This letter will serve to bring members of the MBSI up-to-date with developments surrounding one of the subjects I included in my workshop at the 2019 convention in Rockville? Those who were present may remember my talking about the precarious future of a rare Imhof & Mukle orchestrion which had been installed under the stairs in Kinloch Castle, an Edwardian-era hunting lodge on the Scottish Island of Rum. Not only was the orchestrion (often referred to, albeit erroneously, as ‘Queen Victoria’s Orchestrion’) deteriorating, but the entire castle, which had been left to the state by its last private owner, was in danger of falling into ruin. A charitable organization, the Friends of Kinloch Castle Association, was hoping to raise enough funds to rescue both the castle and its contents.
Following the impact of Covid on tourism, and the restrictions on movement generally, it has been decided by the owner (Scottish Nature – the equivalent of the English National Trust) to put it up for sale. This has been reported widely in the British press, although reports vary as to whether the asking price is a nominal £1 (GBP) or a modest £70K.
This is an opportunity for someone to own a piece of Scottish heritage – as well as a fine mechanical musical instrument – although any would-be purchaser is advised that the orchestrion requires repairs last estimated at £50,000, and the ‘castle’ requires several million spent to restore it.
Hopefully this link will still work, although no doubt it will be possible anyway to learn more by searching ‘Kinloch Castle’ on the internet:
One hopes a benefactor will come forward so the orchestrion, if not the castle, may be saved.
Alison Biden, Musical Box Society of Great Britain, Vice-President
Kaoru Ishikawa offers the following piece of music she arranged. She hand-punched the music strip, something similar to the table favors that were provided at the MBSI annual meetingheld in Rockville, Maryland.
She says “From the second chorus, I’m turning the handle at a very high speed. It is the real thrill of a hand-cranked music box.”
Charles Wilson describes his restoration of a Lecoultre forte-piano music box (ca 1840) that he completed over a period 18 years! This complete restoration included repining the “fat” cylinder, re-tuning the comb, replacing the soundboard, and a unique reconstruction of brass inlay in the case, and more! An inspiring story to read with photos. Here is a link to the photos and sound file on the MBSI website. https://mbsi.org/photo_gal/lecoultre-piano-forte-cylinder-music-box/
Bill Wineburgh presents a detailed review of the Mermod Freres cylinder box tune change mechanisms, with close up photos of various snail cams and the change control levers. Bill has also included a full summary table that covers the various models and their salient properties. I had no idea there were so many Mermod varieties!
Hope Rider remembered Don Stinson, the organ restorer and new organ builder, over the period from 1966-2019. Many of us have heard Stinson organs at various rallies, even if we did not know they were Stinson’s. A fond remembrance, with color photos to enjoy.
David Worrall continues his series of sacred music on cylinder boxes. In this article he provides background on the rise in popularity of hymns.
Reaching back to the 13th century, Dr Robert Penna writes of a programmable automata orchestra that entertained guests on a royal boat. A four-meter long replica of al-Jazari’s Musical Boat, featuring a mechanical “robot band,” is on exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre. You will want to read about this ancient Arab technology.
Regrettably, it was announced that the joint MBSI / AMICA annual meeting scheduled for September has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Several interesting articles will appear in May/June 2020 MBSI Mechanical Music, delivered to subscribers right around May 1, 2020.
Many of us own a Regina music box, and an article in this issue, by Harold Wade, describes two Regina disc boxes with bells. He describes how they were purchased and then restored. The Porter Music Box Company performed the restoration and was able to supply reproduction discs, which are quite rare. Since original discs are usually not good to play in “as found” condition, reproduction discs are recommended. I enjoyed reading about these relatively rare music boxes and admiring the photos.
Other interesting articles include a chapter tour-visit to a fabulous collection in Southern California, an article about relief-carved music box cases, and another great”Nickel Notes” article by Matt Jaro – this one is about using relational databases to catalog your rolls and discs. I was also fascinated by how Jay Carsman coaxed his Regina Corona 12 disc changer back to smooth operation. There is more in this excellent issue, and as an MBSI member, you will receive your copy soon. If you are not a member, consider joining MBSI and receive a New Member Discount.
MBSI is pleased to announce the availability of a new book you may wish to add to your mechanical music library. There are many volumes about the history of musical boxes made in Switzerland, Germany, and France, but that is not all of the story. There was also a thriving industry producing quality musical boxes in the nineteenth century in the Austrian Empire. Information about those instruments, particularly for English speakers, has been much harder to come by.
We are pleased to announce that an important work on this subject, previously only available in German, has been released in a revised and updated English language edition. It is Musical Boxes from Prague and Vienna by Dr. Helmut Kowar, issued by the Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. Several organizations financial contributions have made this possible. The Musical Box Society International and the Musical Box Society of Great Britain jointly funded the printing cost. Translation was funded by two foundations, the Franz-Josef Mayer-Gunthof Wissenschafts und Forschungsstiftung and the Stiftung Familie Philipp Politzer.
The volume is generously sized at approximately 8¼ x 11 ¾, runs 246 pages, is generously illustrated and includes an extensive catalog of known instrument examples. It is currently available from the Academy at https://verlag.oeaw.ac.at/musical-boxes-from-prague-and-vienna. (Note the icon at the upper right of the webpage that makes an English language version of the web page available.) Dr. Kowar has informed us that the Academy will be making the book available on Amazon as well.
James Dundon has launched a 24/7 online website playing mechanical music. He says, “It’s a project I’ve been working on for sometime, and last night I hit the button and put it live. At the moment it’s in ‘test transmission’ stages playing continuous music. It’s actual launch will be this Sunday 1st April at 9 am. Please can you help me spread the word. Share news about this to anyone you think might be interested. You can find out all about the station and tune in now.
“We are on Facebook and Twitter under ‘Mechanical Music Radio.’ Also you might be able to help me with some music. I’m looking for iconic instruments from around the world. If you have a CD you have released, or a personal recording you’re particularly proud of, please be in touch. You can post, wetransfer or dropbox the audio to be for broadcast. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Tune into the radio station at http://www.mechanicalmusicradio.com/