Hi everyone, My name is Willy van der Reijden. I live in Almelo, The
Netherlands, about 130 km east of Amsterdam. I am a retired electronic
design engineer and have been designing variable speed drives for
3-phase squirrel-cage motors and static UPS systems up to the 500 kW
About 15 years ago I got the pieces of what had been a large orches-
trion of Frati, Berlin. There were also about 110 music rolls. This
orchestrion had been in use until WW2 in a town called Oldenzaal, near
the German border. When I received the pieces, woodworms were very
busy eating the wooden parts. To stop their destructive work I stored
all the parts at minus 35 degrees centigrade for about three months.
(It was a hot summer and this thermal shock was apparently sufficient
to kill the woodworms). The instrument was not complete.
There was no cabinet and wind machine, and the piano was thrown away
because of a very bad condition, so I was told. The rest of the
instrument was almost complete. I decided to restore the orchestrion.
After a lot of phone calls I found out that there is an orchestrion
of Bacigalupo in "Das Maerkischen Museum" in Berlin, that uses the roll
mechanics of Frati. So I went twice to Berlin to see this orchestrion.
Mr. Horst Riesebeck, who had restored this instrument, was so kind to
tell me all about the tubing and other technical details important for
reconstructing the Frati. The last four years, after my retirement,
I could spent more time for this project.
For the time being, I decided to design an optical tracker bar by
inserting fiber optics in the existing 103 holes in the wooden tracker
bar. I had an interesting correspondence with Lee Roan, who also
designed an optical tracker bar. To proceed, I bought a second-hand
piano and modified it into a piano player a la Frati. I was lucky that
the old hammers and the bellows of the orchestrion were not thrown
away, so that I could copy the mechanical principle to the replacing
piano. Even switching the modes "piano left", "piano right", "sustain"
"loud-soft" and "harp effect" is now working as original.
A couple of weeks ago I succeeded in letting the piano play the rolls
which had been silent for more than half a century. It was exciting to
hear the piano play Bizet's overtures from "Carmen". It invites one to
I expect that when I can get every instrument to play it must be very
impressive. There is still a long way to go, but I think that in the
course of next year all instruments will work.
In order to reconstruct the cabinet with its swell shutters, it is
very important for me to trace a Fratihymnia. The "Encyclopedia",
page 168, says: "Apparently, Frati orchestrion production was limited
in comparison to these other makes, (Hupfeld, Philipps, Popper) for few
exist at the present."
Does anybody know where I can find one?
Thanks in advance for replying.
Willy van der Reijden
[ Hallo Willy, and welcome aboard MMD. You asked how many subscribers
[ we have: the last time I checked it was 960, including at least 12
[ subscribers in Holland.
[ That's an exciting restoration project you have. On page 422-423
[ of the Enclycopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, by Q. David
[ Bowers, are illustrations of seven different models of Fratihymnia
[ orchestrions. The smallest model had piano, flute and violin pipes,
[ and percussion. Larger models added more and more ranks of pipes,
[ and a xylophone or "harp". Can you guess which model your
[ instrument was?
[ Author Bowers says that most Fratihymnia instruments were built 1910-
[ 1914, but some were produced in 1923-1925 after J. D. Philipps & Sons
[ (Frankfurt) acquired Frati. Good luck to your project! -- Robbie