The harmonium or its American equivalent - the reed organ, is a much maligned instrument being likened to a giant accordion in some circles or a heap of worthless junk in others. When played by a master and used to play music directly composed for it, the harmonium is a truly fascinating instrument of great complexity and equal art in its construction to the pipe organ. The main problem with the harmonium per se is that apart from the intriguing instruments currently produced for Indian music, it tends to be a relic of the past. Because it has always been deemed as an inferior instrument to the pipe organ or indeed electronic instruments, it has tended to languish within the realms of dusty antique shops and old ladies boudoirs (plus of course the odd out of the way church or chapel).
Sadly, most harmoniums have never been touched since they were made. Restoration is not generally considered to be worth the effort and as anyone knows who has tried, cleaning out 100 years or so of dust and mouse droppings often results in a far worse result than not doing so. Often as not, the accumulated dirt is the only thing making the instrument playable in the first place. Corrosion of the brass reeds along with accumulated muck hardly helps matters. Even moving a harmonium from its nest will often as not result in it never being the same again.
Fortunately, we were able to find one that was playable and had indeed been cleaned, restored and tuned to A440 (though the latter is not essential with the abilities of HW).
It was not our goal to reproduce a facsimile of a concert harmonium such as those made by Alexandre and Mustel complete with all of their various specialist features but merely to produce a playable and musically valid instrument that could be used in such works as the Rossini Messe etc. that would sound authentic and be in tune. We have kept the specification to a bare minimum and resisted the temptation to expand the instrument into a two manual and pedal version (though this is fairly easily achieved by anyone who wishes to do so).
Two versions are available: The first version is a straight forward five octave instrument with a swell pedal acting in place of the "Forte" stops and the second is exactly the same but split into upper and lower halves from the centre of the keyboard.
Stop names are pretty much irrelevant since few bear any resemblance to their nomenclature but we have provided some innocuous titles to serve.
The basic specification is as follows:-
Contrabasso 16', Diapason 8', Melodia 8', Eoline 8', Celeste 8' and Fifre 4'.
We have provided Octave, Suboctave and Unison off couplers plus thumb pistons for combinations and ease of use. The Forte stops are introduced by means of a swell pedal and there is a "Tremelo" (normally called Vox Humana). There is currently no provision for the noise of the foot bellows, stop or key noise since it was felt that these would detract from the purpose of the instrument. The split version splits at Middle F although this can be changed should it be deemed necessary.
Depending on the amount of interest in this instrument, we may consider sampling and creating a more advanced model in the future which would be based on a larger instrument and subject to us finding one that is suitable to sample.
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