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MMD > Archives > March 2007 > 2007.03.30 > 01Prev  Next

State of America's Carousel Organs
By Dan Robinson

I would echo some of the sentiments of Andrew Barrett on this subject.
While I think there are somewhat more operating carousel organs than he
suggests, I agree that there aren't enough, and that carousels are an
excellent opportunity to expose the general public to some really fine
band organ music (and there's nothing like riding a carousel while
listening to live band organ music!).

If some of the European organs on carousels which Andrew wrote about
are someday returned to their original scales, his idea about converting
their current repertoire of music to those scales is, I think, an
excellent one.  I think so partly because I am partial to the Wurlitzer
music many of the organs play, but also because some of these organs
were converted to Wurlitzer rolls decades ago and have played that
music for majority of their existence, far longer than they played
their original music.

For many of the people who know these organs, this music is what they
know and love hearing on them.  Therefore, I think it would be ideal
for these organs to play, say, MIDI disks scanned from music books of
their original scales, as well as the Wurlitzer 165 or 150 music
(converted to the organs' original scales) that they have played.

Personally, I think that MIDI playing systems for band organs have
their place at some operating carousels.  I was dismayed to read in
Andrew's posting that the Ruth organ on the Riverfront Park, Spokane,
Washington carousel generally is not played, even after being restored,
because of the condition of the B.A.B. music rolls.  There are enough
reasons carousel organs don't get played -- legitimate (condition of
the organs) or not (operators don't want to hear them) -- without the
condition of the music rolls preventing the organs from being heard.
A MIDI system would seem to be a good solution for the Riverfront Park

Additionally, that particular organ is an example of why retaining the
ability to play the music of its converted state would be a good idea
-- i.e., MIDI disks of music rolls, converted to the organ's original
scale, and ones of original book music -- where else can you ride a
carousel while listening to 87-key B.A.B. music?  Nowhere!  (If the
Corona Park, Queens, New York, organ was playable, it would play those
rolls on one tracker.)

Another example like this is the Frati organ at Knoebels' Grand
Carousel; originally a barrel organ, it was converted to 61-key Artizan
rolls in the 1920s, and today, to my knowledge, those rolls cannot be
heard at any other carousel.

Also, to answer a couple of Andrew's questions: The Gavioli organ that
used to be on the Playland, Rye, New York, carousel was indeed a 65-key
organ.  It is identified as such in Fred Dahlinger's article on 65-key
Gaviolis in issue #26 of the COAA's "Carousel Organ" journal.  And,
yes, it was converted to Wurlitzer 165 rolls.  The Rocky Springs,
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gavioli organ is mentioned in an article, also
by Fred Dahlinger, in issue #29 of the "Carousel Organ," as is the late
Gavioli from Dorney Park, Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Both are identified
as 57-key organs.

The facade of the Dorney Park organ was an original Gavioli style that
inspired the design of the Wurlitzer 157 facade.  A similar Gavioli,
also no longer in existence, was owned by Royal American Shows (it was
written about in the latter Dahlinger article).  I'm not sure whether
the facade of the Rocky Springs organ is Gavioli or Wurlitzer.

There is also a Gavioli that came from the Kings Island, Ohio
carousel and is now owned by a collector in Michigan (it was replaced
at Kings Island with Paul Eakins' Wurlitzer 157).  That Gavioli, which
I think has a Wurlitzer facade, and the Dorney Park organ, have been
referred to as Wurlitzer 157s even though they were originally Gaviolis
(both, along with every other Gavioli mentioned in this paragraph,
were converted to 165 rolls).  I believe the Rocky Springs Carousel
Association refers to their organ as a "Gavioli 165."

Additionally, I can provide this update about another organ Andrew
wrote about: The Ruth model 33 organ on the Lake Winnepesaukah,
Rossville, Georgia, carousel is playing again.  According to
a newspaper article reprinted in issue #29 of the "Carousel Organ,"
COAA member (and National Carousel Assoc. conservation chairman)
Charles Walker restored the organ and  installed a MIDI system.
I don't know whether it plays the music of its original scale, or
perhaps Wurlitzer 150 music like the Central Park, New York City organ.
But the organ had been silent for years, and now it serenades carousel
riders once again.  And that's a bright note on which to end this post,
whatever music scale the organ plays!

Dan Robinson
Rochester, New York

(Message sent Sat 31 Mar 2007, 01:17:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  America's, Carousel, Organs, State

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