The Brunzema Family

Organ Builders 

brunzems

Published, EAC Communiqué, July 1988

T

he Brunzema Organ Factory of Fergus is one of perhaps half a dozen mechanical tracker organ factories in Canada, made possible by the superb craftsmanship of renowned, German-born, organ builder, Gerhard Brunzema. The factory employs six people, three of whom are members of the Brunzema family, including his wife, Ruth and son, Friedrich. Thirty-three organs have been built here since the factory was established in Fergus in 1979. These instruments are all built to order, ranging from the tiny Kisten Orgel which can be put in the back of a car, to the massive six and half meter high, two-manual, 25 stop organ currently in progress.

Gerhard Brunzema, master organ builder, Artistic Director and Tonal Manager of the firm, was trained in the extensive apprentice system in Germany. A man of exceptional training and experience, he was a journeyman for seven years with the famous Paul Ott at Gottingen and later attended the Brunswick State Institute for Physics and Technology. He then spent eighteen years building and restoring many famous instruments in Europe and the U.S. in conjunction with Jurgen Ahrend of Leer, East Freisland. He received a Master’s degree in 1955 and was co-recipient of the State prize for craftsmanship in 1962.

  In 1972, Mr. Brunzema was invited by the world famous Canadian organ builders Casavant, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, to become their Artistic Director, responsible for tonal and visual design. 

A change in the management of the century-old firm of Casavant, precipitated the Brunzemas’ move to Fergus. Their choice of location was guided by their desire to be not more than one hour’s distance from a major airport, in order to facilitate shipment of the custom-made organs, 80 percent of which are built for American customers.

Since coming to Fergus, Ruth has become an integral part of the working team, usually making small precision parts and tiny elegant pipes for small organs. The Brunzema’s son Friedrich, has continued the family tradition by training extensively in Europe as an organ builder and recently, furthering his studies in mathematics, acoustics and music at the University of Waterloo. The Brunzema’s daughter, Meta, is an architect, presently doing her Master’s at Columbia University in New York. Her designs for elegant panelling and restrained decoration have contributed to the visual beauty of Brunzema Organs.

These instruments are of clean, contemporary design, constructed in traditional oak:  durable, resonant, and insect resistant. The keys and stops are of ebony and bone, set in rosewood. The precision and intricacy of the interior of the instruments is amazing to the visitor who rarely sees the ligaments, muscles and bones of a mechanical tracker organ. At present, the metal pipes are imported from Germany, but the Fergus factory will soon expand to manufacture them

Large organs are usually given as donations to a church, frequently by an individual, oras a memorial. Two large Brunzema organs which can be seen in this area are the two-manual instrument at the Church of the Holy Family on King St., Toronto, and a one-manual at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Blockline in Kitchener. Some organs are designed to fit the acoustics and volume limitations of an apartment; the smallest are portable for musical ensembles.

“To own an organ does not cost more than to own a boat”, says Ruth Brunzema. “In fact, a well-made instrument should last 100 years. It becomes a family heirloom.” The Brunzema family would like to find an apprentice to help carry on the tradition of Brunzema Organs.

by Beverley Cairns, July 1988

The precision and intricacy of the interior of the instruments is amazing to the visitor who rarely sees the ligaments, muscles and bones of a mechanical tracker organ.

UPDATE – 1997

Unfortunately the Brunzema Organ Factory closed in the Fall of 1992, a short while after the death of Gerhardt Brunzema, and despite the great efforts of his wife Ruth to continue the business. A deep regret was felt by those who knew the world class craftsmanship that the Brunzema family had brought to Fergus.