Christiana w Mariechen, St.
Lola as AMICA cover girl
Bob Walker &
Organ Grinder Lola @ Nat'l Lutheran Home
photo by Dean
Although, New York City and
the DC area, have become Christiana's artistic home as a Jazz vocalist over the
past decades, she is not shying away from showing her roots. When visiting her
mother, back home in Baden-Baden, they both chime into the songs her mother
grew up with. As a born Berliner with her own life-long artistic output as a
painter, poet, and storyteller, Christiana's mother found her way back to some
of Heinrich Zille's "Milieu" belting out
Moritaten, bloody ballads of heartbreak, murder and lost love. Here she is with
her group, the Baden-Badener Drehorgelweiber. It is a great pleasure for mother
and daughter to share this raucous and humorous part of their heritage.
In 2008, Evelis gave her
daughter her very own hand-crafted street organ, "Scharmanka", a 20-tone crank
organ, made in Baden-Baden by master builder and organ enthusiast Florian
Tilgner. Florian also composes the arrangements of the music, which he then
stamps out by hand on long paper strips. (Other organ grinding music rolls are
available for sale by specialty companies like Edi Hoffman, and Raffin Organs,
which produce such strips for various models of mechanical musical instruments
with a wide selection of tunes.) These strips are threaded onto the spindles to
make the music rolls, which get cranked through the musical action. Air blows
through the small holes which activate their respective organ pipes and make
the sounds. The whole mechanism is powered by cranking the handle (grinding the
organ), which pumps the air bellows and transports the music rolls. A perfect
mechanical instrument, but that's only the half of it: it's the music that
makes everything come alive. How they got it on the plane and through customs
is another story.
Christiana's mother is also
the illustrator of the colorful picture boards that depict the dramatic events
in the songs, very much in the tradition of the old Moritaten street acts.
In 2007, Organ Grinder Lola
was a special guest of the St. Charles Oktoberfest in Missouri, invited by Gary
Craig and his late wife Cynthia of the local AMICA Heartlands chapter. Cynthia,
you are missed by so many! Thank you for giving us so much love and support and
Organ Grinder Lola sang many
of the old tunes, both in English and German, complete in costume and with her
mother's posters, graphic illustrations of the dramatic stories told in song.
In New York City, they were a hit, playing three days in a row at the hip Lower
East Side German restaurant
"Zum Schneider", here
with Gary's organ. They performed in Prospect Park, and at the fabled "Freddy's
Backroom" in Brooklyn. They recorded a CD together, with Cynthia & Gary's
hand-made Axel Stüber organs from Berlin and Christiana singing.
How does a former university professor ascend to the lofty
position of Master Organ Grinder?
Lola's Mom, a seasoned
"Drehorgel-Weib" in her own right, wouldn't pass on her crank handle to just
anybody. "Here, Bob, get to work!" was her command. She decided that he had
talent. Everybody was surprised how Bob and Lola immediately fell into their
very own comedy routine, like an old vaudeville couple. Surely, they must have
traveled together like that in a previous lifetime.
Bob has his own music
performance background. As a Jazz drummer, he played with the "Deacons of
Dixieland" for over ten years, and with "College Heights Jazz" while holding a
professorship at Penn State University. He is currently playing in the DC area
with the "Silver Swing Quartet". As Master Bob, he and Lola have just received
their official buskers' license from the City of Rockville, MD.
"You deserve each other," is
how one of Bob's colleagues summed it up.
Organ Grinder Lola and
Master Bob have played for New York City's Mayor Bloomberg on occasion of the
2008 Steuben Parade, and at many other events. They regularly take their
colorful and boisterous musical act to nursing homes and senior residences.
Many old folks hum and sway and sing along, and not a few start to remember
some of these songs from times long ago. Young children are just as delighted,
and they always flock to the performers and their wondrous instrument, taking a
peek inside. Maybe they dare to take a shot at cranking the handle and make the
music come alive.
East Side, New York
11 de octubre
Ya estoy en
el Nuevo Mundo un dia antes que Cristóbal Colón. Tengo en mi
servicio a un italiano viejo pero muy simpático que toca el organito
mientras yo bailo. El italiano se llama Benito y parece muy feliz. Yo
también estoy muy contento y ademas gano mucho dinero y de manera muy
fácil, sin tener que trabajar. Solamente bailo y bailo. ¡Que bella
es la vida! ¿verdad? Con mucho cariño, tu sobrino, Panchito el
[From: "First Spanish
Reader", Angel Flores (ed.), Dover Publications, 1964.]
builder Florian Tilgner with his 36-tone crank organ with bells, his wife,
Irene, who is also an organ grinder, and Christiana's mother, Evelis
& Christiana w Scharmanka in box
St. Louis organ
grinders Cynthia & Gary Craig
In Prospect Park,
(photo by Fred Becker)
Organ Grinder Lola @ Andrus
Lola, Grace House
Organ Grinder Lola @ Ft Tryon