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Nov 24 09 5:58 PM

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Dear all,

Having recently bought 9 lots of rolls from a dispersal sale last Saturday I'm amazed to discover what was lurking in the boxes! Some of the contents I already knew, because they came from the estate of a very good friend of mine, the late John Nixon.
There must be well over 400 rolls and I've only managed to go through a handfull to date. Sadly I had to stop bidding at this point because my trusty Rover wouldn't carry any more! As it was, the suspension sat on the bump stops all the way home!
Although there are lots of rolls that I'd like to know a bit more about, including some very early QRS rolls with roll numbers in the low 100's, the one I'm curious about is labelled Otto Higel Co.(roll 0504, Ben Hur Chariot Race). My player is actually a Higel metal player but I didn't realise that they made rolls as well. I thought that the player Company was American, but the adress on this roll is Toronta, Canada. On the roll ends it says Friestedt Spool and a patent number.
Did they make these rolls or get them from elsewhere?

Best Regards

Peter Clarke
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#1 [url]

Nov 24 09 11:54 PM

Higel were very much Canadian, albeit named after a founder (Otto Higel) of German extraction. I believe they had rolls made for them - Aeolian certainly made some, because Higel actions were themed. A picture of the roll & label would help.

Are those QRS rolls songs from c.1916/7? That was when the word rolls were introduced, and they sold well because there are lots of them around in the US if you see job lots of rolls. Some very good music in them.


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#2 [url]

Feb 15 10 2:20 AM

Higel was a Toronto builder of player actions. I don't know if the rolls originated from other manufacturers or not. The rolls that I have are ink stamped "Made in Canada" directly after the label on the roll. The Higel actions/rolls are themed, yes. But Higel players use the solodant system which is not quite the same as the Aeolian themodist system.

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#3 [url]

Feb 15 10 5:49 AM

Late last year while visiting a junk store , i too came across a box of these rolls by this company .I brought a hand full of them and do have to say they are very good sounding rolls , i managed to get both Solodant and solo artist word rolls.The solodant have a green label and the solo has a yellow label.

* Beauitful Ohio Blues (yellow solo label version)
* Destiny (Solodant )
* Russian Rag (Solodant )
* Choristers Waltz (Solodant)
* Standard American Airs.....large long play roll (Solodant)

I will call in to the store again latter this week , as im sure they had more there , besides the boxs been slighty tatty , the rolls are in top condition.

*1907: Orchestrelle Model V .
*1911 Steinway 65/88 Model I
*1912: Weber Pianola Grand. (currenty been
*1920: Weber Duo Art upright.

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#4 [url]

Feb 16 10 12:32 AM

It´s important to note that I was referring to the rolls for Solodant, which are identical to Themodist and indeed to absolutely every maker of themed player action!

If you read the 88-note standard you can see how Aeolian worked in sufficient space between the lowest bass note and the pedal track to fit in the ´snakebites´, which are a de-facto part of the 88-note standard. Naturally each player´s innards vary in how they use the theme accents, as do the player actions in how they play the notes. They´re all following the same standard, none the less!

Aeolian, perhaps not surprisingly, made themed rolls for other makers. Most notable were those for Angelus. Indeed, I don´t think I´ve ever seen an American-made themed roll that´s not an Aeolian product. I would strongly suspect them to be the source of Higel´s accented rolls, and would be most interested to see any such rolls from other sources.


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#5 [url]

Feb 17 10 12:37 AM

slightly off topic, due to Solodant, but I do have myself, a couple of Otto Higel
Recordo Rolls. I agree with others, some of their arrangements are quite good, where I am ( In Ontario Canada) It's Otto Higel everywhere,player piano actions, rolls, reed organ actions,

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#6 [url]

Apr 7 10 5:28 AM

This is mainly for Julian, but others may also be interested.

Higel rolls are fairly common in New Zealand, as are Higel player actions and Canadian players in general.

I scanned a Higel Solodant roll I had to hand and uploaded it to my site, so you can listen to the resultant MIDI and examine the physical roll via the CIS file (this requires Anthony Robinson's CISVIEWER utility, available for download at ) Looking at the perforations and expression/dynamic stencilling may give a clue as to who made the rolls.

The link for the CIS file (3.0Mb) is here:

Label details:

Solodant #0227

Introducing- 1. Pipes of Pan. 2. Sweet
Simplicitas. 3. Arcady is Ever Young
4. Joy of Life 5. Girl With the Brogue
6. Charming Weather. 7. Truth is so
Beautiful 8. Bring Me a Rose

Price - - 1.45
88 0227 88

Lionel Monckton, 1909
Played by Arranged Roll - Arranger Unknown

Don't know what the date on the roll is, but my copy originally belonged to the Reliance Music Roll Company here in New Zealand, and has a handwritten date of purchase on the box: 'No. 543, Sat Decr 23rd 1922'.

'Preserving The Music Of Yesterday'
Free MIDI Files Scanned From Piano Rolls

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#7 [url]

Apr 8 10 2:08 AM


Thanks for this - the roll looks spookily like an Aeolian. Same manner of dynamic marking, same "solo" and "normal" text using the same font that Aeolian used, and a base tempo marked using the same style of number in an oval. Only the use of printed title on the leader looks different. The roll, being un-bridged, is consistent with a master made c.1909. The perforations, as far as can be made out in a CIS file, don't look Aeolian-like - rather too rough. A photo of a bit of the roll would help.

You wonder what the "Made in Canada" really means, given the similarities. Is it an Aeolian product made under licence but to original specs? Curious, and something to look into further some day - I wonder if Music Trade Review has anything to say on the matter?


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#8 [url]

Apr 8 10 3:02 AM

I'll get onto some photos today.

Here's an MTR article from 1915:

(Special to The Review.)
TORONTO, ONT., November 27.—Miss Nellie M.
Malcolm, a well-known pianist of Winnipeg, and
who is known to many of the trade through her
skilful piano and player demonstrating at the Toronto
and London exhibitions, has recorded five
rolls for player-pianos for the Otto Higel Co., Ltd.,
In its November list of Solo-Artist rolls are three
titles played by Miss Malcolm. These are: "Come
P.ack to Erin." "Perfect Day" and "Trovatore.

I'm surprised to find this, because the few Solo-Artist rolls I have don't credit an artist at all.

And from September 1922:

Otto Higel Co., of Toronto, Canada, Disposes
of Its Player Roll Business to the Q R S
Music Co., Which Will Continue to Supply
the Canadian Trade With Latest Releases

"We began the manufacture of player rolls
about ten years ago, in order to ensure a continuous
and prompt supply of music rolls for
the Canadian retail music dealer and his customers
at all times.
"We have been operating the music roll department
largely as a convenience for the Canadian
trade and have been supplying a large number
of special rolls by Canadian authors, appealing
especially to the Canadian people."

By any chance was there a short-lived Aeolian plant in Canada which Higel may have acquired in 1912? That would explain the similarities quite neatly.. 'manufacture' and 'produce' are , of course, two different things too, so it's entirely possible they used Aeolian masters where possible and only made handplayed and arranged rolls of titles specific to Canada.

HOWEVER, my vague memory of the Higel 'pop' and march rolls I've heard is that they don't sound very Aeolian like - very very heavy, elaborate arrangements more like an American roll.

I'll try and scan whatever Higel rolls I can lay my hands on in my mess of a collection, and photograph perforations, in the next day or two.
'Preserving The Music Of Yesterday'
Free MIDI Files Scanned From Piano Rolls

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#9 [url]

Apr 16 10 10:10 AM

I have only one Higel Roll, Canadian, if this is an example of their arrangements, I would love to get hold of many more!!


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#10 [url]

Mar 9 16 10:32 PM

An Old Question

Hi Paul;

In your old post you mentioned you would like to find more Higel piano rolls. Were you successful?

Cambridge, ON

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