This last Sunday, I attended the Chicago AMICA chapter meeting.
In my opinion, there is nothing that beats these meetings in the entire
scope of collecting mechanical music. I'll not mention individuals
specifically, since I have not cleared with them permission to publish
this report. But in general, here is the treasure trove of events and
The hosts are long term, serious collectors with a broad scope of
interests. In their newly constructed music building library, were
some of the crown jewels. The room itself was removed from a beer
baron's estate and included Walnut paneling covering all walls and
built in bookcases. The walnut carving over the double door entrance
featured a glass transom with elaborate carved walnut wreaths. Below,
the flooring of herringbone light oak gave the room a true look of
formal elegance. On one side of the entry was the freshly refinished
shell of an Aeolian Duo-Art organ console, Opus 1536. On the opposite
side, a gleaming black Steinway concert grand, with Duo-Art reproducing
player system. Victorian seating furniture on an oriental rug was
centered in the room. The Steinway played beautifully and when the
dynamics swelled to fortissimo, the power of the huge piano resounded
within the large room.
In another area of the music building, attendees enjoyed taking turns
at operating the style 45 Photo Player. The fun was contagious and
several people simultaneously pulled the various sound effect
Several new members showed up including one couple who subscribe to
MMD. They had pictures of their new treasure, an Italian Renaissance
style Chickering Ampico A that is currently being restored. I was able
to guide them to other members who offered a wide variety of recut
While on the subject of the Ampico, another member showed pictures
of an upright Ampico fitted with an Ampico B mechanism. It was clear
from the pictures, that the installation was indeed original, and
unmistakably, an Ampico B. It has generally been understood within the
field of collectors that the Ampico B was never installed in a upright.
Not so. It is my theory that the subject piano was used by the factory
as a test instrument, or perhaps used by the roll editors as it is
known that they had several pianos at their disposal after the advent
of the Ampico B concept. The piano was found in Rochester, New York.
There is more to this one afternoon of fun. Spirited performances on
the Mills Violano, a tiny Tom Thumb Recordo piano, and lots of Lionel
The point of this writing is that while we enjoy the "written exchange"
of the MMD and other publications, the fun of a group gathering in the
presence of all these machines is the ultimate high. The clubs that
support mechanical music are a great asset.
If not a member, join AMICA or MBSI and get to a chapter meeting or
a convention. The mutual sharing on a live basis is indeed the ultimate
experience. I've made life long friends by being a club member. Club
functions are at the top of my list of pleasurable experiences. Both
clubs have web sites and can give guidance to joining.
[ Visit http://www.amica.org/ and http://www.mbsi.org/
[ -- Robbie