New to Katy Days this year is The NTR (No Talent Required) Band, which is probably unlike any band people have seen in decades with its four street organs, a bass horn and two accordions.
Among the street musicians playing today, barrel organ players are conspicuously absent, although they were once commonplace. How this group came to have them, a member of the group explained.
“Initially, we were all involved in collecting automatic musical instruments, like coin-operated pianos and that sort of thing,” HC Beckman said.
Automatic musical instruments operate using hydraulic, mechanical, steam or electric power. Music boxes, street organs, calliopes and church bells are some examples. The organ grinders with their monkeys, rushing to collect coins from the public, is a sight many know, even if it comes from movies or old cartoons.
“We got involved in Monkey Organs because we belong to certain organizations. One is called the Carousel Organ Association of America,” Beckman said. “They’re having rallies all over the country and we’re taking things away.”
A new era of technology has brought an interesting twist to automatic instruments such that some are now computerized.
“We bought an accordion in Germany that works on an SD card. It can record and also transmit. My friend happens to have an accordion and I have one, which means they can pass on and play together.
“They also made an accessory that goes on a bass horn that will also record and transmit, so all you have to do is blow. You don’t have to run any notes or anything. It automatically outputs the note. You blow and it plays the right note.
The friends then found a few street organs that are also electronic and record and play back.
“So our band is these instruments that will talk to each other and play music and that’s why we call it The NTR Band, No Talent Required, because all you have to do is throw, or operate the accordion, or blow into a mouthpiece and they play the music.
“We also have some monkey organs playing on a roll of paper, and we’ll be demonstrating that as well,” Beckman said of the band’s performance on Saturday.
The NTR strip will be installed near heritage artisans.
Beckman said they play different types of music, so there’s a little something for almost everyone.
“Two hundred songs came with the accordions and then there was a guy who arranged more modern stuff,” he said. “So it’s all sorts of things.”