LOOK AROUND: Natchez Theatre organ restoration - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

LOOK AROUND: Natchez Theatre organ restoration

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
NATCHEZ, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A man in Natchez has an unusual project. Either that or the project has him.

Burnley Cook is a musician.

And you’ve heard of people who “have the music in them?” Well, Burnely has it all in his garage right now.

Burnely has an unusual way to let off steam.

He plays the calliope in his garage. Only his calliope is powered by compressed air, not steam, but it accomplishes the same catharsis and almost as loudly.

He says, “I am very blessed to have good neighbors.”

An accomplished musician like Burnley has no problem conquering the few pipes and the short keyboard of the calliope. However, here about three years ago he got in over his head, literally, when he took on restoration of the theatre organ that sang out in the old Baker Grand Theatre in Natchez giving a voice to silent movies.

“They had roughly eight good years of usage out of it before 1930 when The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson came along.”

With the talkies the old organ sat silent until the theatre was torn down in the 1970s and the parts of it sold for salvage, including the organ, everyone thought, until about three years ago.

Burnley looked at Facebook one day and found a post saying, “Anybody wanting the theatre organ from the Baker Grand come get it or I’m going to take it to the dump.”

Well, Burnley got it.

“The seams and wooden pipes had opened up and the finish had all cracked and pipe chests had been demolished.”

But after many, many hours and days and weeks and months of gluing and metal crafting and refinishing, and, as Burnley puts it, “Sand, sand, cough, cough, sand, sand…”.

Burnley says it’s at least 90% finished.

“The toughest part is really over with.”

Well, there MAY be one hurdle left to get over, when it’s finished, what do you do with it?

“Man, I have been, people ask me that all the time.

That’s the biggest question, “What are you going to do with this thing?”

Burnley wants it to stay in Natchez and be housed in a venue where people could get use out of it, especially tourists.

“It would be awesome to do.”

Not to mention it would be awesome to hear it play again. Even more awesome than the neighborhood serenades Burnley cranks out now on the little keyboard in his garage, that sits right beside the soon-to-be-resurrected theatre organ from the Natchez Baker Grand Theatre.

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