The Violanta - Belvidere, NJ
by Monique Grimme
(Belvidere, NJ )
VIOLANTA, The Violanta is an European Street Organ. A typical street organ in Europe is mounted on a three wheeled cart and pushed through the city streets where the operator stops and plays for donations. The Violanta's music is run now mechanically with a motor and with help of electric, transported on a trailer. Traditionally, however, vendors would crank the organs for hours on end and pull them with horses. The books of music are "read" by the organ like a player piano and range in pieces from American to classical and European tunes including the latest Mama Mia from Abba. Large street organs first appeared in Amsterdam around 1785.
Over the years The Violanta has delighted music lovers throughout the USA with melodious waltzes at spirited music festival playing popular music of today.
The history of the European tradition was shared during a television show which was aired by EBTV in November 2008. This street organ is, called Violanta, which means "little powerful", It was built in 1920. Following in tradition, the large organ was originally used to play music at summer festivals and was pushed along streets in the spring, fall and wintertime. Until World War II when the music was silenced when Violanta was dismantled, separated and hidden away. "During WWII there were no street organs at all. The Nazi's were confiscating them so the Dutch people took them apart and hid them. After the war, people knew the war was over because the street organs came back onto the streets.
Violanta, however, became the "forgotten street organ" and remained in its various hiding places for 35 years before falling into the hands of master craftsman and artist Gerhardt Roos. It took him many years to find all the pieces and put them together. Roos lovingly restored and painted the organ. His painstaking restoration included the organ's internal music center, which has 68 wooden pipes, drums, cymbals, violins, flutes, large bellows, and castanets. He then painted the intricate carved exterior pieces with bright flowers and swirls of pink, gold, and blue; a scene depicting Holland's green pastures and lakes; while two vivid portraits of beautiful gypsy girls look out at listeners from either side. Dominating the center of the piece is a mechanical conductor whose arms move up and down in time to the music.
The surprising 88-year-old street organ can come to your street fair this year and plays outside.