A bevy of organ grinders from the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association (AMICA) and the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) will join the History Day celebration at the Coney Island History Project and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park on Saturday, August 10, from 1pm – 6pm. The rally was curated by Bob Yorburg, a band organ restorer, magician and carousel carver, who performed at the History Project last season and restored Grandma’s Predictions for Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.
“Hand cranked organs have appeared throughout the streets of New York and in Coney Island for nearly 100 years,” says Yorburg, who explains that cranking the organ moves a bellows that provides air to sound the pipes. A roll of paper with holes punched in it creates the music that you hear. “You would often hear people singing along to the music. This form of entertainment predates all other forms of musical reproduction including radio, television and electronic media. Now, for one day only, we are bringing back these free performances with strolling and stationary organs.”
Organ Grinder Lola and Master Bob, originally from Baden-Baden, Germany and now based in the Washington, DC area, will appear on the Dreamland Plaza stage on West 12th Street at 3pm. “We’ll perform German Moritaten, 19th century street ballads of broken hearts, murder and mayhem,” says Lola. “And, of course, the most famous Moritat of them all, ‘Mackie Messer,’ gangster rap from 1920s Berlin. Plus other fun sing-along songs in English, like the Ballad of Anne Boleyn! Great fun.”
Ian Fraser, age 12, of Staten Island, is one of the youngest members of COAA and will perform on Saturday in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park. He is the proud owner of a Celestina Organette, a small hand-cranked organ built in 1881 by the Mechanical Orguinette Co of New York. Ian has performed at band organ rallies at Knoebels, Quassy, Wurlitzer, and Olcott Beach.
Members of the New York chapter of AMICA performing on History Day include Vincent and Maryam Morgan on their Castlewood organ in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Kiddie Park; Buzz Rosa and Barbara on their Hofbauer organ and Jerry and Cheryl Maler, also on a German Hofbauer organ, in front of the Coney Island History Project; and Bill and Rita Sharkey with their Jager & Brommer Organ, alternating with Bob Stuhmer and Walter Kehoe on Accordeon, at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Gazebo on the Boardwalk.
“You will hear an art form that all but died a half a century ago,” says Yorburg. “It is now experiencing a renaissance that will be shared for free by enthusiasts. These people have restored, built and bought organs that will be shared with the public.” Throughout the day, spectators will have the chance to crank some of the organs and experience a thrill from days gone by.