barrel organ

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barrel organ,

mechanical musical instrument requiring nothing but the regular rotary motion of a handle to keep it going. It probably originated at the beginning of the 18th cent., and was once used extensively in English churches. A revolving cylinder is fitted with pegs that open valves, permitting air to enter a set of organ pipes. Some larger ones have several sets of pipes and various couplers. They can be operated by clockwork, by weights, and by electric motors. A portable type of barrel organ whose cylinder is turned by a hand crank has been mistakenly called hurdy-gurdyhurdy-gurdy,
musical instrument with three strings, caused to vibrate by a wooden wheel turned by a crank. Stopping was accomplished by keys that usually affected only one string that played the melody, the others acting as drones. Usually two players were required.
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, from which it is fundamentally different.

Barrel Organ


a mechanical wind instrument. The barrel organ, a type of portative organ, resembles a small box and consists of bellows, organ pipes in one or more ranks, and cylinders equipped with metal pins. As the cylinder is turned by a hand crank, the pins engage a special mechanism that opens a passage permitting air to reach the pipes; at the same time, air is pumped by means of the bellows. Some barrel organs have replaceable cylinders and can thus perform several musical pieces. The instrument, which first appeared in Western Europe in the 18th century and in Russia in the first quarter of the 19th century, was popular among itinerant musicians. The barrel organ is called a katerynka in the Ukraine and a katarynka in Poland.


Buchner, A. Musikinstrumente im Wandel der Zeiten. Prague, 1956.


barrel organ

1. an instrument consisting of a cylinder turned by a handle and having pins on it that interrupt the air flow to certain pipes, thereby playing any of a number of tunes
2. a similar instrument in which the projections on a rotating barrel pluck a set of strings
References in periodicals archive ?
2 Barrel organs and the organ grinder with his pet monkey;
The lusty Lancashire resort positively rocks along to a raucous symphony of coin-tinkling amusement arcades, shrieking girls on white-knuckle fairground rides, cheery barrel organs and the strident cries of seafront traders selling everything from candy floss to kiss-me-quick hats.
This area was popular because of the availability of cheap housing; its proximity to the Bull Ring which gave the opportunity to earn money by playing barrel organs and later selling ice cream; and the closeness of the St Michael's Roman Catholic centred church on Moor Street.
Includes Victorian performers, barrel organs, ice skating rink, fancy dress competition, craft and charity stalls, face painting, a clairvoyant, Santa''s Grotto, shops, plus Farmers' ' Market.
A former church provides the vast amount of space needed to display such an extensive collection of musical clocks and musical boxes, reed and string instruments, orchestrions (automatic orchestras) and barrel organs.
But before the orchestra strikes up, entertainment with a Victorian theme, such as barrel organs, accordions and 19th-century characters, will be laid on for the crowds picnicking in the Pageant Field.
Street musicians played barrel organs on the street corners, while others played fiddles, banjos, whistles and accordions desperately trying to earn a few coppers.
Moving from Chester to the Midlands, Bonhams' sale room at Knowle, Solihull, stages a fascinating sale on Tuesday when pin-ball machines, one-armed bandits, jukeboxes, barrel organs, nickelodeons and a variety of fairground vending machines are on offer.