Saturday, November 29, 2008
Here's a record that I found at Amazon.com amongst its Christmas LPs for sale.
Who knew that you could make Christmas music from a factory steam whistle? Apparently, Marlin L. Ryan, the whistlemaster for the New York Wire Company in York, PA has did just that from 1955 to 1990.
The cylindrical, variable pitch whistle is 15 inches long and 5 1/8 inches in diameter. The exact age of the whistle is not known nor was it intended to be a musical instrument. The factory whistle was used to signal the start and end of the workers' shifts and breaks and was part of York's World War II civilian defense alert system.
In addition to being an unusual instrument, the Guinness Book of World Records issued a certificate in 2002 stating that the steam whistle produced a peak reading of 134.1dBA during a recording. This qualifies the whistle's songs as the world's loudest music without amplification from a non-musical instrument.
This is a recording of those carols that Ryan traditionally played at 12:15 AM on December 25th. In the cold morning air, the sound of the steam whistle could be heard within a five-mile radius and on clear Christmas morning, up to fifteen miles away.
I'm guessing this record was released some time in the early 1980s - no specific date is given. There are four carols on the steam whistle with an introduction by Steve Bentivegna.
Marlin L. Ryan - York, PA Traditional Christmas Carols
Marlin Ryan retired as whistlemaster in 1989 and his son Donald took his place. Only twice since 1955 has a concert ever been canceled due to problems with the whistle or the boiler (1986 and 2005). Today, Donald's children, Mark, Scott and Lisa, assist with concerts, making the third generation of Ryans to continue the concert tradition.
Those wishing to make donations for future Steam Whistle Concerts may send their tax deductible contributions to:
STEAM WHISTLE CONCERT FUND, c/o PeoplesBank
48 East Market Street
York, PA 17401
or call the Lancaster-York Heritage Region at 717-252-0229.
Happy whistling... err, listening...