Pioneer Village Music Hall

This article originally appeared in the May-June 1990 issue of Pioneer Magazine
Christie Freed and Ron Van Woerden

No one could underestimate the importance of music in the making of America. The Music Hall contains wonderful artifacts from the early times in Utah, all attesting to the importance of enhancing lives pledged to work and worship with the beauty of music.

Certainly one of the most fascinating instruments in the collection is an old, square grand Steinway, which was brought across the plains over one hundred years ago. This piano and the reed or pump , displayed in the Rock Chapel, are two of the instruments known to have come across the plains. However, it must be noted that the pipe organ is not a real pipe organ. The thirteen round pipes fitted into the high back, painted in gold and silver finish, are dummy wooden pipes, which makes the organ even more unusual and interesting. The organ is circa 1860 and is made of walnut, with gold leaf letters inscribed with the following: Beatty Organ, Daniel F. Beatty Co., Washington, New Jersey U.S.A.

During the 1700’s, Americans were a transient people. They were moving and settling and they carried their entertainment with them. A lot of “fiddling” was done around campfires and singing and dancing would relax and encourage these pioneers to push forward the next day. The Music Hall contains several violins of differing sizes, plus accordions and concertinas. These were all portable modes of entertainment. The Music Hall collection also contains a portable organ, which was popular in the late 1800’s. In addition, these little organs were affordable to those families who wanted a musical instrument in their homes, but could not finance a grander product.

One of the finest organs in the collection, and of great interest to members of the L.D.S Church, is the Taber Organ,, which belonged to Evan Stephens. Mr. Stephens was an early day musician and composer, and wrote many hymns dear to music lovers both inside and outside the L.D.S. Church. This organ has two carved front legs and two small stands on the top to hold kerosene lamps. The music rest has a lovely, carved grill work.

Another of Evan Stephens instruments to grace the collection is the burnished mahogany and walnut piano, marked, Kranich and Bach. It was on this piano that Mr. Stephens composed the official state song, “Utah, We Love Thee.” The only other item known to have belonged to Evan Stephens is a wooden music stand, thought to be the one from which he conducted at the time he taught music at the University of Utah.

An oblong Music Box, made of walnut, with a rosewood veneer and covered with glass, is one of the most beautiful objects in the Hall. Its imaginative builder gave it four bells with brass flower motifs on top with decorative bee strikers.

Much of the collection came from Mrs. Unity Chappell, the first woman pioneer to go into Juab County. She was a musician and lover of music. A large, upright floor model Victrola, belonged to her. It is square shaped, on four, low legs with a hinged door at the base for record storage. The speaker area is an arch motif with wood grillwork, backed by red fabric and the model includes a crank. The interior of the cover reads “Edison.”

One of the most unique features in the Music Hall is the Multiphone, the “juke box” of its day. This old orchestrion was actuated by dropping a nickel into its slot. The music that came from it sounded like a “rinky-tink” piano, with bells or more elaborate instrumentation added to it.

The small, pedal French Harp is so fragile it would be disastrous to try to tune it to pitch, but it was a beauty of its day. The inscription on it tells a partial tale of its origin: Domeny, Rue de Faub, St. Denis N. 16 a Paris, L, Medaille d’ Argent a’1’ esposition d’1’ Industrie Francaise December 1827, followed by the large North 54. From this we may assume that the little harp was the 54th reproduced by a master craftsman after the silver medal was won at the exposition of 1827. The harp is made of wood, and the pegs appear to be iron, although they are customarily made of steel. Two unicorns decorate its base.

In the mansions of the wealthy, a highly bedecked music room was a must, with paintings, flowers, glassware and even wonderful pieces of sculpture to augment the musical instruments. The Music Hall houses two, intriguing, unusual and beautifully cast bronzes. These came from the grand, old McCormick mansion which stood on north Main Street in Salt Lake City. These statues, standing on their original bases, graced the front hall of that mansion. The artist is identified on only one statue as Duchoiselle.

The Pioneer Village Music Hall houses many fine, unique instruments of yesteryear. Some of the collection was brought across the plains and others are antiques built in Pioneer Utah. They are displayed to be heard and enjoyed as the Pioneers did more than 100 years ago. The Music Hall is open daily (except Sunday and Monday) from 3:00 until 9:00 p.m. with tours and musical demonstrations, as well as concerts by some of Utah’s finest young talent.

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