Mrs. McK. Twombley-Vanderbilt's Duo-Art organ player
This wonderful device was designed to play
the fully automatic Duo-Art organ rolls that controlled all aspects
of the pipe organ: notes, stops, couplers and swell movements. Rolls
made for it were in effect records of a performance, and in this way
we are able to hear how some of the most famous organists of the
'teens and 'twenties interpreted music that was popular then.
Mrs. Twombley of Morristown New Jersey, one of the richest
women in the United States, had it so that “on Tuesdays, when the
men from The Aeolian Company came to service the organ, it could be
used as a final test to see all was in order” Mrs. Twombley had
lavish musicales for hundreds of guests, when a real live organist
would be employed (more often than not Archer Gibson) so the marvels
of this player were never fully exploited.
Collenette and I came across it in Laconia in 2001 it had been
rebuilt rather cheaply using plastic tube which had gone rotten and
sticky, and subsequently colonised by small rodents who did what
rodents do a lot of. Most of their activity centred around the roll
motor, but additionally, evidence of their bodily functions could be
found by the magnets for the “pedal upper” and “normal/reverse”
motors. It was not nice.
The following gallery shows
components as they were restored, and additionally the fine case
built by the late, and sadly missed Ron Hamlin, then well into his
eighties. I showed Ron a picture of a Duo-Art cabinet “of simple
design” from an original publication, and Ron literally did the
rest, including the beautifully hand carved corbels. Quite simply,
his workmanship was exquisite.
The player was first used publicly during a
visit from AMICA members on a convention in England that year, and
has given great joy ever since. It is the player that has played all
the rolls on the various Duo-Art CDs
that have been issued.
Anyone wanting restoration work done on
their Duo-Art Player is welcome to contact
me for more details.
Click on images below to
player as found 1.
player as found 2.
Close up showing
rotting pipes and
rodent urine damage.
Ron Hamlin in
his workshop with
the case in progress.
Detail of the
with lid removed.
The Duo-Art player with
the console of organ Op. 1431.