Monday
Oct012012

Estey WWII Chaplain's Field Organ

September 30th, was Estey Day in Brattleboro, VT.   Every year, the city celebrates the legacy of the Estey pump organ with performances, classes and factory tours.  In honor of Estey Day, here is my  WWII-era Estey Chaplain's Field Organ:

The Estey Organ Company was founded in Brattleboro, VT in 1863.  For over 100 years, they manufactured hundreds of thousands of reed organs of every size and description.  This model was originally designed for 19th c. missionary work and travelling tent revival shows.  It folds up into a carrying case:

By 1941, the company was producing 500 per month for the US military alone, who used them to accompany religious services in the field.  (Estey also contributed ammunition boxes and pontoon bridges!)

The pump organ uses the same reeds found in harmonicas or accordions.  This one has two foot pedals that operate a bellows inside the case to generate air.  It's a very creaky, haunted house-sounding instrument. 

I first heard it on this record by Ivor Cutler:

Cutler was a Scottish poet, musician and schoolteacher, signed to Virgin records in the early days.  Paul McCartney liked Cutler's BBC radio performances so well that he cast him as Buster Bloodvessel in "Magical Mystery Tour". 

Here's Ivor Cutler at the harmonium, singing "The River Bends"

I wish I'd had this instrument when I was recording "Oh, You Kid!"-- it would have been just the thing for "Ghost Story" and "My Doppelganger"!

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