This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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The Janietz Elite Damen Blas Orchester

02 March 2012

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.

Dear Friend,
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.

Here the Janietz Elite Damen Blas und Streich Orchester have reached their largest number with 20 musicians, 12 women and 8 men. They have a bassoonist now and three large suspended percussion instruments. There are tubular orchestral bells on the right, and rare soprano tubular bells on the left, but I am unsure of the instrument in the back center. I believe it is a kind of tuned wooden clapper.  It's quite possible that this is an extended family of brothers, sisters, wives and husbands. I imagine them filling an entire train car with their cases and bags, taking all the seats.

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.
Click the link to Go for more.


barbara and nancy said...

What wonderful postcards.
I wonder if the men ever felt slighted that it was called a girls band.

Karen S. said...

Perhaps that is why they weren't really into smiling were they? But I just know they made beautiful music together! Great photos!

Wendy said...

Does anyone have a ricola?
These are beautiful cards. Lots of hand-tinting going around this week.

Bob Scotney said...

Superb postcards. If you fast read the band's name it might just become Janet's Elite Damn and Blast Orchester -or is it justme that saw it that way?

Kristin said...

I wonder what the valved Alphorn sounds like. And what it looks like being played. There are a lot of colorized cards up this week. It's almost a theme within a theme.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

I have never seen such an array of unusual instruments, to me. These are such beautifully colored cards and so well kept. A joy to see.

Postcardy said...

Those are fascinating cards. I never saw an instrument like the alphorns before.

Jinksy said...

That's playing of a different sort, eh?'
But now, how about playing the ' remove double word verification' game?

How About Removing Word Verification?

Come on! You can do it!!! Honestly, it really is extremely simple to do once you go to your ‘Dashboard’ (the word appears in the top right of your blog, next to your email address and the words ‘sign out’)

So the sequence of mouse clicks goes like this:-

• Click on Dashboard
• Click on Settings (shows on one of the tabs along the top)
• Click on Comments (shows as one of the words in a line below the row of tabs)
• Scroll down the page until you see it says Show word Verification? There is a yes/no button choice – click No
• Make sure you click the SAVE button at the bottom on the page

Mike Brubaker said...

Jinksy et al. I'm sorry about the word verification. I dislike it too, but Blogspot does not make it as easy to remove as you describe. My blog dashboard has none of those options available and believe me I've looked. Google for all its benevolence has some infuriating "improvements" and the new Blog interface is one of them. The option to revert to the old interface has disappeared and it apparently is the only place where the comment Captcha system can be disabled. Let's all make pirate noises - Argggggghhh!

Mike Brubaker said...

Ok I did more research and believe I have disabled the word verification feature for comments. A very unhelpful Blogger system. Argggghh!

Titania said...

The postcards are outstanding; I especially like the one where the ladies wear the tartan dresses and the tam o'shanters. Perhaps dressing up in different costumes was part of their performances, perhaps a predecessor of the Rieu shows!

Little Nell said...

Sporrans or not, this costumes were gorgeous, and the colour really adds something. The optimistic traveller made me smile.

Wibbo said...

Wonderful! An amazing collection of hats and hairstyles too.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

This is an amazing collection of postcards! I find the German-Scottish connection very interesting and love the plaid!

Postkarten-Archiv | Andreas-Andrew Bornemann said...

Hallo from Germany!

Infos to the Janietz-Elite-Damen-Blas-Orchester | Janietz-Elite-Damen-Blas- und Streich Orchester

Das vermutlich zwischen 1900 und 1908 gegründete Janietz-Elite-Damen-Blas-Orchester aus der Sängerstadt Finsterwalde in der Niederlausitz/Brandenburg (ständige Adresse: Kurhaus Waldfrieden in Finsterwalde) war ein Damen-Orchester. Das Ensemble bestand abwechselnd aus sechs bis zwölf Damen, später kamen auch noch fünf bis acht Herren dazu. Man trat auch als Janietz-Elite-Damen-Blas- und Streich Orchester auf.

Geleitet und gemanagt wurde das Orchester vom Dresdener Kapellmeister Robert Janietz (1881-?) und dessen jüngster Tochter Marie Janietz, die auch als Xylofon-Solistin auftrat.

Verheiratet war Robert Janietz mit Rosa Janietz (1883-?). Das Ehepaar hatte drei Töchter die alle über eine musikalische Ausbildung verfügten und wohl auch mehrere Instrumente spielen konnten. Im Oktober 1910, im Januar 1913 und im September 1914 trat das Orchester in Dresden/Sachsen auf.

Der Kapellmeister Robert Janietz erwarb 1921 das Kurhaus Waldfrieden in Finsterwalde als Ruhesitz für sich und seine Familie. 1932 gab es auch das Attraktions- und Stimmungs-Orchester R. Janietz und 1935 wurde das Orchester dann aufgelöst.

© Postkarten-Archiv - | Andreas-Andrew Bornemann | Hannover-Linden, Germany


Mike Brubaker said...

Vielen Danke, Andreas!

Here is my English translation of your history of the group.

Information to the Janietz Elite Ladies Blas Orchestra | Janietz Elite Ladies Wind and String Orchestra

The Janietz Elite Ladies wind orchestra was founded probably between 1900-1908, in the "Singer's City" of Finsterwalde in Niederlausitz/Brandenburg (permanent address: Kurhaus Waldfrieden in Finsterwalde) as a women's orchestra. The ensemble consisted of alternating six to twelve ladies, and later another five to eight gentlemen were added. It also appeared as Janietz Elite Ladies wind and string orchestra.

The orchestra was led and managed by the Dresden Kapellmeister Robert Janietz (1881-?) and his youngest daughter Marie Janietz who also appeared as a xylophone soloist.

Robert Janietz was married to with Rosa Janietz (1883-?). The couple had three daughters who all possessed a musical education and probably could play several instruments. In October 1910, January 1913, and September 1914 the orchestra performed in Dresden/Saxony.

In 1921 the conductor Robert Janietz acquired the Spa Waldfrieden in Finsterwalde as a retirement home for himself and his family. In 1932 he also ran R. Janietz's Attractions and Mood Orchestra. In 1935 the orchestra was disbanded.

© Postkarten-Archiv - | Andreas-Andrew Bornemann | Hannover-Linden, Germany



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