"New Age" Air Calliope
made by Melville McBride
text and photos courtesy Sander Mommers and John Haskey

newAge0.jpg (61 kb)
New Age calliope built for Cal Calvert.

newAge4.jpg (18 kb)
 Jane McBride, Mel's wife, playing another New Age calliope at their home in
Aptos, a village on the California coast about 15 miles south of Santa Cruz.
Six whistles are in line with the calliopist's ears -- Ouch!

"New Age" Air Calliope
built for Cal Calvert of Ottowa
by Sander Mommers

This calliope has 44 keys, from F below middle C to 3 octaves above, and a built-in 2 horsepower blower which sounds like a vacuum cleaner to me.  I played with it: all the whistles work -- loudly!  The pipes are black plastic (ABS) sewer pipes with support brackets of Lexan.  It appears to be a design that can be built from hardware store materials.  There is no mechanism for player rolls.

The instrument was built in 1981 especially for my friend, Cal Calvert, the tuba player in my band, by

  New Age Air Calliope
  Melville McBride
  215 Elva Drive
  Aptos, CA 95003

In 1981, this one was one of three such units in existence.  Mel actually drove from Aptos to Ottawa to drop it off; he did not want to take a chance with regular truckers.

Melville McBride is now 90 years old, and has been out of the calliope business for quite some time.  He told me that he has built a total of six of these units, Cal Calvert's was an early one.  Most of his calliopes are in use with the Shriners.

Mel McBride strove to recreate, in an air driven calliope, the throaty sound of the old steam driven units.  I have never heard a steam calliope so I don't know how successful he was.

Alexander (Sander) Mommers
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
amommers@science.uottawa.ca.geentroep [delete ".geentroep" to reply]
10 Dec 2003 15:44:08 -0500

"New Age" Air Calliope
owned by Pajaro Shrine Club of Felton, Calif.
by John Haskey

In May of 2003 I chanced upon a curious air calliope stored in Felton, California. It was being refurbished for use in the Memorial Day 'Felton Remembers' parade. The calliope is mounted on a trailer with terraced steps in the rear. The gentleman working on the unit took time out to play a couple of tunes for me. Unfortunately I didn't have my tape recorder in the car that day. It didn't sound too bad!

tn_ac_640_8.jpg (16 kb)
Front view of calliope and trailer.
High-resolution image (134 kb)

Keyboard and music desk

Close-up view of pipe tiers

Detail view of pipe throat

View of tubing in base of unit

Detail view of smallest pipes (top)

Plaque commemorating members of Calliope Unit

Images & text copyright 2003, John Haskey
Republished with permission.

18 December 2003