June 30, 2003 Bellefontaine, Ohio

Advantages of MIDI Operating Systems
for Mechanical Band Organs

Reprinted with permission from Mr. Tony Decap, Gebroeders Decap Herentals, Belgium
(Originally submitted to and printed within Mechanical Music Digest On-Line MMD062503)

From: decaporgels@planetinternet.be.geentroep (Tony Decap)
To:     editor@foxtail.com (Mechanical Music Digest)
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 15:39:14 +0200

Subject: Adding MIDI Control To an Existing Instrument

I'm glad that so many people are thinking about the advantage of adding a MIDI system to their mechanical musical instruments. It really makessense if you think about it.

As said before, I personally give priority to music over mechanics. But why would we not settle for both? A MIDI system, if well designed, can be added and removed at will, so there will be no decrease of the instruments value whatsoever.

We, working for people who have to work almost daily with mechanical music instruments for their living, have known for years that a mechanical music instrument also has to be practical. If a customer has hundreds of people dancing to the music of his music machine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and regularly during the week, he has no time to keep an eye on the mechanics and intervene every time the mechanics go wrong.

I would like to share two examples of our experiences.

1.  About eight or nine years ago, we got a call from Papa Joe's, a pub in Cologne, Germany, that displays a selection of old mechanical music instruments. One instrument was a cylinder-played 52-key Gebr. Bruder barrel organ. This machine played not at all well, and showed problems every time it was played. It was a constant headache for the owner.

Nobody could see the mechanics inside the organ, so removing the drum would mean no loss in visual value. We removed all original parts not needed, and stored them a custom-built case for safekeeping. Then we installed our MIDI system.

After the conversion, the instrument played as never before. It then became clear how well the pipes are voiced, and how fantastic is the balance between the different pipe ranks. 'Thumbs up' for Gebr. Bruder! Since the MIDI conversion we haven't received one call about the organ.

2.  Five years ago we delivered a newly built 121-key organ to a dance palace. (If you would want to know more about a Belgian dance palace, visit http://www.klessens.be).

The owner, Mr. Gust Klessens, worked his whole life in that trade (he inherited the dance palace business from his father). When he was 72, after leaving his business to his sons, he decided to build a new palace to replace his favourite palace that burned down. He worked about seven years on this amazing dance temple.

He also wanted a new 121-key dance organ. This type of organ provided music in those dance tents for many years. He had the choice to have a keyframe for book music built in his organ, but Gust (now in his eighties) was no ordinary man. He went for a computer with our software. So (and this is five years ago), he installed four TV screens in his palace connected to the PC, and put the remote control in his pocket.

Now, every weekend the place is packed, and while he is talking to all the people, or dancing the night away, upon the request of the man standing next to him he pulls the remote control out of his pocket and selects one of the 1000 songs stored in the PC. He looks at one of the four TV screens to confirm his selection.

If he chooses a song containing lyrics, the lyrics are shown on the TVscreens in karaoke style, and the whole place is singing along. If no lyrics are in the song, the TV screens can show pictures of the time when the organ and palace were built, or the TV shows an animation of some ranks of pipes playing, etc.

Gust's comment: "Anybody who thinks that I'm going to spend the last of my years _behind_ the organ playing books, while the action is in front of the organ, is gravely mistaken". He is a real character!

We hope that more people loosen up a little. Change does not always have to be for the worse.

Tony Decap
Herentals, Belgium

For more information please contact:

(937) 593-5709 Phone • (937) 593-5553 Fax

[close this window]