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Cool Prewar harp in Australia Movie

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Elk River
Apr 16, 2009 3:47 PM GMT

Idon't know how many of you have the seen the movie already, I just saw it a couple days ago. It's been out for a while and it's out on DVD now. I'll try not to spoil the plot for those who haven't seen.
There is a lot of playing, mostly "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But the harmonica itelf is used as a literary vehicle and it even saves a life, it was so unusual, for a mainstream movie, that the harmonica would play such a key role. As a Seydel lover and dealer, it was pretty cool for me. As a prewar lover, it was especially nice.
ItÂwas described as "THE Famous Boomerang by J. Albert and Son." The harmonica gets some full-screen shots, so you can pause and check out the harp, and, apparently, they got an original and they preserved that authenticity in the playing. Listen close, you hear this incredibly flat note in "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." That, far as I could tell, is a prewar 5 draw.
The J. Albert and Son who had the "famous" Boomerang was Albert's Music Stores, which our Harp-L subscribees on the island continent are probably familiar with that company. As I understand it, Jacques Albert was a clockmaker and repaired some violins on the side. His son Frank came along around 1902 and started importing instruments. He worked out some sort of arrangement with C.A. Seydel and Sons in Germany to have this Boomerang made.
Frank Albert marketed the hell out of these harmonicas. If you look at a picture of an Albert's Music Store storefront from the 1920s or 1930s, you'll see on one side âPhonographs & Records,â the store name in the middle and âBoomerang Mouth Organsâ on the other.
According to Albert's, which is still in business as a recording company, the Boomerangs were first made in 1924, but I don't know. It may have been earlier. The reason I wonder is because the original Boomerang said "Made in Saxony." Seydel used "Saxony" presumably until about 1920. Germany was the last of the major European countries to unify and during the Second Reich (1870-- 1919), Saxony was an autonomous state within the German empire. After the First World War, Saxony became part of the Weimar Republic and Seydel switched from âSaxonyâ to âGermanyâ on the coverplate.
Australia went to war with Germany in 1914, so it is possible perhaps that some were made before 1914 and production resumed in 1924.
This Boomerang was a huge boom for Seydel and Albert sold so many, it probably kept the company from going out of business during the Depression. If you look at this page at the picture of the Seydel managers taken in the 1930s (I've got it on this page: look for the boomerang (one you throw, not the one you blow) on the wall.
The Boomerang-shaped model (like the one shown on the Musselwhite album) wasn't the only Boomerang made for Alfred's. There was a Boomerang chromatic and Seydel made some Boomerang versions of the super-cool prewar Bandmaster, the ones with the megaphone side vents on the coverplates. Instead of the curved megaphone vent the Bandmaster had, those Boomerangs had Boomerang-shaped megaphone side vents. There was a Boomerang chromatic.
Albert's carried various Boomerang models over the years. Occasionally, you'll see a Boomerang model pop up that looks just like the East German-era Bandmaster (no Boomerang shape). Albert's stopped carrying them in 1970, I don't know if they closed the music stores then or what, maybe some Australians can help me.
Like I said, Albert's is still in business. Perhaps you have heard of at least one band they handle-- AC/DC.
But if you can, do watch the movie, at least for the harmonica. How many times do you get to see and hear a cool prewar harp in a movie?
Prewar harps? Nicole Kidman? Such as my heart doth tremble to unfold.

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Apr 20, 2009 1:15 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

I was in a music shop in Melbourne last year looking at their Special 20's. But when I looked inside the cases there where 10 hole Boomerangs (straight not bent). So I brought 2. They where good and I still use the Bb but for me they where very difficult the work on. Nails through the reed plates. They do sound good. BTW I have lived at some of the places in the movie. I found the movie laughable in places. But If you take it like classic Hollywood it is not so bad. David Hirschfelder played the harmonica in the movie. He is a well known Australian Film scorist.

Apr 20, 2009 1:37 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Actually I just noticed that there is also a reference to the great Jim Conway playing harmonica in the movie. I'm guessing that Jim is doing more incidental music and David Hirschfelder was doing the 'Over the Rainbow' theme harmonica. Further more it has also Stephen Pigram from the indigenous Broomeband 'The Pigram Brothers' playing harp. I once played with them at a prison gig in Darwin. They are very good. Finally the famous aussie actor Jack Tompson also plays harp in the movie. Thats alot of harp.

Apr 21, 2009 10:46 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Chris, that straight Boomerang sounds like 1970s to me.

Or prolly the most laughable Hollywood Australia pics I can think of was that one where John Wayne played the German merchant ship captain, or maybe it was just that scene where he's finally leaving Sydney harbour and says "Off Weedersane, Sydney."

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