Spring is here and what musical sounds can evoke the thrill of its arrival any better than the shawm and bagpipes. This French postcard has a caption that reads:
Binious Bretons donnant l'aubade matinale à la Mariée
Breton bagpipes giving the morning serenade to the bride.
These two instruments are part of the musical traditions of Breton or Brittany, which is the western peninsula of France that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and defines the southern side of the English Channel. The bombard is a folk shawm that uses a double reed similar to an oboe reed. While it has a very high treble sound, it is actually the lower of the two instruments. The Binioù, which means bagpipe in the Breton language, is a small bagpipe with one drone and a short chanter that enables it to play very high. The range of both the bombard and biniou are limited to about an octave and basically one key. They were commonly played together as a duo.
This card was postmarked 12/12/1906 but my attempt at translating the handwriting and the language has failed except to note one reference to musique. The same musicians show up in another postcard but this time they are colorized and have switched instruments.
This second card is postmarked 20 Mai 1909. Picturesque subjects like these folk musicians appear throughout the early decades of the 20th century and were reprinted even into the 1930s. I believe the original duo dates from just around 1900, but the magic of the internet allows us to hear their sound, as contemporary folk musicians continue to perform on these traditional instruments. This first video shows the dance style as well as the music. I'm not sure how authentic is the technique of playing in socks.
A second duo with more dancing. Breath control, or breath endurance is a very important attribute of a successful Breton musician.
This next video has more of the playing style that might have been appropriate for a morning serenade of a bride. I wonder what sound awoke the groom?
Breton has another bagpipe called the binioù bras, which means big bagpipes. It is just like the Scottish Highland Pipes with three drones and is more suitable for outdoor performances. This next video demonstrates that Scotland is not the only place to enjoy the gentle harmony of bagpipe bands. Extra points if you can count them all!
This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link to get more Spring in your step.