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MMD > Archives > April 2015 > 2015.04.23 > 03Prev  Next

Taylor-Aeolian Carillon Music Roll Player System
By David Perry

I would refer to the recent posting by Marc Kaufman regarding Carillon
Rolls in the Condon Collection.

 [ "Unknown Carillon Rolls in Condon Collection", in 150421 MMDigest ]
 [ ]

Having -- in conjunction with a colleague here in the UK -- made
a thorough study of the Taylor-Aeolian Pneumatic Carillon Player,
I can offer some definitive information on this topic which I hope
will be of interest.

A broad overview of the history of this unusual player and some
technical details of its various forms and mode of operation was
published in two articles in the Bulletin Journal of the Player Piano
Group (UK) for September & December 2007 (back copies of which may
still be available).  Meanwhile, my research into this particular type
of player continues.

Briefly, the Taylor-Aeolian Player was the product of a collaboration
between Taylor Bellfounders of Loughborough, England, and The Aeolian
Company of Great Britain.  (Aeolian's American-based parent company
would have nothing to do with it.)  In its simplest form, it comprised
a roll-playing mechanism broadly similar to a Pianola piano and using
components common to that product.

The primary difference was that the pneumatic actuation mechanism that
operated the bells was far larger than that found within a player-piano
and was either pneumatically linked to the roll-player or alternatively
placed remotely (invariably in the bell tower) and linked electrically
with the roll player.

The first installation of this player was in 1923 and production
continued (latterly spasmodically and in conjunction with APPA after
Aeolian folded in 1930) until 1953, with the most active period being
between the World Wars.  I am able to confirm that the rolls to which
Mr. Kaufman refers were produced for use on the Automatic Player
installed at Sydney University in 1927-1928.

The carillon itself comprised at that time some 54 bells (it may
have changed since) and the player mechanism that Taylors installed
was the most complex that had been constructed up to that date,
comprising (in addition to the carillon itself):

(1) a hand clavier for manual operation of the bells by a carillonneur,

(2) an "ivory keyboard" -- which was Taylor's description of a small
    piano-like instrument by which the bells could be played either
    from a piano keyboard or automatically by a pneumatic roll-player
    similar to a Pianola -- together, finally, with

(3) a mechanism that would actuate the roll-player remotely from the
    turret clock in the University's bell tower and play short tunes
    on the bells at specific times during each day.

Referring specifically to the music rolls for the Sydney player,
these seem from the number series to have been produced in three
batches, the majority being arranged by Dr. Benjamin Burrows, an
accomplished musical composer living in Leicester who appears also
to have been a recognised authority on bell-ringing at the time.
It will be noted that the rolls now in the Condon Collection are
among those in the second numeric series.

Air with Variations (Handel)                            A2609
Aria from 14th Suite (Handel)                           A2610
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot                                A2611
Spring Song (Mendelssohn)                               A2670
Prelude (Rachmaninoff)                                  A2671

Chime No.1 (Burrows)- possibly for the clock-actuated Chime        A2672
Chime Nos.1 & 2 (Burrows) - possibly for the clock-actuated Chime  A2672

* Onward Christian Soldiers                             A2673
* O God Our Help In Ages Past                           A2674
* La Brabanconne                                        A2675
* Rule Britannia                                        A2676

Old Folks At Home & The Star Spangled Banner            A2677
Inventions No.8 (Bach)                                  A2678
Menuet from 2nd Suite (Bach)                            A2679
Mignon Gavotte (Thomas)                                 A2680
Consolation (Mendelssohn)                               A2681
God Save The King (3 verses)                            A2682
La Marseillaise                                         A2683

Nursery Rhymes (1 verse & chorus of each: Baa Baa Black Sheep;
  Oranges & Lemons; Three Blind Mice; Goosey, Goosey, Gander     A2684

National Airs:  Land of My Fathers; Auld Lang Syne;
  Minstrel Boy; The British Grenadiers                           A2685

* Australia Will Be There         (Francis)             A2723

(*) These rolls are recorded elsewhere as having been arranged
by Charles Blackmore, Aeolian's chief musical arranger at Hayes,
and not by Dr. Burrows.

Aeolian supplied the majority of the above rolls to Taylors in early
March, 1928, in time for shipping to Australia for the commissioning
of the carillon.  They were, of course, manufactured by Aeolian's
wholly-owned roll-making subsidiary, the Universal Music Company,
located alongside the main Aeolian UK factory at Hayes in Middlesex.

As instructed by Taylors, none of the rolls manufactured by Aeolian
for Taylor-Aeolian Carillon Player installations -- including those
for Sydney -- bore the name of either Aeolian or Universal, so as not
to detract from the presentation of the player as wholly a Taylors

It is known that, subsequent to these roll shipments, Sir Sydney
H. Nicholson, principal organist at Westminster Abbey, London, and
founder of the Royal School of Church Music, was commissioned by the
London Committee of Sydney University to prepare arrangements for the
following tunes which were then cut by Aeolian and despatched to
Taylors (for onward shipment) in September 1928:

Ye Mariners of England   Number unconfirmed, possibly  A3000
The Londonderry Air                                    A3001
Good King Wenceslas      Number unconfirmed, possibly  A3002
The First Nowell         Number unconfirmed, possibly  A3003
Annie Laurie                                           A3004
All Through The Night                                  A3005

Aeolian charged Taylors 10/- for producing the first roll of each
title and then 5/- for each subsequent copy, with a minimum production
run of 6 rolls of each title.  I have no record of how much Taylors
then charged Sydney University!  The rolls were exclusive to Sydney
University and were guaranteed not to be offered with any other
carillon player installation (which wouldn't have been possible anyway
as each carillon had a different configuration).

Of particular note is that all the foregoing rolls for Sydney were
the first Taylor-Aeolian carillon rolls to be cut to '88-note' format,
i.e., 9 perforations to the inch, the rolls for the initial three
carillon player installations having been cut to '65-note' format
(6 perforations to the inch).  Thereafter, all Taylor-Aeolian carillon
rolls were cut to 9 ppi format.

A few years ago I attempted to contact Sydney University to find out
whether any vestiges of the old carillon player were still extant, but
received no response.  Not surprising, I suppose.

I hope that the foregoing is of some interest and help.


David Perry
Newark-on-Trent, England

(Message sent Thu 23 Apr 2015, 17:37:16 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Carillon, Music, Player, Roll, System, Taylor-Aeolian

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