poetry and prose about place

playing the parlour organ

with 12 comments

Within my grandfather’s house were rooms we were not allowed to enter, except under very special circumstances.  One of these was the parlour.

My ‘need’ to practice the piano allowed me access to this sanctum.  For each day of our vacation, I was allowed to practice on the old pump organ.  The organ belonged to my grandmother and my Dad could remember sitting on her lap while she played.

I was not an eager player and spent a lot of time testing the effect of the various ‘stops’ on the organ.  These were white knobs with mysterious black words printed on each.  When you pulled a stop, various connections were created to make the organ sound a certain way.  Now for a memory I am not sure is true or only something I imagined – one of the stops, if pulled, would make the keys play an octave below where I was playing.  They moved of their own accord and made me feel I was playing a duet with a ghostly partner!

One of the songs I chose to play on the organ was Evening Chimes.  It was an easy song and made a good impression.

'Evening Chimes', Michael Aaron Piano Course - Grade One. Mills Music Inc., New York. 1945.

Since I knew Evening Chimes by heart, my eyes could wander over the embellishments of the Victorian-aged organ as I was playing.  Its designs included flowers, leaves, exclamation marks, serpent-like creatures and four stylised figures of an octopus!  This last I could ascribe to a childish imagination, but since my sister now has my grandmother’s parlour organ,  I can verify the existence of those odd oceanic figures on the front of the organ!



Vox Angelica 8 Fţ


practice required

repeated bars and D.C. al fine

the E flat I could never

remember, stretch that little

finger, make it behave, do

tricky slurs and grace notes


to coax these from the organ

was like pounding on felt

and my feet

unused to pumping

supplied inappropriate pace


so I played Evening Chimes, folk song

over and over

rang church bells

imitated angels, impressed

my pious grandfather

and demonstrated piano prowess


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

April 13, 2012 at 7:01 am

12 Responses

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  1. This post is a delight! Each piece (the story, the drawing and the poem) is lovely. We have an ancient organ in our family, very similar to this one, with similar stories that accompany it. My sister houses this piece in her home so we have the opportunity to spend time with our history often. Thanks for this post, brings great memories.


    Carol Steel

    April 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    • Hi Carol. I always love it when my post reminds someone of their own past. Jane


      jane tims

      April 17, 2012 at 6:55 am

  2. Oh my, Jane, each component of this post is truly lovely. Thank you.


    Jane Fritz

    April 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  3. Delightful memories you have, Jane! The wood carvings are so detailed… I love how there is a special place incorporated into the design of the organ to put two candle holders, which gives a clue to the organ’s age, before the time of electric lights…


    Barbara Rodgers

    April 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

    • Hi Barbara. It must have been fun to read complicated music by candle-light!!! I hadn’t thought about this clue to the age of the organ. Jane


      jane tims

      April 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

  4. Enjoyed! Evening Chimes is a beautiful tune–just finished playing it on my keyboard…



    April 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

    • Hi. I’m so glad to know you have played Evening Chimes! I’m glad you liked the piece! It’s a nice tune and song to think of late in the day. Jane


      jane tims

      April 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

  5. I also was only allowed to enter the parlour to practice the piano–though our piano was not nearly as cool as your organ.



    April 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

    • Hi Sheryl. I wonder if you still play? I took lessons for years, and gave lessons for a short time. Today, I play occasionally and I like playing much better than I did as a child. I have my Mom’s upright piano, a W. Doherty & Company piano from Clinton, Ontario. Thanks for your comment! Jane


      jane tims

      April 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

      • I don’t have a piano and don’t play anymore–though I enjoy trying–very poorly– to play a few of my old favorites when I visit my father. He still has the piano that I learned on as a child.



        April 14, 2012 at 11:20 am

      • Hi Sheryl. I think music is so integral to our lives and just being able to play for your own enjoyment is so cool. I’m sure your dad loves to hear you play. Jane


        jane tims

        April 14, 2012 at 11:24 am

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