Gerhard Brunzema

Gerhard (Friedrich) Brunzema. Organ manufacturer, b Emden, Germany, 6 Jul 1927, d Fergus, Ont 7 Apr 1992. He grew up in Menden, an industrial community on the Ruhr river, and apprenticed and worked as a journeyman organ builder 1948-52 for Paul Ott in Göttingen.

Brunzema, Gerhard

Gerhard (Friedrich) Brunzema. Organ manufacturer, b Emden, Germany, 6 Jul 1927, d Fergus, Ont 7 Apr 1992. He grew up in Menden, an industrial community on the Ruhr river, and apprenticed and worked as a journeyman organ builder 1948-52 for Paul Ott in Göttingen. After attending the Brunswick State Institute for Physics and Technology 1953-4, where he worked with the acoustician Lottermoser, he began in 1953 an 18-year association with Juergen Ahrend (also from the Paul Ott firm) in Leer, restoring and building well-known instruments in Europe and the USA. In 1955 he received a master's degree in organ building (Orgelbaumeister), and was a co-recipient (with Juergen Ahrend) of the Lower Saxony State Prize for Craftsmanship in 1962.

Notable historic restorations by Ahrend and Brunzema include the 1642 instrument in the Evangelical Reform Church, Westerhusen, Germany; the 15th-16th century organ in the Evangelical Reform Church, Rysum, Germany; the 1680-1733 organ in the Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam; and the 1558 organ in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck. New instruments built by the partnership include organs for Zorgvlietkerk, Scheveningen, Martinikirche, Bremen, Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, and Cantate Domino Church, Frankfurt-Nordweststadt.

In 1972 Brunzema joined Casavant Frères and for eight years was artistic director. Notable instruments built under his direction are located at the University of Toronto; St Peter's Lutheran Church, Ottawa; Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton, NJ; Kinjo Gakuin U, Nagoya, Japan; and the Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne. In 1973, he oversaw the restoration of the Casavant (Opus 38, 1893) at St-Eugène, Ont, and in 1978 the restoration of the Casavant (Opus 482, 1912) in the Catholic Cathedral of St-Hyacinthe, Que.

After leaving Casavant in 1979, Brunzema opened his own shop in Fergus, Ont, under the name of Brunzema Organs Inc. The company's production 1980-5 primarily focussed on an easily transportable one manual 4-stop continuo organ or 'Kisten Orgel'. Examples can be found at McGill University; St Peter's Lutheran Church, Kitchener; Holy Family Church, Toronto; Wilfrid Laurier University; and Chapel of the Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank, Manila. During this period more important instruments were also built for Central College, Pella, Ia, and St Andrew's United Church, Wolfville, NS.

Several larger instruments have been built for: St Anne's Roman Catholic Church, Glace Bay, NS; Holy Family Church, Toronto; St John's Episcopal Church, Charlotte, NC; and Dong Presbyterian Church, Seoul, South Korea. In all, 38 new instruments had been built by the firm up to 1990, including several for private homes.

Brunzema's son Friedrich has completed his apprenticeship as an organ builder in Europe and by 1990 had joined his father's business.


Further Reading

  • Overduin, J. 'Brunzema Organs, Incorporated,' Organ Yearbook, 1984

    Harris, John. 'Two masters of a flourishing art,' Music, vol 7, Oct 1984

    Cramer, C. 'An interview with Gerhard Brunzema,' American Organist, Jul 1989

    Donahue, Thomas, ed. Gerhard Brunzema: His Work and His Influence (Lanham 1998)