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52-key Street Organ

This article is about the large 52-key street organs. There is a separate page with a detailed description of the little "Cabinet" style organ.

This organ playing "Yo-Yo-Waltz"

Two of these organs were built - one by the Page & Howard partnership in Brixton, London, and one in Pembroke Dock, South Wales. The first was supplied complete with façade, decorated by Judith Howard, which closely resembles that of the our first 48-key organ. Just a little shorter to fit into his garage, it was the choice of its owner.

These organs have identical pipework (164 pipes in all), Please see specification.

The action was based on a traditional bar chest covering virtually the entire area of the main case with the pouch/pallet arrangement across the back, and all pipework mounted on top (apart from the eight largest basses in the plinth. The register action is by membrane chests mounted vertically on the bar-chest, with the pipe blocks on top of those.

Above left: The front and back rails of the chest were routed for the bars, then the frame was assembled and mounted onto the top board of birch-ply. Above right: The bars were glued into the grooves, creating channels through which wind for the various notes travel from the pallets at the back to their respective register chests. Just visible are some of the holes for bass and percussion actions and to run from below the chest when installed.

Above left: The empty case mounted on its plinth already fitted with the big bass pipes. Above right: Pipes mounted temporarily, minus the melody bourdon. This was done to check that they all fit where they should, and to indicate where any of them need mitring, especially the trombones. The Musician now resides somewhere in New Zealand.

52-key at Pembroke workshop The second organ of this type was commissioned after the break-up of the Page and Howard partnership, and built in Pembroke Dock. A complete stranger had arrived at my workshop out-of-the-blue claiming he wanted me to build him a new organ. He had travelled down from Preston, Lancs - a 5-hour journey - a comlete surprise. He chose a copy of "The Musician", but without a façade.

Judith, as usual, made the flue pipes, and I made the trombones. Just before the organ was finished I was asked to accommodate a MIDI interface (made by a third-party), so the organ could be driven from book and MIDI. I agreed only if the change-over action was fitted before the organ left my workshop; but in the event, that was not possible. The organ had the adapter retro-fitted by its maker, but it was not entirely successful, so the organ remains a book-playing instrument.

52-key presented at the Preston FestivalThe pictures show how it looked at the time of collection from the works (I'm the one in the woolly hat - a cold day in the middle of January, 1992), and how it is presented now by Anthony Cowell.