Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 27 January 2013

Over the years, street organs seemed to have become less and less in evidence in Amsterdam. Bearing in mind what I'm guessing must be quite a cost in getting and maintaining one, it can't be easy to make much of a living from them. But this weekend, I not only saw one in one of the main shopping streets in Amsterdam, but also in the middle of some fairly heavy snow in Utrecht: maybe the Saturday shopping crowds brought them out.

In Utrecht, too, you can surfeit yourself at Museum Speelklok with all kinds of draaiorgels, circus organs, hurdy-gurdies, pianolas, orchestrions, polyphons, musical boxes, some monsters built for dance halls, and some strange mechanical musical instruments (I once saw a machine here that played four violins).

Visitors have the chance to wander around some of the many different examples, but the main interest is the tour of selected machines (though this does include plenty of chances for little ones, and one lucky grown-up, to turn a handle). There's even a bit of singsong, as was once traditional, though at least one of the old songsheets on display suggests something rather racier than you might expect.

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