A month or two ago I excitedly posted a photo of a set of Deagen Song Bells that I had bought online, but unfortunately the Auckland based seller would not ship them due to their weight & to how precious they are. So I had to get a friend to go pick them up and they had been sitting in his house waiting for me ever since…
Last weekend I finally got to meet them, and as excited as I was to hear them first I had to work out how to assemble them! This is what greeted me:
I hadn’t really thought about how they were transported and my friend hadn’t even opened the box when he picked them up…
I almost cheered when I opened the case and saw this! These Deagen Song Bells 101 were only made from 1925 to 1930, and this would have been the case they were shipped in, all the way from the Deagen factory in Chicago to New Zealand.
“Deagan Song Bells are a combination of the most desirable features of Orchestra Bells, Steel Marimbas and Celestes and our latest creation in the way of Orchestra Bells. The register of Deagan Song Bells is one octave lower than either Orchestra Bells or Parsifal Bells of a corresponding range.
Deagan Song Bells are at once a charming solo instrument and exceptionally fine when used in playing an obligato to a vocal number. The wonderful success along the latter lines suggested the name, Song Bells.”
First we worked out how to assemble the stand, and it is ingenuous! The entire stand is very light, but once assembled and everything is locked into place it is totally rigid! Brilliant design, by humans.
I brought some of my favourite mallets with me to try it out (Pro Mark FPY10 and FPC20)
How did it sound? Simply beautiful… Quite different to my Trixon vibraphone, and of course do not have pedal control of the sustain, but just gorgeous tone…
Also in the shipping case was another surprise, some very old mallets!
This cute knitted pair sound great – inside the wool is presumably wood, so the attack is softened a bit but if played harder the attack is more present.
But these two really intrigued me, unfortunately there is only one of each:
The red wool mallet is softer again, but the one on the right is for me a really great discovery as it is made of cork! I had never considered the idea of a cork mallet, but when you think about for example a wine bottle cork they have a soft malleability – you can squeeze them. And on the Song Bells they sound great – soft attack with beautiful resonance, and when played harder the produced tone is louder but not brighter and still no hard attack. I did some quick searches and it seems cork is a part of timpani mallets, but usually wrapped in felt or cloth… I’ll keep searching as I would love a pair of cork mallets, I think they might be my favourite!
Welcome to your new home Song Bells, amazing to think they have travelled across almsot 90 years to arrive to Karehana Bay!