Hooghuys Organ Pages
Fair organs

It is probably in the category of the fair organs that Hooghuys permanently switched to the use of the book system. This system – patented in 1892 by the French organ builder Gavioli – had several advantages over the barrel system: e.g. a theoretically unlimited duration of the tunes and a less expensive and labour-intensive fabrication process (see also: the repertoire). One of the first instruments with this system – that would lead to the downfall of the barrel system – was the organ with serial number 250: originally, this Hooghuys organ (owned by the Lapère-Lagae family) only played from barrels but in 1900, it was rebuilt and fitted out with an appareil musicophone, which allowed it to play from barrels ánd books. (In 1906, the instrument was entirely rebuilt for the use of cardboard books.) The first organ completely operated by books that we can trace, is the 68-key no.302, bought in 1901 through a kind of leasing system by Camille Deserano in Gent. Furthermore, Hooghuys transformed several instruments (mostly built by Gavioli) from barrel to book operation; it is striking that in many cases, the number of keys was reduced (e.g. from 83 to 63).

Hooghuys fair organs can be generally divided into two categories: smaller instruments (from ca.52 up to 63 keys) and larger ones (with 70 keys and more).

The smaller organs usually have a rather small disposition but they do produce a decent 'volume', without being overwhelming. Most of these instruments were built between 1905 and 1913. Well-known examples are LH530 ("Shaharazad"), LH545 ("l'Alexandre"), LH576 and LH585 ("De Witte Merel"). In this category, we can also place LH625 ("Wensdroom"): this organ was originally built as a dance organ but was rebuilt for use on the street in the Netherlands. When it had been sold to someone in the USA, the late Mike Kitner voiced it as a fair organ.

57-key LH530 Originele factuur LH530   57-key LH545   63-key LH576
Factory picture of 57-key LH545 "l'Alexandre" (or a sister ogan?). This organ (now owned by J.Ghysels in Schaarbeek (B)) has a carrying sound.
The façade of LH545 is nearly identical to that of LH535.
57-key fair organ LH530, here owned by the Belgian organ trader Emiel Baude. Later, the organ was sold to England, where it came into the ownership of Brian Oram and later of his son Robert ("Boz"); Brian named the organ “Shaharazad”.
The original invoice does mention a "group of 3 figures" but the ones on the photo are not the original ones; the original figures got damaged during a bombardment in WWI. Later on, Baude placed the 'new' figures on LH585, while on LH530 a simple bandmaster took their place.
63-key LH576 of J.-P.Favand in Paris. The organ was built in 1910 and has a very particular sound. It was recently completely overhauled.
57-key LH585   60-key LH625   Unknown fair organ   58-key CH670

60-key LH625, here as a street organ, owned by the Tegelaar family in Delft (NL). The organ is actually a Gavioli rebuilt by Hooghuys: this is proved by a stamp in the bellows and other data. The façade is also from a Gavioli. The later owner Mike Kitner (†) named the organ "Wensdroom" (although recent information indicates that the organ already had this name in The Netherlands).

58-key CH670, one of the last organs to leave the Hooghuys factory. The instrument was assembled by Louis' son Charles, who used German trombones and placed a Wilhelm Bruder Söhne-façade in front of the organ. E.Hulster later replaced this façade with one from an other Wilhelm Bruder Söhne-organ. The original façade then became part of a Gebr.Bruder-organ in the carousel of L.Faes.
This organ has a 58th key, used for a bell. The organ is now in the collection of J.Sanfilippo in the USA, where the façade was recently completely restored.
Factory Photo of a fair organ with probably around 57 keys. As is often the case with fair organs, this one also has a closed façade: this served as a protection against all kinds of objects, confetti, … which could possibly get into the instrument.
57-key LH585 “De Witte Merel”, here also owned by Emiel Baude; it was he who later added extra carvings on top of the side wings. This organ became very popular under the ownership of the late Jan De Coninck.
The larger fairground organs had 70 keys or more. The difference with small instruments mainly lies in the fact that these organs have more differentiation possibilities (there are more registers apart from the usual piano-forte) and they often have a Glockenspiel.
The remaining instruments in this category mostly have 70 keys (LH315, LH320, LH590, LHXXX, …), except for a.o. LH518 (the 72-key "Senior") and LH522 (also 72-key). This last instrument was originally a dance organ, which becomes clear when one looks at the contrasting registers and the presence of a countermelody. The 'real' fair organs usually had a mixture on the melody but not a countermelody! The largest fair organ ever built by Hooghuys, is probably the 88-key LH500, which has a scale based on one by Gavioli: this is not as surprising as it seems, since Hooghuys has built more (dance) organs based on Gavioli scales. Furthermore, there is a series of organs with 73 up to 92 keys, which all had more or less identical façades.
70-key LHXXX 70-key LHXXX with new façade Photo from a Gasparini catalogue with the new façade of LHXXX   70-key LH315  
The most famous Hooghuys organ ever: the 70-key fair organ of the Becquart family, which became popular thanks to several recordings by Decca. The serial number of this organ is unknown to me; therefore, I use LHXXX. On the left picture, you can see the original façade of the organ: Albert Becquart replaced it with a Gasparini façade on which he placed the original figures of LH522, which was also in his workshop. The organ is now owned by François Kopp (F).
The original façade of this organ was placed in front of a Hooghuys dance organ (LH565) which was modified by Grymonprez to 70 (64) keys and sold to the USA. There, it is now one of the many instruments in the Sanfilippo collection.
There were several 70-key organs with a nearly identical façade: compare this one with e.g. the one of LH590!
This 70-key fair organ (LH315) was once also the property of the Becquart family but afterwards, it came into the possession of the Rorive family. Judging from original invoices, this organ was (very probably) originally a German fair organ that was rebuilt by Hooghuys; this was probably done on request of the Becquart family so they could exchange books between their organs.
70-key LH320   88-key LH500   72-key LH518   70-key LH590
This rarely seen LH320 is also owned by the Rorive family. The sound of this organ is rather ‘sweet', and can be compared with that of the Becquart Hooghuys. According to the invoice for this instrument, the façade used was taken from an older instrument.
LH500, originally built for the carousel salon of Gerard Vincken in Roermond (NL), here with a later owner: Gerrit van der Wouden. Later, the organ was sold to England, where it can stil be found.
It is striking that on this photo the name Charles can be read: Louis' son probably did some maintenance work to the organ and then placed his name on the façade (and inside …).

72-key LH518 "Senior", famous through various gramophone records. This instrument was originally a Gavioli barrel organ.
The façade of this organ is actually the original one of LH522.
Later, the organ was modified by Romain Charles Hooghuys, who also enlarged its repertoire extensively.

70-key LH590 in the carousel of the Rorive family. This organ is still being used on the fair and has an enormous repertoire.
  72-key LH522   72-key LH522 in bicycle ride     72-key LH522 with its current façade  
The left picture is a factory photo of LH522. The scale of this organ is actually the same as that of LH518, apart from some details: LH518 does not have a Glockenspiel (anymore), while LH522 had no hautbois for a long time. On the second photo, the organ is in a bicycle ride. The third photo shows the organ in the workshop of Albert Becquart, who sold the organ to Victor Vroman, who started to use it in his carousel in 1958.
The original façade of LH522 ended up in front of LH518. The main reason for this was the fact that the façade didn't fit into Vroman's carousel. Victor first sawed a part off the façade but this was apparently no the right solution. Therefore, he designed a façade himself, using a.o. parts of a Bursens dance organ. The original façade passed into the hands of Romain Charles Hooghuys (except for the top piece, which is still to be found in the collection of Norbert Vroman), who placed it in front of the “Senior”.
Since 2004, the carousel of Norbert Vroman is no longer travelling the fairs but the ride and organ are still in excellent condition.
  Large fair organ   73-key LH552   Mortier no.971 with façade of LH525   92-key LH547  

A truly special series of organs! At the left, there is a factory photo of a large fair organ (ca.80 keys) with a magnificent façade. Hooghuys built at least four organs with similar façades: LH525, LH547, LH552 and LH555. On all organs there was a group of figures consisting of a central male or female figure flanked by horses.
The second photo shows LH552 (originally built as a dance organ, with melody and countermelody) in a dance hall in Waregem (B). The organ then came into possession of Romain Charles Hooghuys via the Rorive family; the façade, however, is still in the workshop of the Rorive family … Romain placed another façade in front of the organ, which got the nickname "he military man". Today, the organ is owned by Marc Hooghuys who is rebuilding the organ to an 82-key scale; it is now called "Albatross".
The third photograph shows Mortier organ no.971 with the façade of LH525. LH525 is still in existence and is to be found in the workshop of Charles Walker in the USA. The Mortier is owned by Bill Nunn (USA; Bill also owns LH620).
On the right is LH547: this instrument is part of the amusement park "La Bagatelle" in Le Touquet (F). The organ was overhauled in the '90s by Raymond Bovy (†) (well-known in organ circles as the former owner of the famous "Limonaire 1900"). The current condition of the organ is unknown; it is clear, however, that the façade has been cut down a lot.
LH555 is probably also still extant somewhere in the USA (?): in the '80s, a set of figures was offered for sale at an auction, which was probably coming from this organ, since they cannot be identified with one of the groups on known photographs. Who knows more?

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Page updated on 23.03.2007