The New York Wire Co., York, makes window screens and other products. But once a year, on Christmas, it produces a sound like no other.
The steam whistle, which once was used to mark the beginning of company work shifts, is played each year by “whistlemaster” Don Ryan. Ryan earned “Guinness Book of World Records” recognition for playing the loudest music without amplification from a non-musical instrument.
In the 1920’s, a York music teacher began the Christmas concert tradition that Yorkers have grown to love. On Christmas morning 1955, Marlin Ryan and his son, Donald, began performing the christmas tunes. Today, whistlemaster Donald Ryan carries on the legacy and is teaching his son, Mark, how to play the steam whistle, which operates on the same principle as a toy slide whistle.
In 2005, the boiler, which provides steam for the whistle, failed shortly before the music was to start, forcing the concert to be cancelled. Boiler repair costs proved to be excessive, with no assurance against future problems. With the 2006 Christmas concert in peril, Mr. Ryan asked the Heritage Region to help rescue this holiday tradition. Together with the New York Wire Company, Worden & Shewell and other partners, a 21st century solution was crafted. The innovative plan involved installing new permanent steam and electrical connections to the exterior of the factory, where a state-of-the-art, trailer-enclosed portable oil boiler system is trucked in and connected to make steam for the traditional concert practice session and the early Christmas morning concert itself.
This year’s concert has been made possible by funding and in-kind services contributed by a team of civic-minded community and corporate partners, including: LYHR, PeoplesBank, New York Wire Company, Worden & Shewell, The Wolf Organization, Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Foundation, York Oil Services, & the City of York. Last year, the Wolf Organization and Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Foundation generous donated funds to establish an ongoing concert fund to help pay for future concert. We thank the many Yorkers that have contributed to this fund in 2007; however, additional contributions are needed to keep the tradition alive for years to come.
Those wishing to make donations for future Steam Whistle Concerts may send their tax deductible contributions to: STEAM WHISTLE CONCERT FUND, c/o PeoplesBank, 48 East Market Street, York, PA 17401.