"Belle of Louisville's" calliope strikes unique chord - WDRB 41 Louisville News

"Belle of Louisville's" calliope strikes unique chord

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The song "My Old Kentucky Home" is a unique sound, heard around town and across the river.

Calliopist Martha Gibbs said,"A few people say it's just too loud. 'Can't you turn it down?' I'm like no there's no volume control." The calliope has been drawing people's attention since the 19th century.

The sound is thought to encourage people to buy tickets to take a ride on the Belle of Louisville.

"People are so friendly and they want to know all about the calliope. They'll come up here and they'll say 'Was that you playing? We thought that was a recording' and I'm like no that was me playing."

Gibbs polishes the keyboard she calls her own. She was a piano player her entire life, until she switched tunes ten years ago.

"I have always loved the sound of a calliope and when I first moved to Louisville, I said to my son who was little then, one of these days I want the job to play the calliope," Gibbs explained.

The steam-powered musical instrument was built in the 1960s. It's made up of 32 steam whistles of varying sizes, each playing a different note.

Chief Engineer Dan Lewis said, "People who are experts on this say there has to be a certain pressure to make the right note and you can tune the whistles to a certain degree to get the right pitch."

The steamboat's trademark has been prepped and polished in celebration of the Belle's centennial, which happens this week.

"As long as you take care of her, she'll last as long as you want her to," Lewis said.

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