Organs voice a new street sound
BEECHWORTH was alive last weekend with the enticing sound of street organs as 40 members of the Australian Mechanical Organs’ Society entertained residents and visitors with delightful creations from another time.
Each year the society chooses a town in which to meet, exhibit and show their barrel organs.
Twenty organs were placed in different locations – on the corners of the town’s main intersection and on the footpaths of Ford and Camp streets – lending a colourful air and providing music which caught the ears of many visitors.
“The person who plays a mechanical instrument in public is traditionally known as an ‘organ grinder’ and they were a very common sight in cities and towns from the 1800s to the 1920s,´ said Melbourne organ enthusiast John Wolff.
“They played an important part in bring- ing music to the general public in the days before gramophones, radio and modern electronic devices.
“The organ grinder also traditionally had a monkey dressed in a similar outfit to its owner and was there to collect the money from bystanders.”
Graeme McDiarmid from Gisborne played a 20-key mechanical organ which he built from scratch over two years played alongside wife Pam who crafted a replica herdy-gerdy, an old European instrument with an interesting history that dates to the 11th century.
The stringed instrument looks and sounds similar to a violin where a hand-turned resin wheel rubs against the strings to produce sound.
It was played as a court instrument in the 15th century, became an instrument for the ladies of the night in the 18th century and it has since developed as a folk instrument.
DELIGHT: Gisborne’s musical duo, Pam and Graeme McDiarmid entertained locals and visitors with an organ and herdy gerdy.
HEARD: Pat and Kathy Doyle with grandchildren Isla and Evie Moulder admiring John Wolff’s 30-year-old replica Berlin organ.