After a quick tube ride and a very short walk to their lovely home, we sat down to a delicious dinner and the first of several evenings of wonderful company and great conversation. I think we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow and when we awoke the next morning it was in great excitement because Jenny had a marvelous day planned out for us!
It was with great anticipation that we headed off to the Musical Museum in Brentford. This is a fabulous collection of instruments that rely on some sort of mechanical technology. Think about player pianos or orchestrions, pianolas or grammaphones. (The one below is an American music box by the Regina company, 1899.)
Even that music box you loved as a child relied on a mechanism that made the music happen. Each selection on the disk played for 55 seconds.
This delightful museum is small and off the beaten path. (We were in a car but it is about 15 minute walk from the Kew Gardens tube station.) It is well worth finding if you enjoy music because the guided tour is delightful and the museum itself is a treasure..
The museum began as a private passion by Frank W. Holland who eventually created a charity for the long-term preservation of his personal collection. As the museum grew with donations, it outgrew its original home in a vandalized church not far from the present site, which is also climate controlled to protect the instruments.
Staffed by volunteers, each guide has favorite instruments which they demonstrate to those in their group. Jenny says that every tour is a little bit different because different guides have different favorites so one can see a variety of instruments demonstrated.
I really enjoyed our charming and well-informed guide, Marcus. He started out with a lovely music box and then moved on to player pianos and other instruments. (Did you know that all those tiny holes in a player piano roll allow for air to be released and it is that air, from the pumping of the pedals, that produces the sounds? I didn't!)
I loved this one -- it was a coin-operated instrument that included a piano sound as well as that of a violin that played itself!
This is a different version of the same concept.
And this was my favorite instrument -- an orchestrion. The front had lights that flashed on and off...
...and behind the scenes, you could see the drums beating.
The orchestrion was coin-operated and hails from 1910. back then electric lights were still a novelty so seeing them flash on and off would be something new and exciting. These orchestrions were used in bars and cafes in Northern Europe and this one hails from Germany. Leipzig was a significant manufacturing site for many of these mechanized instruments. It includes a mandolin, glockenspiel, xylophone, drums, cymbals and triangle and operated with paper rolls. Take a look.
We also saw a machine that created those paper rolls. (I still want to know how someone figured that out!)
There are also fun fun displays in cabinets and an adjacent room, taking us to contemporary times. One item that intrigued me was a musical notation typewriter! The photo is a tad fuzzy but you get the idea.
The end of the tour was a treat, too. Museum director Chris Barber joined us for a concert of theatre music on the Wurlitzer organ. You may not remember the days when the organ arose from the orchestra pit of the movie theatre and you had a bit of a concert before the show. I don't. (And you probably don't remember newsreels and cartoons as part of the movie show either. That I do remember!)
It was fun watching Chris play and imagining what it would be like to see this in one of those classic movie palaces. (The museum also shows some silent films with the live organ accompaniment. I would have loved to see one of those!) Here's a video -- probably too long to watch the whole thing but you get an idea of what that Wurlitzer sounded like. (Notice how the panels on the side of the organ change colors about every 15-20 seconds! It was so pretty!)
We could have stuck around forever -- but it was a glorious day and we were hungry so onto lunch at the Rothschild's "little place."
NOTE: I've updated my Gypsy Caravan -- you can click here or on the menu tab above to order 5x7 and smaller note cards from my photos and watercolors. (Original watercolors coming soon!)
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