Classical 91.5

Organs of all shapes and sizes at the Carousel Organ Association of America Rally in Olcott, NY

Jul 31, 2017

What do you think of when you think of the musical instrument we know as an organ?  Do you think of the "king of instruments" often in a church with large wooden or shiny pipes reaching toward the heavens? ...a theater organ used to accompany silent movies? ...a monkey organ?  ...or are you instantly returned to your childhood with memories of riding a carousel?

All of these are true.  In music, the organ is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe divisions, each played with its own keyboard, played either with the hands on a keyboard or with the feet using pedals. 

But in the case of mechanical organ collectors, sometimes they are played by turning a crank and the music comes from a pinned barrel or a paper roll or cards with holes punched in it.

This past weekend (July 29 & 30) the Carousel Organ Association of America held a Rally in Olcott, NY where visitors could see and hear demonstrations of nearly 30 hand cranked barrel or monkey organs, and nearly 20 large carousel organs that had been transported from all across the Northeast by enthusiasts of these mechanical musical marvels. 

Similar to theater organs, carousel organs often have a variety of instruments added to the organ to add variety and fun to the sound.  You'll find drums, cymbals, xylophones, trumpets, tambourines and other percussion instruments added to the instruments.

This Diamond Jubilee Gavioli Carousel Organ was built in Paris in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  The organ, which was built as a 57 key organ, has 327 pipes and uses four registers to change tonal colors.

For many, the collection and maintenance of these instruments is more about the mechanics than the music.  Today, carousel organ enthusiasts and owners tweak and tune, collect music and even automate  these instruments using computers and midi recording software.

One of the biggest and most impressive instruments at the rally was David Wasson's 98 Keyless Trudy Concert organ which you can hear here playing a selection from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. 

Guests of all ages visited the rally and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face.  If you'd like to experience such a festival, there are still four more scheduled in 2017.  Check out the schedule of upcoming rallies.