A famous portable barrel organ, first wheeled around the streets of Bath over 70 years ago to help raise money for the City’s original ‘Alkmaar Appeal’, may soon sound again – if enough funds can be raised to pay for its repair.
The venerable instrument – actually a barrel piano, with strings, not pipes – has resided in a place of honour in Alkmaar Town Hall for many decades after it was presented to the Dutch City by the Rotary Club of Bath.
While well maintained, it has not been played for decades, and is very out of tune. Now the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association (BATA) wants to restore the instrument, record it playing again, and upload the historic sounds to the Association’s online digital archive.
BATA Chairman, Martin Broadbent, explained:
“The barrel organ is an historic artifact which embodies the link between Bath and Alkmaar, first forged during the Second World War. In these politically unsettling times, remembering how two cities in different countries helped each other is arguably more important than ever.
“We’re trying to raise £500 to allow the required work to be done, and we hope people in Bath will help us and our colleagues in Alkmaar give this wonderful old instrument its voice back.”
What the out-of-tune organ sounds like now!
Donations can be made online at www.localgiving.org/alkmaar70
With the permission of the Mayor of Alkmaar, a trained technician has examined the barrel organ. It is in good mechanical condition, and should be re-tunable. It seems the instrument may have up to 10 different tunes stored on its metal barrel – more than expected.
Barrel pianos are not subtle instruments: they were designed in the 19th and early 20th centuries for public performance on the street or in pubs, long before the days of electric jukeboxes, let along personal hi-fi.