(9:30 AM) ‘Electrical Malfunction’ Likely Cause Of Fire Inside Massey Organ

The Massey Memorial Organ inside the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. Photo by Chautauqua Institution

CHAUTAUQUA — The Massey Memorial Organ will be out of commission at Chautauqua Institution following a small fire inside its console Tuesday.

Jordan Steves, director of strategic communications and community relation, confirmed the fire occurred around 10 a.m. He said a fire extinguisher was used to quickly douse flames that were visible in the famed console.

Steves said it appears an electrical issue may have caused the small fire. As a result, the organ — which sits inside the Amphitheater on institution ground — has been shut down while inspections and possible repairs are made.

“We’re still looking at it,” Steves said. “There was some sort of electrical malfunction. It is out of commission at least for the moment while we look to see what the extent of the damage is.”

Steves said Paul Fischer, whose company restored the 1907 instrument in the early 1990s, inspected the organ Tuesday. The fire occurred inside the console box, which Steves said houses the organ’s “inner workings.” The fire caused no visible damage to the organ, including the pipes, he said.

Repairs to the Massey Memorial Organ — the largest of four outdoor pipe organs in the world — also took place in February after an inspection a month earlier discovered water damage due to a leak in the Amphitheater’s roof. At the time, the console was being stored in its backstage compartment under a protective covering. According to Michael Hill, Chautauqua Institution president, meltwater leaked into the compartment and onto the organ’s console.

During an inspection, Fischer reported extensive damage to the console’s ivory keyboards and to the combination pistons and drawknob stop controls. Repairs were made in time for the season’s opening in June.