Organs of distinction John Page, Organ Builder

89-key Fair organ

Teddy Bear's Picnic
, played on this organ

There are probably more 89-key fair organs around than any other type. It evolved from the 87-key of Gavioli et Cie, which was originally barrel operated. Gavioli used their newly invented cardboard book music system. There were no registers on the 87-key, so registers are the main improvement. They evolved several types: G1, G2, G3 and G4, with minor differences between each. The musical notes remained identical, based on the original 87-key layout, so the music arrangements were easy to convert.

My new 89-key was of the G4 type. It was commissioned by Jimmy Graham, showman of Glasgow, for use in his gallopers. Completed in 1992, it is the first 89-key organ to be built for a showman since the 1920s, and contains 276 pipes. Please refer to the scale.

This bespoke 24-inch Woody White figure was decorated by Anna Page, who also researched the costume from historic records. It is fitted with the usual three movements. Originally made for this organ, but was retained by the Graham family when the organ was sold.

The façade was carved by Woody White of Weston Super Mare and decorated by Neddy Mathews.

It is now proudly owned and operated by Stuart Dobbs of Nottingham.

Building the organ

After my re-build of the 48-key Verbeeck organ for Jimmy Graham, he was so pleased he ordered a new 89-key organ to replace it in his gallopers. A trip to his fair in London in October 1988 gave me the chance to measure up for the organ. The space was tight, to say the least, so I needed some head-scratching at the drawing-board. Space was restricted not only in width but in depth too, so I decided to place the counter-melody saxophones separately at the front.

The organ's action uses conventional "off-note" chests for the various ranks of pipes, mounted on a large wind-box. These can be seen in the picture (above left). Action wind to these chests is supplied by a relay at the back, with the pneumatic action tubing mounted inside the wind-box. Registers are actuated by pneumatic ventils fitted into the wind-box from underneath. The picture (above right) shows a brass 16' clarinet rank. It was from Jimmy Graham's Verbeeck, which I had swapped for a new trumpet - I believed it to be more suitable in the larger organ, playing on "forte".
Also on the "forte" register is a rank of reeds playing on accompaniment. They are mounted on the "riser"  with register control from pallets mounted within the channelling in the riser board. The picture (above left) shows these pallets - seen upside-down on the work bench. The pallets are all opened from a common pouch. The picture shows the action on one side, with bass channels on the left and clarinet on the right. The pouch block can just be seen (above right), before the reeds were installed.
Above left: the melody 8' clarinets mounted in front of the brass clarinets, before the violins and smallest counter-melody trumpets were installed. Above right: Anna assembling the glockenspiel. The chromed steel bars are suspended vertically by slicone-sleeved screws. These bars have a cross-section proportion of 3:1, reinforcing the third harmonic, naturally blending with the pipework. Their suspension points are two ninths of the bars' lengths from their top ends, which are the nodal points, the position of least vibration, preserving the maximum "ring" to the sound.
Above left: That's me installing the back rank of violins, behind the pneumatic stack of bandmaster actions. On the left are one half of the piccolos. Above right: I am adjusting the clarinet mixture pipes while the works cat "Gavioli" waits for me to finish before inspecting the job. Below: the finished organ as seen in the workshop doorway in Pembroke Dock. When finished the façade was fitted to the organ in Jimmy Graham's premises in Glasgow.

© 2017, John Page
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