This wooden upright reed organ made by W. Bell Co. in Guelph, Ont. once belonged to the Phillips family. (Contributed - Sooke News Mirror)

This wooden upright reed organ made by W. Bell Co. in Guelph, Ont. once belonged to the Phillips family. (Contributed - Sooke News Mirror)

CURATOR’S CORNER: Sooke has always had a passion for music

Piano players tickled the ivory at many local events

Part 2 of The Musical Tunes of Sooke will cover the pianos and organs in the Sooke Region Museum collection.


Piano playing has been a steady performing art across time in the Sooke Region.

Piano recitals, classes and musical soirees were often held in residents’ homes. Piano players entertained many at these well-attended events, sometimes accompanying singers or other musicians. Many piano talents from Sooke went on to teach or arrange music in Sooke or brought their musical talent to the world.

Florence Muir Acreman wrote of the early days in Sooke: “Much early day pleasure derived from music. Most evenings, the parlour carpet was rolled off, and one dances to the player piano rolls. Guests took turns in pedalling this instructive instrument.”

Museums are like icebergs; what you see on display is often a tiny percentage of the collection. While you may be familiar with the Heintzman piano in Moss Cottage, or the Doherty pump organ in our Church display, we have many more stored away in our artifact storage.

A wooden upright reed organ made by W. Bell Co. Guelph, Canada (patented February 24, 1887) is one such example.

This organ belonged to the Phillips family. It has sixty-one keys (five octaves), ten couplers, and two carpeted foot pedals cast in “mouse-proof” metal. Floral patterns are carved into the upper and lower panels of the organ, exposing magenta grill cloth behind. Hand-painted, colourful flowers adorn the side panels of the organ as well.

Another interesting piece in our collection is a collapsible wood organ that was the original property of Thomas Dufferin Pattullo, premier of B.C. from 1933 to 1941, who had a summer house in Sooke.

The piano is made of three-ply laminated wood and has three octaves and one key. The organ was played by Sooke organist Kathy Kirk on June 26, 1988, for the museum’s open house. The cover of the organ reads: “THE BILHORN, TELESCOPE ORGAN, CHICAGO, ILL. ENG. PAT. JULY 31, 1894. USA PAT. FEB 5, 1895.”

While many of the pianos in our collection are made of dark woods, an 1887 Anton Bord piano stands out as a lighter example. It has a burl-patterned body made of birdseye maple with curlicue legs, brass foot pedals, and handles at its sides for transport.

A miniature upright wooden toy organ lives in a dollhouse in our Moss Cottage and dates from around 1911. It belonged to the Palliser family, who lived in Craigflower House and was played with by a Palliser granddaughter. The original owner was Betty Gibson of Gibson’s Store in Sooke. It is thought to have been made in England.


Montana Stanley Collections and Exhibits Manager Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Centre.

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