrey. Together they are the 5th and 6th generations of an organ-making family business that spans 125 years, even working directly with Mortier.
Johnny Verbeek has restored so many organs he could practically put this one back together "blindfolded."
It weighs 5,000 pounds and measures 18 by 30 - filling the space above the museum not only with its massive structure but also melodies that have entertained since the twenties.
Being organ-makers from Belgium, like Mortier, the museum felt only Johnny and Jeffrey had the knowledge to restore the Amaryllis.
The Verbeeks work long days building new parts or restoring the originals so together all the pieces will function in perfect harmony.
"It's like the heart of the organ, if you don't have- just like with human people if you don't have lungs its difficult to lift. It's the same thing with the organ," Verbeek said.
Only a handful of original Mortier dancehall organs survive, and even fewer are on public display. It will take four weeks to get the organ to sounds as good as it looks, but when it does- the music house museum will play it every single day on their tours.
Through the work of the Verbeeks, the Amaryllis will continue to play on and on.