In Sweden, reed organs had a break-through around the middle of the 19th century when they started being used as school instruments and playing the reed organ thus became part of the training of elementary school teachers. As the instrument was spread into broader layers of society new inventions facilitated the playing also for those who had little musical gift. The self-playing reed organs are one such typical example that became common at the turn of the century.
A rather early Swedish patent was taken in 1866 by the organ builder and organist Andreas Jönsson Åberg (1815-1890) who together with pipe organs also made reed organs. He called his invention ‘Symphonon’ (KH 260). The small pillar reed organ is enclosed in a cupboard and thus easy to move. It has two ‘manuals’, one with split keys for left hand major and minor chord playing and one conventional for the right hand doing the melody playing. It is the same idea we find on modern electric keyboards.
The purpose of Andreas Jönsson’s construction was that the instrument should ‘serve the choral practise and conduct the singing at the elementary school.’ For this, he also created a method of notation which made ordinary music reading unnecessary.
Andreas Jönsson lived and worked in the South of Sweden. He was born in the town of Kristianstad in Scania, was for some time organist at the Hjortsberga parish in the landscape of Blekinge and settled in the 1870s in Karlskrona, an important seaport. Our Symphonon has been used in the Nättraby church closely outside this town and possibly ordered by the parish directly from the builder.