Subsections


INSTRUMENTS FOR SILENT FILMS

This section also includes information on combinations of pianofortes and reed organs. These are sometimes referred to in the piano literature as ``organised'' pianos.

T. Dawkins (c.1893)

Thomas Dawkins and business partner Manns, were granted British Patent number 16,411 in 1893 for a reed organ attachment for an upright piano.This was named the Clarion and had three octaves from F to f. It could be built into a piano which would then have an extra pedal for supplying wind. It had a Tremolo stop.


J. Humphreys (1867-1935)

Humphreys built a number of reed organs of various sizes up to 3MP/17, see Chapter 10.

Their contribution to this chapter is a combined suction reed organ and 7-octave piano by Rintoul Bros. of London. The 5-octave reed organ had a break at 28-33 notes on the keyboard.

It is possible that only one instrument was built. It is now well know as described below, but still in need of restoration.

Cambridge Reed Organs

This was advertised on the Cambridge Reed Organ Web site, Jan'2004. It is a large Humphreys F compass reed organ (61 notes) with integrated 83 note piano.It has 10 full reed ranks plus 16 or 17 half ranks making 1,149 reeds in total. It was designed as a one man orchestra to accompany silent films. It is probably one of the largest single manual reed organs ever made. It is thought that only one other was built, whose whereabouts or continued existence are not known.

The reeds are located in the top of the case (5:7 sets), above the stop knobs (6:7 sets) and below the keyboard (6:6 sets).

Single manual, 85 notes.
58 stops
F compass reed organ covers 61 notes  with spit at G#/A below middle c. 

Bottom row (bass stops)            Top row (treble stops)	     
Dulcet 4'                          Cor Anglais 8'       
Cello 8'                           Violin 8'       
Saxhorn 8'                         Saxhorn 8'       
Second Touch                       Second Touch       
Sub Bass 16'                       Baryton 32'       
Bourdon 16'                        Bourdon 16'       
Diapason 8'                        Diapason 8'       
Dulciana 8'                        Dulciana 8'       
Principal 4'                       Principal 4'       
Contra Bass 16'                    Solo horn 8'       
Seraphone 8'                       Seraphone 8'       
Horn Forte                         Viola 4'       
Fan Tremolo                        Swell Organ       
Bass Pianoforte Off                Treble Pianoforte Off      
Oboe Forte                         Solo Organ       
Bass Point                         Melody        
Pedal Violone 16'                  Melodic Viol 16'      
Gemshorn 2'                        Melodic Clarinet 8'      
Aeolian Harp 2'                    Melodic Musette 8'      
Pedal Flute 4'                     Melodic Flute 4'      
Saxophone 8'                       Saxophone 8'       
Bassoon 8'                         Oboe 8'        
Clarion 4'                         Clarion 4'       
General Forte                      Solo Flute 8'       
Piano                              Melodia 8'       
Flageolet 1'                       Clarabella 8'       
Dolce 2'                           Aeoline 8'       
Dulcet 4'                          Ventil        
Flute Dolce 4'                     blank stopface               

2 knee levers (swing)
3 knee levers (push in)
4 heel levers
2 standard piano pedals.

Some of the following photographs are © Cambridge reed Organs.

Humphries_01_medium.jpg

More pictures

More recent pictures

It is possible to download a PDF with more details of this remarkable instrument which was still for sale in spring of 2011.

[details of PDF file location]

This is clearly not a standard combination, and much effort has gone into its construction. Pam Fluke noted that many devices were used to get different sound qualities from the reeds. Whilst most are suction reeds, in the top (Solo) organ the centre row are pressure reeds and in its own box with leather pouches. The Solo has 7 sets in treble, 5 in bass plus a Sub Bass making 445 reeds in total.

The Middle organ has 7 sets of treble reeds and 5 bass sets making a total of 393 reeds.

The Lower organ has 6 sets in both treble and bass making 305 in total.

One row has a top mute with paper over it; some reed boxes have their own forte flaps. May different scales of reeds were used - some broad and some narrow. The lowest 32' reeds are weighted.


R.F. Stevens (1853-1980)

Unit Reed Organ models A, B and C

See Section 17 for these instruments made in the style of 1920s cinema organs.

Piano attachment

Stevens also identified a market for an instrument small enough to be played with the piano by one player. In 1905 they produced a pair of small 5-octave harmoniums built to be placed under the fall of a pianoforte, so that the pianist could still make use of the piano pedals yet instantly move slightly to one side to change over to the second instrument. The scale was C-c and they were fitted with an Expression stop.

Combined piano and organ

A picture of this is shown by Gellerman [72] Figure 403, p255. This is mentioned in the Flukes' article [63] as being an instrument ``produced expressly for picture theatre work''. There was one example in the British Piano Museum at Kew. There is also a Musical Opinion article about this from 1962 [203].

Pam Fluke notes that this was a large instrument, 5'h x4'9''w x3'd in an oak case. It had 3 ranks of reeds, a full 7-octave over-strung upright piano, and the following specification: Piano cut-out, Clairon 4', Bourdon 16', Cor Anglais 8', Grand Jeu, Grand Organ, Melodia 8', Clarinette 16', Flute 4', Tremolo, Zither. It has two knee swells.

A contemporary advert noted: This instrument has full Organ tone and is not muffled under the keyboard, but built clear above the Piano, the result being that, although the ensemble of instruments are prefectly synchronised, the tone of one is not affected by any other being played at the same time. Positively a One Man Orchestra. Any instrument can be played separately or all can be played together by one operator on one keyboard. Price 95 Guineas..

rfg-1909.jpg

G. Taylor (c.1907)

George Taylor, of 39 Leroy Street, London, patented a reed organ attachment in 1907 which was designed to fit under the fall of a piano.It could be played alone, as could the piano, or both played together. He claimed to be able to incorporate as many stops as desired.

Tyler Apparatus Co. Ltd. (c.1915)

This company of Gerrard Street, London, made the Tyler Orchestral Grand, a theatre organ which included piano, reed organ, bells, zither and harp. They went on to build and sell motor-cycles such as the Metro-Tyler.


Whomes Ltd. (1878-1960)

Edmund Whomes of 240-2 Broadway, Bexleyheath, near London invented the Orgapian, a combined piano and reed organ and held several patents, including 222378/14 and 21526/24. These were sold for cinemas. Around 80 Orgapians were prepared, but only 30 finished. Some of them were exported. Early models were built into Franz Liehr of Liebnitz pianos, later ones Squire Longson pianos. There was a smaller model called the Cinema Reed Organ or Orchestera-ette which did not have the built in piano.

The company was run by Edmund Whomes, E. De Gruchy Whomes and Walter S. Whomes and later was simply known as Whomes Ltd. They were still in retail operation in 1998.

The Orgapian was built to accompany silent films and said to be equivalent to a 6-piece orchestra. There were other combined piano and reed organs as explained in this chapter, but Whomes arguably built the best ones. The problem with all of of them, was keeping the piano in tune with the reeds, which required regular maintenance and stable temperature and climate conditions.

Some details from the patent for the under-keyboard action are shown in the following diagram. This shows the stop action, worked by levers and communicating to the mutes (at the bottom of the figure) by tracker wires. The keys press down on the adjustable pitman, ``d'' which opens an unusual double pallet. with a single spring at the opposite end. Between this and the mutes are the reed cells arranged vertically. The full 6 ranks are shown. It is possible that the whole arrangement was inside the windchest with the pallets and swells outside. This would explain Brian's comments below.

This is nevertheless a very interesting change to the usual American organ arrangement.

whomes_patent_small.jpg

There is some debate about how effective this instrument was, based on the few surviving examples. Brian Styles played the one at Saltaire, which is in excellent condition. Even so, he found it ``lacklustre''. Ian Thompson provided a few additional comments and some technical details: Pallets that open ``against'' the wind are a nice feature, though the mutes - which of course open ``with'' the wind need very strong springs. The whole thing is very original and not at all derived from everyday suction RO practice, which is one reason that I find it so fascinating. The pneumatically actuated Sub-Bass is thunderous. In other words the Orgapian's shortcomings stem from its basic design, but from conscious choices made by the builder. Phil Fluke told me the sad story of how the Whomes family had deliberately broken up what is believed to have been the last surviving RO-only instrument - not combined with a piano. Did it have a treble 4', and-or an Octave Coupler? I would love to have heard it!

The instrument was advertised as follows:

The Orgapian, first manufactured in 1914, consistently improved every since. By far the finest proposition for film accompaniment and interludes. A scientific combination of the Whomes Cinema Reed Organ (with electric blower) and the Whomes Upright Grand Cinema Piano. A robust, well designed engineering job.

Organ specification: Bass (30 notes): Principal 4', Dulciana 8', Diapason 8', Cello 16', Bourdon 16', Sub Bass 16', Bassoon 8'; Treble (31 notes): Principal 4', Dulciana 8', Diapason 8', Cello 16', Bourdon 16', Voic Celeste 8'. With 13 stop levers, 379 reeds, and a sustaining bass lever (for pedal bass effect).

Model II £265 complete with rotary blower (one third horse power), electric blower in ferro concrete silencine box. The blower can be paced at any distance within 12' from the Orgapian.

Carriage paid UK, free installation within 100 miles. Deferred payments - £20-10s with order and 12 monthly payments of £21-1/4d.

A personal examination of the instrument, with a demonstration of its effects, would convince you, absolutely, that all we claim for it is justified. For that reason, we would welcome a visit from you to our works, where would be afforded you a complete insight concerning the construction of the Orgapian and proof of its capabilities.

I have never seen any contemporary reviews or found reference to Theatres or Cinemas actually using these instruments, but the following was also published entitled ``Some of its Advantages''.

Piano alone. Organ alone or together. Soft as a whisper or as loud as an orchestra of five or six, and always played with one musician only, from one keyboard.

Where ``talkies'' and the electric gramophone are installed, a cinema organ is necessary. The public are inclined to tire of reproduced music if un-relieved by personally played music.

The organ of the Orgapian gives the music of a cinema organ. Your orgapianist has both the cinema organ and the piano at his command, to be played singly or together.

If you now have an orchestra of five or six, the Orgapian and one musician to play it will replace that orchestra, or if you have an orchestra of ten or twelve the Orgapian will enable you to reduce that number by five or six, without reducing volume or variety.

No orchestra can ``fit'' the picture as does a properly handled Orgapian. As a solo instrument there is nothing to excel the Orgapian.

Many picture theatres employ an orchestra only for evenings and special shows. The Orgapian alone will give your patrons good music all the time, and help to fill the seats of your theatre.

Every man in your orchestra means, say, a cost of from three to six pounds per week, and it is there that the Orgapian comes in. Not only is the player your pianist, but he is also our organist and equivalent to five or six orchestra men. A Model III Orgapian installation complete costs less than £6 per week for a year.

Our maintenance service ensures that the Orgapian is kept in good order by us - the actual manufacturers - at a nominal annual cost. This relieves owners and intending purchasers of any anxiety as to maintaining the instrument in the best possible condition.

A good business proposition, but I wonder what established orchestra players made of it?

Saltaire Museum Orgapian - ROS DB entry 397

ROS DB entry 397 has an instrument listed by Whomes. It has serial number 67 from c.1924 and is finished in oak veneer. It has a standard 85 key piano keyboard with A-a range and 61-key reed organ range from FFF-f'', knee swells and electric blower. Stops from left to right are: Bassoon 8', Sub Bass 16', Bourdon 16', Cello 16', Diapason 8', Dulciana 8', Principal 4', Principal 4', Dulciana 8', Diapason 8', Cello 16', Bourdon 16', Voix Celeste 8'. Stops are sliding levers below the keyboard on each side of the player. There are 6-1/2 ranks of reeds.

The piano is by Franz Liehr with the reed organ built underneath and connected to the keys. Justin Hartz notes: While I've never seen one of these this particular piano appears to have an overstrung scale. The action is not the old fashioned "squirrel cage" design (with dampers over the hammers) so it should be easier to regulate than some "cottage' pianos. The cast iron plate appears to be "full" although the pinblock is open faced (as opposed to a 3/4 plate) makes this vertical piano slightly more "modern" for a European vertical from 1910. American vertical pianos actually featured full plates and 88 key compass well before this.

This instrument came from a small Bethania chapel in south Wales c.1982. They had been using it as a piano for some time as the electric components were no longer working. The label on the case reads as follows:

The Orgapian Inventors, Patentees and Manufacturers
            Patent 22378/14 215206/24
           Model II E. Whomes and Sons
     240-242 Broadway. Bexley Heath, nr. London

Photo ©the Fluke Collection.

whomes.jpg

ROS-0397.jpg

Orgapian on e-Bay

These instruments are now very rare, so it was a real surprise to see one listed on e-Bay on 14/1/06. Clearly the vendor knew what it was and also of the existence of the Saltaire example.

This one is said to have been built in 1910 (so may be number 59) and has the Franz Liehr piano plus six ranks of reeds. Pam Fluke noted that No.59 was originally used by a touring cinema group. The list of stops is the same as above and it has a blower.

The seller was in Cadishead near Manchester and is an organ enthusiast. See Web site at http://members.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=windchest

It was purchased by Rowland Lee, a composer and pianist, see http://www.rowlandlee.com. He told me it was I who bought the Whomes Orgapian which was recently advertised on Ebay. This instrument is unfortunately much more of a wreck than the auction description led one to believe and is currently unplayable. I am delighted to have it, however, and I have stored it safely until my Aeolian project is completed, when I will give it my full attention. Incidentally, I have subsequently discovered that this instrument was once owned by Paul Morris, from whom I bought my Aeolian Organ, and who has given a performance on the Orgapian in Saltaire [recently], accompanying a silent film.

RFG DB entry 4843 shows this Orgapian with case shut.

rfg-4843.jpg

One more known

Ian Thompson told us that an RO only (with no piano) Orgapian was built but very sadly broken up by the makers over 30 years ago.

Rob Allan
2016-12-24