barrel organ

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

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 that are caused to vibrate by a wooden wheel turned by a crank. Stopping is accomplished by keys that usually affect only the string that plays the melody, the others acting as drones.
..... Click the link for more information.
, 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 ?
Most notably, as tensions escalate in the house during the Fete de la Coliniere, the Marquis forsakes his responsibility to put a stop to the mayhem, instead choosing to exhibit his newly-acquired barrel organ to the remaining audience.
The 56-key organ was built by the Perlee family, the oldest barrel organ builders in Holland.
They held long running residencies at The Railway, The Barrel Organ in Digbeth, The Golden Lion in Solihull and The Elizabethan Days in Stirchley.
A barrel organ, with a monkey on a leash and begging bowl on the ground, played a succession of tunes from the twenties, one hardly distinguishable from another in the din of traffic and sidewalk chatter.
Head for Leidseplein and Dam Square for street theatre, buskers and barrel organ performances.
Visitors will be entertained with a traditional barrel organ, carol singers, a brass quartet and the Three Spires Barbershop singers.
In the gardens Wrexham Brass Band will play two shows each day and there's music of an old barrel organ and a traditional accordion.
Special events on Thursday, December 4 include a travelling fairground with rides and stalls in the Market Place, accompanied by the sounds of a traditional 17ft long barrel organ.
An example of the former is the appearance of Hogarth's Shrimp Girl amongst the revellers in his 1904 canvas Improvisation on a Barrel Organ, whilst many other works including his haunting portrait of Augustus John and The English Nude, whilst both uniquely his own, acknowledge respectively a debt to Whistler's portrait of Carlyle and Rembrandt's Bathsheba at her Bath.
Meanwhile in the background former Health Minister Jane Hutt plays a polka on a barrel organ, until the monkey takes over insisting he can do it more efficiently.
I was home by 2 o'clock, had a rest and started out for my part-time job at the Barrel Organ pub.
Unaware of the magic, a group of comic craftsmen intrude with clumsily angular movements and simple melodies played on a barrel organ.