Musical groups have always needed to find new ways to stay in the public eye if they are to be successful. A hit song or a fancy costume might help, but self promotion was often more important in building a fan base and swaying the fickle taste of public opinion. One hundred years ago the postcard was the favorite way to sell a band, and the Janietz Elite Damen Blas Orchester, literally "Janietz Elite Ladies Blowing Orchestra" was a group that certainly posed for a lot of photos.
They first appeared as part of my post last October, Postcards of German Ladies Orchestras but this ensemble made so many postcards, that this weekend I devote a showcase just for them.
The Janietz Orchestra numbers varied from around 10 to 12 women and 5 to 7 men. Most of the cards feature just brass instruments, primarily rotary valve instruments, but there are also saxophones and several percussion shown too. The most striking instruments are a kind of valved Alphorn that stretches across the front of the ensemble. Herr Janietz the leader, appears seated here on the right with a cornet and the ubiquitous Kaiser Wilhelm mustache.
The back of the card has an obscured postmark, but I believe it is from around 1908. The printer is Wittenbecher of Leipzig.
Here four women trumpeters and a tympanist stand at the ready for a fanfare. These herald trumpets, a type of bugle, were featured in many German and Austrian Ladies bands of this period. The Janietz Fraulein costumes are clearly an imitation of Scottish fashion with tartan dresses, sashes, and feathered Tam o'Shanters. But their wearing of a Sporran is a major mistranslation of this specialized Scotsman's accessory. Perhaps this odd tartan-mania uniform was a reflection of the Kaiser's supposed admiration of British culture. Or maybe they just liked fur and plaid.
This card was sent in October 1910 to Mr. William Dickmann in Brooklyn, NY. He is found in the 1910 Census, age 33, wife Gertrude, son George, occupation - Butcher.
Spending a couple
of days in Dresdon (sic). Today
it is raining that stop our fun.
Will see you next week.
Regards to all.
That's an optimistic travel schedule for 1910, even with a fast ship.
The next two photographs were not colorized and are in a subdued sepia but the cards produce an interesting game of "Spot the Difference. Can you?
The 16 musicians were clearly a versatile bunch playing not only brass instruments of every kind, but string instruments too, as indicated in the added Streich Orchester. There is also a glockenspiel on the right foreground and another xylophone type instrument on the left that appears often in photos of German bands of this era. Such a novelty may have been a special sound attached to specific popular dances or songs. There is also a woman flute player and two women horn players.
The last postcard was sent Feld-Post on 17 April 1915. This postcard from the front required no stamp for the soldier sending it. The German handwriting is beyond my skills so I leave it to more talented readers to work this one out.
I have no clue as to Herr Janietz's full name. He was one of hundreds of band leaders, each impresario with a marvelous waxed mustache, that formed ladies bands to perform over the vast German and Austrian-Hungarian Empires. The large number of professional women brass musicians at this time is amazing and given the German emigration to America in the early 20th century, it surely must have influenced the formation of similar ladies brass bands in the United States.
Back in November, I participated in a performance of Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony. Listening to some of his imaginative effects for ranks of brass, wind and percussion instruments, I was reminded of the instruments shown in these photos. Mahler's orchestrations are wonderful but he may have been using a musical vocabulary that was more common than we can appreciate now. When these women played they must have made a great noise.
One more postcard of the Janietz Elite Damen to add. This one is postmarked 1919 and is another game of "Spot the Differences." Given this period of the the Great War, one wonders how such a band coped with the challenges of a wartime economy. Travel, food and accommodation must have been difficult for touring with such a large ensemble. And what about the musicians called up for military service? I also believe that during the years 1914-18 many brass instruments were destroyed in order to recycle the brass metal into ammunition shell casings.
But perhaps this is only a left over card, posted some years after Herr Janietz broke up his Elite Damen Orchester.
This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the photo theme this weekend is Korean ladies
smoking and playing the game of Go.
smoking and playing the game of Go.
Click the link to Go for more.