The 2012 edition of the Great Dorset Steam Fair in the UK just
concluded, with its usual eclectic mix of organs and period
steam-driven vehicles and apparatus. After slogging through about
six inches of soft mud on the first couple of rainy days, the weather
improved and things dried considerably by Friday, so the final few busy
days were as enjoyable as always.
Each year the number of organs seems to diminish, with only 38 making
the trek this year. There were over 100 organs just 10 years ago when
I first attended, and although the number steadily diminishes the
quality seems to improve. To my eyes and ears, the Kelders Family
exhibit just gets better each year. Besides the two Verbeeck's 119-key
Victory concert organ and 79-key Locomotion street organ, a 115-key
Rhapsody dance hall organ has been added.
While this organ has two accordions and is mainly designed and voiced
to play dance hall music, it was playing synchronized on MIDI with
the two other organs, creating a striking "three channel stereo"
organ effect. With a wide repertoire on MIDI, it attracts a large
crowd of diverse, "non-organ" folks enjoying hearing some of their
known favorite tunes. After dark, large screens project video clips
from movies themed and timed to the three synchronized organs. The
effect is wonderful!
Other enjoyable repeat visiting organs were the 115-key Verbeeck
Centenary, the 110-key Marenghi "The Rose", nine 89- to 110-key
Gaviolis, and a couple other large Marenghi and Ruth organs. Only
a few of these have had MIDI control added, so the fans of large
fairground, concert, and street organs playing traditional books had
the usual love fest.
Rounding out the organ tableau were many other organs by different
makers and of different vintages. It is easy for one to spend days
just making the rounds enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds!
The new curiosity was the Decap "Accordion Castle." This new creation,
owned by organ magnate Graham Atkinson, is an unusual mixture of
traditional organ pipes, percussion, five accordions, and sound samples
that plays mostly modern, popular, and dance hall music. Each pipe,
percussion, accordion, or effect has a small LED, so one can see
exactly what is playing. Stage shows are presented in front of the
instrument. It attracted a continuous and large crowd. While not
necessarily my interest, I was quite amazed by audio and visual
creativity, and what is apparently successfully appealing to a
This event is held in a remote area about three hours from London,
and the weather and conditions can always be questionable, but for
true enthusiasts of these instruments, there is no other event like
it in the world, and it is not to be missed, at least once!
Princeton, New Jersey