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posted: 7/11/2013 1:59 PM

Degan marimba can be heard at Aurora museum

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  • The Deagan marimba, built in Chicago in 1932-33 for the Century of Progress World's Fair, will be played on Sunday, July 14.

      The Deagan marimba, built in Chicago in 1932-33 for the Century of Progress World's Fair, will be played on Sunday, July 14.
    Courtesy of the Aurora Historical Society


Submitted by Aurora Historical Society

A historic marimba that traveled the world as part of a 100-marimba orchestra has come to rest for the summer at the Aurora Historical Society's Tanner House Museum, 304 Oak Ave. in Aurora. It will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14.

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Tickets for the concert are $3 for members and $5 for nonmembers. For details, visit or, or call (630) 906-0650.

The Deagan marimba was built in Chicago in 1932-33 as part of a marimba orchestra assembled for the Century of Progress World's Fair. The orchestra traveled the world afterward, encountering anti-Semitism in Germany, labor unrest in Great Britain, and other historic circumstances, including a standing room only concert in Carnegie Hall at the conclusion of the tour.

This marimba, bearing a player's plaque inscribed "Gordon Shaffer Griffin," found its way to the music department of the University of Illinois and thence to West Aurora High School, probably in the 1940s, although why and by whom is still a mystery.

The instrument, with bars of nearly-extinct red Honduran rosewood, solid brass resonators and a mother of pearl inlay on the upper frame, is ingeniously designed to be dismantled and stored in two large steamer trunks.

Taken together, the orchestra equipment weighed 20 tons and today would be valued at a million and a half dollars.

Following the concert, from 2 to 4 p.m., the 1857 Tanner House Museum will be open for tours. Tours are free to members and children younger than 12, as well as concertgoers. Non-concert admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students.

The concert will be recorded for inclusion in the upcoming album "Songs From the Tanner House."

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