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Juergen L. Hemm

Mechanical Music at Fuerth Fair

October 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM

The Octoberfest in Munich may be better known, but some 100 miles farther north the citizens of Fuerth celebrate their traditional "Kerwa" (carr-wah) for centuries longer - all the way back to 1100, the year St. Michael was completed.

The specialty: this event takes place right in the city center, for 2 weeks blocking traffic through the busy downtown section, merry-go-rounds, roller coasters, ferris wheels and other attractions lining the streets together with market stalls where you can buy everything and anything (pictures and further information).

Before the advent of PA and electronic equipment, there were calliopes. This years fair showcases three beautiful historic mechanical instruments that play every half hour for 20 minutes - free entrance.

This instrument

has a range of 67 tones and the following registers: tuba, trumpet, 3 violins, drone, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, bells, 3 registers "Mixtur", 2 registers for rhythm. It was built in 1920 by the Wrede family in Hanover and is owned by the Kalb family in Nuremberg since 1947.

The next calliope

covers the range of contra f up to f''. Tuba, trumpet, sub bass, cello, violin, "Mixtur", "Gedackt", ocarina, "Subbourdon", 2 flute registers, bass drum and cymbals, bells - 368 sound creating entities total add up to a gross weight of 1.3 metric tons. It was built 1942 - 1944 and is owned by the Braun company in Nuremberg.

The biggest instrument

is owned by the Kunstmann family and was refurbished and enlarged in 1978 by Voigt in Frankfurt/Main. It was built in 1919 by the Bruder company in Waldkirch. There are 353 "voices", percussion and 3 animated puppets. 12 registers, a bass drum and bells complete the outfit.

The music program is stored on heavy, zig-zag-folded paper; producing those was is an art nowadays almost completely lost - together with the materials and parts one needs to maintain those complicated machines.

For those of you interested in music automatons, visit Siegfried's Music Cabinet at Rüdesheim. There you can see some approaches to integrating string instruments into mechanical instruments - generally using a hurdy gurdy "bowing" method and pneumatically activated "fingers" to stop the strings.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 10, 2008 at 6:32 AM
Those calliopes are stunning. Thanks for posting the photos and the text.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 10, 2008 at 11:16 AM
Beautiful instruments!
From Bram Heemskerk
Posted on October 10, 2008 at 2:39 PM
They are also popular in Holland :
Draaiorgels (Turn-organ)

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