The only example of its kind in the world, the Soléa is an orchestrion (mechanical orchestra) built in 1913 for the café-restaurant Le Fribourgeois by the firm Weber in Waldkirch (Germany). Demonstration on request.
The café Le Fribourgeois was designed according to plans drawn up in 1898-1899 by the architect Frédéric Broillet.
The Le Solea orchestrion was built in Waldkirch (Germany) at the Weber Frères factory. It was sold and installed in Le Fribourgeois in 1913-1914 by the firm Charrière & Cie, from Bulle, which represented various manufacturers of harmoniums, player-pianos and orchestrions in the canton. The instrument was restored in 1977–78 by Les Frères Baud in L’Auberson.
The oak cabinet measuring 4 metres long, 2.50 metres high and 1.10 metres wide houses a 52-note Feurich piano, 4 sets of 28 pipes – flutes, violin, baritone and “Gedeck”, a 28-note xylophone, a bass drum, a side drum, a tambourine, a triangle and castanets. In the bottom section, three pairs of bellows activated by an electric motor inflate two regulator reservoirs that supply the windchests. Rolls of perforated paper 36 cm wide, driven by a guide roller, are held against a metal bar commonly known as a “flat flute” with 88 apertures, each corresponding to a note or a function.
A lead pipe connects each aperture to a pneumatic relay controlling a valve that releases air into the pipes, activates or triggers the sets, controls the hammer bellows or displaces the shutters that modify the sound volume. The instrument is completed by two animated windows depicting local Gruyère landscapes: on the right, a parade crossing the Javroz iron bridge in Charmey against a sky criss-crossed by aircraft; on the left, a beautiful sunrise and sunset over the town of Gruyères.
Following the removal of orchestrions from the Le Tivoli café in Bulle and the Le Gothard café in Fribourg, the instrument is to our knowledge the last of its kind conserved in a public establishment in the canton of Fribourg. It is also probably one of the last in working order still to be found in its place of origin in Switzerland.
© Musée gruérien and Cultural Heritage Department of the canton of Fribourg
Archive photo: This photo was taken inside the café Le Fribourgeois in 1913 and was commissioned by the firm Charrière et Cie. It shows an initial version of the smaller orchestrion that was replaced shortly afterwards by the current instrument.
© Alfred Husser Musée gruérien, Bulle.