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
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Three German Family Bands

22 January 2016

Mother and Father,
with zither, violin, and flute.

Sister and Brother,
with violin and sailor suit.

Brother and Brother,
with violins too.

Together they make a family orchestra
posed in a garden
on 21.VI.25 or June 21, 1925.
The place and their names are unknown.

The only clue to their location is found on
the back of the sheet music advertising
So it seems likely that this happy family group are somewhere in Germany or Austria. The father has the air of a professional man, though not necessarily a professional musician, perhaps he was an academic, a lawyer, or even a doctor. The musical heritage of the Germanic people makes for a considerable history that is far too long to elaborate here. Instead I'd like to focus on three families where music was indisputably an important aspect of their family heritage.


This musical family trio promoted themselves as the Salon-Trio Fischer, Leipzig. Father stands with a fine blackwood and ivory flute, as his daughter sits at an upright piano, and his younger son, who wears a sailor suit, is holding a violin. One the floor are two rotary valve brass instruments, an alt-horn trumpet and a bass-horn trumpet similar to a valve trombone. Behind them on top of the piano are another violin and a standard rotary valve trumpet. The boy looks about age 10 and the girl is maybe 14 or a bit over.

The postcard was sent from Leipzig by way of the German military Feldpost on 8 Nov 1915 to Artillerist - artilleryman Arthur Zinger. The message's handwriting is too challenging for my ability to translate, but the writer, I believe, is Kapellmeister - bandmaster Franz (?) Fischer, the flutist father pictured on the card. Another signature on the lower left reads Else Fischer, who is probably his pianist daughter.


This next family band are professional performers too, but they come from Dresden. 
Trompten-Quartett — Piston Virtuos  Oscar Schreyer
mit seinen Kinderen  Elisabeth, Althorn-Solistin
Zwillinge: Renata, Bass-Solisten, Kätchen, Piston-Solisten
Ständige Adress: NIEDERPOYRITZ b. Dresden

Unlike the typical German brass instruments with rotary valves, the trumpets that Oscar Schreyer and his three beautiful daughters hold have piston valves, which were a characteristic of the brass band instruments played during this era in France, Britain, and the United States too.

The eldest daughter, Elisabeth, seated right, holds an alt-horn trumpet, while one Zwillinge - twin daughter, Renata holds a bass-horn trumpet and the other twin, Kätchen holds the smaller standard size trumpet. The rotary vs. piston valve plumbing technology makes no difference in the sound of these instruments. However there is a slight difference in how the instrument's action responds for the player. At this time they would have been considered a novelty in Germany and Oscar includes the word Piston to distinguish himself and his three daughters from the ordinary German brass musicians. In 2015 rotary valve trumpets still remain the prevalent style for trumpet players in Central and Eastern Europe, but the variety of lower pitch trumpets has diminished.

Not content with just a quartet, Piston Virtuos Oscar Schreyer added another young member of the family to become a quintet. Little Antonia joined her sisters with a pair of Pauken - tympani.  Despite their miniature size, these tympani appear to have tunable drum heads that can change pitch just like orchestral tympani.

This postcard was sent from Marienberg in southern Saxony, Germany on 8 Nov, 1918 from an Elisabeth Lor..(?), not Schreyer I think, to Fräulein Helene Uhlig. It is interesting to note that just three days later the Great War would end. That would be as good a reason as any for Helene to save it for posterity.

But wait! There's more!

With the war over, Oscar Schreyer, Musikmeister, no doubt was encouraged to expand his family quintet into a septet by adding his two sons, Oscar and Eduard, on Glocken - bells. The two boys, dressed in white sailor suits, look about age 7 and 6 respectively and between them have about two octaves of small hand bells placed on Antonia's Pauken. Elisabeth Schreyer with her alt-trumpet is more mature than in the earlier postcards, perhaps about age 17-18. The twins Renata and Kätchen on bass-trumpet and piston trumpet have also become pretty young ladies. They do not look like identical twins.

The other photos were made in a Dresden photographer's studio, but this one looks like it was taken inside their home as there are two photos hanging on the wall behind them. Could that be a picture of mother Schreyer? The phrase: mit seiner Familie, im Besitze des Kunstscheines translates as "
with his family, in the possession of art certificate" implies that Schreyer has a proper diploma of musical artistry, and that his children are receiving an advanced level of music education.

Family bands by their very nature, have a relatively short performing career as the children grow up and move on. It is gratifying to think that the Schreyer family survived beyond 1918, but of course there were many more difficult trials awaiting anyone living in Germany in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I find it especially challenging to research German and other European family names, as the various non-English internet archives are generally less than useful. So it was a great surprise that I found this small record from the 1949 Hamburg telephone book in the vast vaults of

In the middle of five columns of names, Schmidt to Schult, was an entry for:

Schreyer Oscar u. Barbara - Orc. Musiker Wickedestr 10
                                   (Orchestra Musician)

1949 Hamburg, Germany telephone directory

Is this Oscar Schreyer the father or the son? Or someone else with the same name and occupation?
I don't know that we will ever find out. But once upon a time
there was a family who truly loved music.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where families are always posing for the camera.


Sharon said...

Another interesting post!

My in-laws were of German origin. This post prompted me to ask my husband if either of his parents played a musical instrument. I learnt that his father played the harmonica and your post has revealed more information for my personal family history research notes!

Titania Staeheli said...

Fantastic research again. I love to see whole families playing music together. I guess today not so many families form or are able to form an Orchestra. I know one family in Switzerland they have become quite famous.

The postcard from A.Z. is not easy to read as it is still written in the old German alphabet.
He was a sailor as it says "Matrose" ... Many of this photos are from the eastern part of Germany. In Russia in the communistic time, not all was bad, as nearly in every home was a Piano. Women in aprons and market baskets would go to listen to Tschaikovsky..Beethoven etc. performed by the big state Orchestras.

kathy said...

I wonder if any of the children went on and played instruments with their own children.

Postcardy said...

I am surprised qand interested to see so many girls playing trumpets. When I was in a school band, I think all the brass players were boys.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed seeing all these musical families

Kristin said...

The little boy in the sailor suit without any instrument in the first photo looks quite disgruntled.

Wendy said...

It was fun watching the family band grow as the younger children reached a certain age. The Osmonds did that too.

Like Postcardy, I am always surprised to see the girls playing trumpets and drums. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. When I was in high school, the boys played those instruments while the girls played the flutes, clarinets, and French horns. When one girl in my class started playing the trumpet, it was viewed as some kind of victory, a real honor, rather akin to a girl earning a spot on a baseball team.

La Nightingail said...

Great pictures and information about the families as always. It's hard to tell about the twins. All the girls look very similar in that family.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

I'm sure making music together as a family would be an excellent way to bond and to create memories. I played the violin and my sister the piano when were growing up. We weren't very good, just good enough to play at the Christmas concert for the Legion Hall every year. The old veteran's were usually too drunk to be discriminating and it made my father very proud, so we ( and they) suffered through it. Every Christmas thereafter, as adults, my sis and I would recall the concerts and laugh ourselves silly over the memories. O Holy Night....egads.

Little Nell said...

They certainly did love music- and sailor suits! I like to see girls with trumpets as my daughter learned this instrument in school. Great research again.


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