New Restoration of Center’s 1923 C.G. Conn EE-flat Contrabass Sarrusophone

EEb Contrabass Sarrusophone, C. G. Conn Music Instrument Company, 1923

The restoration of the Sousa Archives’ second contrabass sarrusophone has been completed by our wonderful instrument conservator, Carl Thacker, and the instrument was returned to the Center early this morning.  As you can see from the photographs taken by Carl and his son, Travis, our EEb contrabass sarrusophone has been made functional once again.  As with Carl’s previous work on our Couesnon sarrusophone last fall, our second ugly duckling has been returned to its nearly original beauty when it was produced in 1923 and according to Michael Dicker, Professor of Bassoon at Illinois State University, it plays even better than our newly restored 1904 Couesnon sarrusophone.

Throughout the twentieth century, musicians recognized the Conn Company for its innovative instrument designs and skilled craftsmanship.  The company began building experimental saxophones in 1888 after its senior foreman, Ferdinand August Buescher (1861-1937), met Edward A. Lefebre (1834-1911).  Buescher used Lefebre’s horn to model the Conn Company’s first saxophone design, which went into production in 1892.  At this time, Conn was the only American music instrument company manufacturing saxophones.

The Conn Company began producing sarrusophones in the early 1920s to compliment its growing line of saxophones.  Unlike its saxophones, the Conn Company’s line of sarrusophones remained largely a novelty instrument for most wind bands and string orchestras.  However, the University of Illinois’ first band director, A. Austin Harding, must have been intrigued by this special instrument because he purchased two full choirs of sarrusophones (soprano, alto, tenor, bass, and contrabass) for his University Band during the 1920s.

For those who would like to see and hear our Conn contrabass sarrusophone played by Michael Dicker, please visit this site.

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