Tilden Park Band Organ
By Ron Yost
Some years ago I had the opportunity to peek behind the large Band Organ at Tilden Park and take some pictures of the inside pipe ranks, valve chest, etc. This was difficult, since there is very little room between the wall and the back of the organ. I held the camera above my head and pointed it into the organ and hoped for the best! (It would help to be 6-feet tall sometimes!) The pictures turned out rather well, though, and disclose several interesting features of this organ.
It appears to me to be a Bruder fairground organ, of approximately 67-ish keyless size. I believe it to be a Wilhelm Bruder because it retains it's original pressure valve box, with round valves in double-staggered rows, and has a single row of rectangular 'striker' pneumatics (similar to a player piano, but larger in size), with round wooden 'dowel' stickers which actually open the pallets within the main pipe chest. This is typical of Wilhelm Bruder organs. Gebruder Bruder organs usually utilize a 'pouch board' for this purpose .. i.e., a thick plank with staggered triple-row round 'pouch wells' (counter-sunk depressions in the wood covered with pouch leather which, when inflated, push the 'stickers' and thus open the pallets). [Greatly simplified explanation, but I hope you get the idea.]
The pipe layout is a bit odd for a Waldkirch organ. The piercing 'Forte' 3-rank Mixtures are located at the very front of the windchest, which is not unusual. However, in most German organs, the wooden Counter-Melody Trumpets are mounted upside-down on the front edge of the windchest and are fed by wooden tubes leading into their boots. In this organ they are instead mounted upright, directly behind the Mixtures, in the center of the chest, with their stopped-flute helpers directly in front of them. Behind the Trumpets, on a riser, are mounted the Melody Violin pipes .. 3 ranks, if I'm not mistaken. The Accompaniment and Bass helpers flank the Melody in fairly standard arrangement for a largish fair organ.
I can not derive the exact pipe layout from my pictures, since about all one can see is the top of the pipe ranks and it's difficult to discern the various divisions .. except the open and stopped pipes are rather obvious. Someone should photograph the organ using a wide-angle lens and they would get much more informative pictures. Better still, of course, would be to remove the facade. Any volunteers??
The swell-shutters are not in operation, but they do open manually. There is a thick 'layer' of homosote board behind the shutters, which I assume is there to cut down the volume (a shame!).
The percussion; Snare-Drum and Bass-Drum with Cymbal; are in their 'normal' positions on the side wings, rather than being mounted on top as was Mr. Bonds' recollection. There *is* a Glockenspiel mounted on top of the case, but it was not in operation the last time I heard the organ. This was probably an add-on by B.A.B.
The Tilden Park 'Bruder' is very 'original' and I could see no signs of radical alteration or missing pipes. B.A.B. did a very clean job of 'converting' it .. the original crankshaft is still in place, though unused. The pump sticks are gone because the pump has been replaced by a large reservoir in the bottom of the case as a result of the organ being winded by a blower which is in a small room above the organ and out of sight.
The 'rod' which drove the keyless frame from a gear on the crankshaft is laying in the bottom of the case (the crankshaft is on the right-hand end, looking from the rear, and the music frame was on the left-end). There is a large bag down there, alongside the reservoir, which, unless I miss my guess, contains the original keyless music frame. Does anyone know?? I tried to reach it but could not.
B.A.B. was located in Brooklyn, New York, from the 1920s until 1957. It was named for it's founders, Messrs. Borna, Antoniazzi and Brugnolotti. The firm repaired and maintained band organs and manufactured music for them as well. Apparently the 'showmen' of the day wanted a cheaper means of playing their organs, so many were converted from their original folding cardboard 'books' to roll operation .. both by B.A.B. and Wurlitzer. Some even have two roll frames with one playing Wurlitzer 165 music and one B.A.B. 66 rolls. The Tilden Park 'Bruder' has a double B.A.B. roll setup and plays B.A.B. 66 rolls only. Tilden Park has a large library of these rolls, BTW.
One advantage of the B.A.B. 'conversion' is that it's entirely pressure-operated, as were the original organs (at least the German keyless organs). This meant there was no need for a separate 'vacuum' pump to be installed, as was necessary when a conversion to Wurlitzer rolls was done .. though I know of one organ which plays Wurlitzer rolls on pressure!
These rolls have no connection to O-rolls at all. The B.A.B. rolls are 8-holes-per-inch organ rolls, and have larger holes than piano rolls because of the smaller relative pressure difference in pressure-operated instruments. B.A.B. also produced smaller and larger rolls for various instruments .. the largest being their B.A.B. 87 roll which was used on many converted 87 and 89-key Gavioli's (with disastrous results, IMHO!)
I believe the Tilden Park 'Bruder' is one of the few organs which is still in it's original location. If I'm not mistaken it has been at Tilden Park since it was first imported, or shortly thereafter.
Now, if we could only convert it back to books ... ;-)
Ron Yost <email@example.com>
Paso Robles, California, U.S.A.
(Message sent Fri 15 Nov 1996, 02:08:53 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)