In the mid- to late nineteenth century, harmoniums – a form of reed organ that produces sound by blowing air over reed tongues rather than through pipes – were made in enormous numbers. Versatile and robust, they were ideal instruments for small churches and chapels, and they rivalled the piano in popularity as a tool for domestic music-making.
The National Trust property of Erddig, near Wrexham in North Wales, owns harmoniums of both main types: an American harmonium, which uses suction to create the air flow, and a fine French harmonium, which uses pressure. In this video series, which includes a minidocumentary and a set of complete pieces, harmonium specialist Jonathan Scott introduces the instrument and its wide palette of sounds.
To find out more about Erddig’s instrument and its history, see our page Erddig’s Harmonium from Church to Home. To hear more sounds and music, visit Sounding Erddig, where you can playback and download a wide range of recordings made on site.
These films were made for the “Music, Home, and Heritage: Sounding the Domestic in Georgian Britain” project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and produced in collaboration with the National Trust, the University of Southampton, and the Royal College of Music. The project is directed by Jeanice Brooks and Wiebke Thormählen.