At the very
end of the pier was someone who has become a landmark, himself. Every weekend
for the last 15-plus yearsweather permittingGary Goss has played
his set of vintage Deagan chimes on the Santa Monica Pier.
Based on the Indonesian bamboo angklungs (left), which are usually handheld (one in each hand), the Deagan chimes are made out of metal and mounted on a rack so that one or two players can play the set. The angklungs pictured have 2 hollow bamboo tubes tuned to the same pitch and one smaller tube sounding an octave higher. They are held by the top horizontal stick and shaken back and forth. A group of angklung players could perform hand-bell music, with each player responding when his/her 2 notes are to sound. Gary, on the other hand, is a one-man band.
John Calhoun Deagan got the idea for the chimes when he attended the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, where he saw an Indonesian group perform on the bamboo angklungs. Deagan produced a variety of sizes using from fifteen to forty-nine notes. Gary's instrument was made in 1897, spans two octaves and two notes, and was originally owned by P. Waldo Davis, a traveling evangelist who was a member of the Chatauqua Group (not to be confused with the Chatauqua Society). They had 40 sets of chimes made for them, and since they performed their spiritual music either outside or in tents, they needed instruments whose sound would carry. Gary's father, Milo Wesley Goss, bought the set from Davis and performed in churches and for veterans' organizations from California to Washington State. Sixteen years ago, at age 50, Gary inherited the instrument, taught himself to play, and has been at it ever since. He knows of a 3 1/2-octave set at Purdue University, and another at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the original home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
While performing on the pier, Gary meets hundreds of people every weekend. Three memorable encounters immediately came to mind as he recollected the great variety of people who have enjoyed his music. A group of Korean tourists requested "Amazing Grace" and, as Gary played, they proceeded to sing the entire hymn. One day Gary noticed a teacher trying to describe the unusual instrument to his young blind students. Gary called them over and suggested that they feel the chimes with their hands. They also requested "Amazing Grace." It was quite an emotional moment for him to see them stand perfectly straight with smiles on their faces, finally understanding the instrument they were hearing. The third memory was of a young man who proposed on bended knee to his girlfriend while Gary performed Mendelsohnn's "Wedding March."
The weekly discipline keeps Gary Goss in shape. Performing the chimes is quite physical and requires upper-body strength and stamina. His trek to the pier is also his passion. He absolutely loves what he does. If it is not raining, you can count on him being there. Whether you live in Southern California or are just visiting, be sure to stop and hear him playand tell him you saw him on TheScreamOnline.
Click on the notes below to hear samples of Gary playing. [Requires the Quicktime plugin.]
Mary Had a Little Lamb:
Click to download Quicktime plug-in:
Gary is a very busy vendor on ebay (check out his items under the name "dogagoglass"). He is also available to perform for private functions in Southern California, and can be reached at: email@example.com
Back to the Santa Monica Pier
Plays the Deagan Chimes