Benoit Paulis began his apprenticeship in a renown church organ company “Organ Manufacture Thomas” in Belgium. He then went on to specialise in street organs.
From 1996, he worked for the “Invisible Musician” Exhibition, which was a collection of 260 mechanical musical instruments. He was in charge of the setting-up, on-site maintenance and dismantling of this travelling exhibition and also had the pleasure to restore a major part of theses instruments.
In 2004, he set up PAULIPHONIC workshop in Stavelot, a small town in the Belgian Ardennes. In this workshop, he builds new organs under the same name and offers restoration services to different collections and museums.
In a few years, the reputation of his new instruments and accomplished restorations has spread beyond the borders. Today, besides travelling organ grinders and private Belgian collectors, PAULIPHONIC also exports its instruments and restoration services to other countries in Europe, Asia and America.
Organ grinding is a tradition in Central Europe which can be traced back to the 17th century. A street organ, or a barrel organ, is a musical instrument in every way which doesn't require any knowledge of music from its player and which works without any electrical connection. The only power needed for the instrument to function is that from its player cranking the handle.
You don't need to be a musician to play a street organ. The music is “recorded” on perforated cardboards or paper rolls. The sound is produced when pressurized air is driven to pipes, mainly made of wood. This pressurized air is produced by bellows activated by a hand crank. Some of our instruments also use reeds, like in an accordion.
Who plays street organs?
Our first clients are Travellers who still “perform” on the street with our organs. They are usually from families who have been organ grinders since generations. It is not unusual for them to offer a street organ as a wedding gift to a member of the family. This is the original use of the instrument, because it is ideal for entertaining on the street or in public places.
The sound of modern street organs are generally softer, and since the 1970s, certain models of instruments are rather dedicated to accompany singers. Today street organs can be found not only on the streets, but also at home or in all kinds of festivities, and, thanks to a vast repertoire available, they can accompany either classic folk tunes or modern pop songs.
Wouldn't it be romantic to celebrate a birthday or a wedding in the music of a street organ?
Our clients can therefore be any individual, an amateur or professional singer, a nursing home, a festival organising committee, a choir, a theatre company or a folk dance group!
Each use of our organs is specific and is often the completion of a personal or collective project.
And you, what would be yours?
The music is noted with nail punched in a large wood cylinder.
The music is punched on a long folded cardboard strip. A lever come in contact with the cardboard and “detect” the holes.
The paper rolls or the folded cardboard holes open or close holes from air pressure is release and activates pipes .
La Collerie, 1
Tél: +32 (0) 498 62 05 29