Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hello, London! A Musical Welcome.

Is there anything nicer than getting off a train in a strange city and being greeted by two smiling faces? That's how we felt when we arrived at London St. Pancras and were greeted by blogger Jenny Woolf (English Travel Writer) and her husband, T. If there is any heart-city, soul place in my world, it is England and I was looking forward to two three weeks of exploring London and places farther afield. (Yes, I love Paris. But England is "home.")


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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37 comments:

Sandra Cox said...

All kinds of wonders here. Not least of all, a typewriter with musical notations and friends across the water.

David Gascoigne said...

This is obviously a very fine start to your visit to England Jeanie. Your hosts seem delightful and it is always a great pleasure to meet fellow bloggers. Was this a first encounter or did you know them previously? The evening meal looks quite splendid and I am sure it was delicious. That all important bottle of wine graced the table and if I am not mistaken that is a loaf of rustic bread in the foreground, perhaps in tribute, knowingly or not, to Rick’s bread making prowess. The visit to this quirky museum seems right up your street and the people there to explain it all proficient, and no doubt immersed in their field of expertise. Your friends obviously knew what might tickle your fancy! I am sure that the average tourist never finds these gems, and more’s the pity. I will look forward to additional accounts of your adventures in Blighty!

Pamela said...

How interesting! Great that you had a tour guide.

Lynne said...

The music museum sounds/looks delightful.
Such a treat to have a local show you, tell you about places to see.
Very nice of Jenny . . .
I bet Rick enjoyed the music museum as well!
Any mail today??

Jean R. said...

The musical notes typewriter was especially fascinating. I always wondered how people wrote music out other than with pen and paper. Great museum!

David Gascoigne said...

Hi Jeanie: My email address is theospreynest@sympatico.ca.

Mae Travels said...

You make it sound so fantastic: and I'm sure it was. If you want to see a theater organ rise out of the floor, be played for a while, and then sink back again, you should come to the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor where this tradition still lives. Many of the films are preceded by songs on the organ. You might have to listen to "Hail to the Victors," though.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

La Table De Nana said...

How positively COOL you met up w/ peeps there also!
So true to your outgoing natures..
We're so solitary for trips..astoundingly so.
Same kind of different;)
I bet London is so beautiful..all I see on IG is stupendous!

William Kendall said...

What a cool museum!

Marilyn Miller said...

I loved hearing the music and reading about this museum. What fun! I bet Rick really enjoyed it. As a little girl I loved playing the player piano.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that you didn't mention that we drove over the place on Abbey Road where The Beatles did the photo shoot for the album and that we saw some people "recreating" the scene.

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

Enjoyed taking the tour via your photos! Definitely an unusual tour that my husband would love!

My name is Erika. said...

How fun to meet up with and stay with a blog friend. And they took you to a really unique place. What a great way to start a trip. You get to be a local and not a tourist. :) Hugs-Erika

Iris Flavia said...

That sounds like a perfect start you had there! :-)
Interesting items to play music and great they actually did that, too!
Really awesome with what kind of concepts people came up with!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Lucky, lucky you. I've seen Jenny on several blogs I visit, and was blown away by her generosity. That museum was out of this world. Such a different and unique one. Certainly off the beaten path. Did you get to go to Kew Gardens? It's high on my list if I ever get to London.

Valerie-Jael said...

Lucky you to be in London, my wonderful home town. That's a great museum, too. When ever I visit London I spend most of my time in museums. Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a fabulous museum that as a musician I would love. These are the kind of places that a local might know about that would be hard for a tourist to research and find. We have a beautiful and historic theater in Birmingham that has the mighty Wurlitzer organ and we have enjoyed lovely concerts there. Thank you for sharing this fascinating post.

BB said...

What and interesting tour. Thank you.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Jeanie

Your London trip did get off to a great start with your friend at the train station. It is wonderful you were able to stay with Jenny and spend time touring with friends. The museum is wonderful, the instruments are amazing. Love the photos. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

Victoria Zigler said...

Sounds like a perfect start to your London trip.

Oh, and... Yes. I did know that about the pianos and the air. Saw it on one of those how it works type shows once.

Liz@ HomeandGardeningWithLiz said...

How fun! That typewriter is really unusual. That would be a whole new learning curve! Love hearing the old Wurlitzer being played. Enjoy your time there!

Sami said...

Lovely to be greeted by friends in a foreign city Jeanie.
What a wonderful and quirky museum, never seen most of those musical instruments.
I too remember newsreels and cartoons when going to movies.

Joanne Huffman said...

What a delightful first day adventure!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

If I ever get to England I'll use your posts to plan some of my trip!

Pom Pom said...

Wow! That's pretty amazing!

NanaDiana said...

Jeanie- What a FASCINATING tour! My gosh!!! I would have been in music heaven there. My son had a music store for about 5 years and then sold it. He loves music as does our whole family.
I can' wait to hear more about your trip. xo Diana

Pam Jackson said...

Oh How great it is when you meet people you blog with. I have yet to meet other bloggers but I have been honored to meet three ladies that I met via internet on another site called clubmom (closed now)...we continued to Facebook. It was so fun. Looks like you had a great time. Nice dinner and lots of sites to see.

Jenny Woolf said...

How fun to see our day through your eyes, Jeanie! It was such fun, and I see from the blog that you noticed some things that I didn't. Your pictures also reminded me of the fantastic Polaine loaf you and Rick brought along from Paris, which lasted us all week :)

Preppy Empty Nester said...

It Sounds like a fabulous experience, Jeanie. Isn't it great meeting fellow bloggers? Love your travel posts.

Parisbreakfasts said...

So much fun! And the idea of 3-4 weeks in the UK is very appealing.
Lucky you Jeanie

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Fascinating place to visit and so much fun!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

As a music lover, this museum sounds delightful! I bet Rick really really loved it given his passion for music! I bet having a guide made it even more amazing - especially a guide with a British accent! (I love their accents!)

Sandra Cox said...

Your arrival meal looks absolutely luscious.
Have a great one.

Tracy said...

Oooohhh... England is my soul-place to, always has been! So glad to see it again thanks to you, Jeanie! And how lovely to go there and be welcomed by friends! :) Must say, I didn't know about this Musical Museum. My TJ would love this... Fascinating!! ((HUGS))

Carola Bartz said...

What a gorgeous and fun place to visit!

Running on empty said...

How wonderful that you visit fellow bloggers around the world (hint hint hint, wink wink wink. )

roughterrain crane said...

I am interested in the machines in your photos. Thanks for sharing. Happy sunday to you.

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