In the project “Bram Stadhouders & The Big Barrel Organ”, guitarist Stadhouders plays live on the biggest transportable danceorgan in the world, the Rhapsody. The musician is the first in the world to create live music on a traditional dance-organ (big barrel organ), as to why you can call him the “first dance-organ guitarist”. Stadhouders plays the enormous organ via his guitar and laptop, triggering it with MIDI, mixing composition and pure improvisation.

The history of the danceorgan goes back to 1850, when the first danceorgans were made. Especially in Belgium and the South of Holland, the organ became immensely popular, as a precursor for the jukebox. In café’s, fairs and dancehalls, the organs were playing the latest hits. Besides the many organ pipes, danceorgans are often equipped with extra instruments such as accordeons, percussion, saxophones. Between 1910 and 1930, thousands of danceorgans were built, you could find one in almost every dancehall. However, as the loudspeaker made its way into the public, these organs were banned to musea or private collectors. 

Guitarist Bram Stadhouders thinks that’s a shame, so he went on an investigation. After playing on the danceorgan “The Busy Drone” in Orgelpark Amsterdam, he discovered that almost all danceorgans work now with MIDI, which means you can play them with any instrument that can send MIDI. As he went on to look for a transportable danceorgan, he found “The Rhapsody”, which was only a milestone away from his birthplace in the south of Holland. The Rhapsody organ is 7 meters long and 5 meters high, has more than 800 organ pipes, 12 percussion instruments, 2 accordeons, and weighs more than 5 tons. “When composing contemporary music for these organs, you hear totally unique sounds, a mix between electronic and acoustic sounds. The danceorgan in really the first synthesizer. The way we choose sounds on any synthesizer is derived from the barrel organ.” says Stadhouders. The guitarist feels that he’s “made for this project”, a concept that he’s been waiting for all his life.

Bram Stadhouders (1987) is a musician who always seeks new challenges and adventures by always creating new exciting projects. After a big adventure working with the world-class classical Netherlands Chamber Choir, followed by a trio project with classical tenor Sebastian Brouwer and laptop musician David Hoogerheide, Stadhouders now plunges on the danceorgan. Other highlights from his career are winning the North Sea Jazz Festival composition assignment, playing on a guitar made of ice in Norway with Terje Isungset, recording a CD with Jim Black and Sidsel Endresen, and much more.

Bram Stadhouders & The Big Barrel Organ is supported by Dutch Funds for the Arts and Prins Bernhard Fonds.
Interview:
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Images by Jonas Sacks

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The organ is transported with the above truck.