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 }

Folk Musicians of Breton

25 April 2012

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  has two musicians dressed in somewhat traditional peasant garb, but I'm not sure just how authentic the technique of playing in socks is.

_ _ _

_ _ _ 

A second duo shows the dance style as well as the music Breath control, or breath endurance is a very important attribute of a successful Breton musician.

_ _ _

_ _ _

This next video has dancers in real Brittany folk costumes. The numbers pinned on their backs is because this is a contest and they are being judged for best dance teams.

_ _ _

_ _ _

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.

Father's Mustache

15 April 2012


For thousands of years, music was sound that could only come from the efforts of a live musician. There were no records, no radio, and no portable electronic devices with their vast libraries of recorded music. If you really wanted music in your home, there were limited choices. Hire a musician or learn an instrument yourself. But if you had children, you might have just the right personnel to start your own household band.

This is Musikdirektor Steiner mit seinen Kindern, Quartett und Quintet. Herr Steiner holds a rotary valve cornet and his four children stand next to him with various sized upright tuba horns and another  rotary valve cornet. This circa 1910 photo postcard was clearly a promotional advertisement for the Steiner family band, but there is no postmark or other printing to show where they were from.

But this family band had extra talents. A second postcard was made of Herr Steiner and his children and they have all added a year or two. Herr Steiner now holds a violin and his three sons have a violin, viola, and cello, while his daughter, the eldest, sits at a piano. But to demonstrate their versatility, their brass instruments stand in front on the floor.

Today, music education, especially in brass instruments, usually begins in 4th grade. But that was not always the case. With the right instruction, a younger child can easily learn the rudiments of music and quickly transfer knowledge of one instrument over to another. If father was a professional musician himself, it was probably a natural extension of home schooling to educate his children in music. And talent often thrives with sibling competition.

The back of this card provides the missing information. Music director Steiner and his children are from Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Weberstrasse 22.

The card includes the following:
Inhaber des gesetzlichen Kunstscheines kann sich auf schöne Empfehlungsschreiben von kompetentester Seite berufen, darunter ein eigenhändiges Schreiben von S. M. d. Könige von Württemberg und Sr. Excellenz Graf Zeppelin

My approximate translation:
Proprietor of the legal art certificate can refer to a beautiful letter of recommendation of competence, under letters signed by his majesty King of Württemberg and his excellency Count Zeppelin.

It is always a sign of a class act if you can include a recommendation from a King and a Count.

Graf Zeppelin

Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin
(1838 – 1917) was famous for developing rigid airships which became so successful that they were synonymous with his name Zeppelin.

I would bet that Herr Steiner was a big fan of the pioneer of lighter-than-air travel. I think a moustachio  style was always carefully chosen.

One of the most difficult, if not impossible things to know about the musicians in my photo collection, is what kind of music did they play? It's a just a guess, but if Herr Steiner considered the Graf Zeppelin a patron, he might arrange a popular march of the same name for his children to perform. Here is nice montage of pictures of Zeppelin and his flying airships over the music of the Graf Zeppelin March by Carl Teike.

* * *

* * *

Carl Albert Hermann Teike
(1864– 1922)
Source: Wikipedia

Carl Teike (1864–1922) was a prolific composer of marches, with over 100 published, including the most famous of German standards Alte Kameraden or Old Comrades which is still played today by bands around the world. Teike came from a family of 14 and learned several instruments including horn which he played in the regimental band of the King of Württemberg. I would imagine he was part of a very large family band too.

And just because I like his picture, here is

King William II of Württemberg
Source: Wikipedia

Any child that could perform music in front of such a fierce stare, must have had talent. 

* * *

Family bands were not just a German tradition. For contrast I offer this anonymous American family band. No date, no name, only a mark printed in U.S.A. on the back. Father with mustache, stands at the back with his trumpet. One son holds a cornet and the other, a twin perhaps, holds an upright alto horn. Seated are two daughters, or maybe wife and daughter, with a tuba and baritone horn. Dad and the boys wear fancy band uniform coats.

This halftone photo is like the Steiner family card and probably dates from around 1910.

* * *

This last family band is a photograph and not a postcard. The Nadeau Musicians have father (and mustache) standing at the back holding a viola with his wife beside him with her instrument, a double bass. Their four children stand in front and the oldest boy, perhaps age 12, has a cornet. The children all wear shirts and smocks with hand embroidered decorations that try to imitate band uniforms.

What makes this an unusual image is that the younger children hold violins in different sizes. The brother, perhaps age 7, has a full size violin, but his sister has a half-size violin, and the little brother, perhaps age 4, holds a quarter-size violin.

It is not uncommon for young children today to start on fractional-sized violins when they learn through the Suzuki method . This is a modern teaching technique for introducing children to string instruments and was developed in the 20th century. These proportionally reduced violins were known in the 19th century, but were not common, so this photo from the late 1890s or 1900s is unique in showing young kids learning music with step-up sized violins.

I have been unable to trace the Nadeau family band. There are no other clues on the photo. The name Nadeau does show up in Canada, originating in Quebec I believe, so I will call them French-Canadians until I learn more.

But I'm sure that the Nadeau family, like the other family bands, never lacked for home entertainment.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
Click the link and discover more flights of fancy in old photos.

The Boys Band of Mooseheart

06 April 2012

Much of American social history has been shaped by the efforts of mutual aid societies. When times were hard, ethnic and immigrant groups, trade unions and craft guilds, religious denominations and fraternal organizations developed membership societies with a principal mission that they would provide security for their members against tragic loss. Many of the first insurance companies and credit unions were designed by these societies to protect property and life. And in the past century, when poverty and death were more prevalent in society, the most important warranty these societies could provide was safeguarding the fate of orphaned children. 

This postcard image shows the Mooseheart Student Band from around 1915-16. They are boys who all lived at the Mooseheart children's home, which was established in 1913 by the Loyal Order of Moose in a purpose built village near Aurora, IL just west of Chicago. It was planned to be much more than just an orphanage, but also a school, farm and home for the children of deceased members. Last year I wrote about a similar orphan boys band from the I.O.O.F in Mason City, Iowa.

What makes this a special card like the one from Mason City, is that someone has recorded the names of the 28 young musicians in the band. The writing is in ink but there is later annotation in pencil that adds some question marks and the phrase:

Not in order
Bert La Flamme
Loyde Jenkins
Jim Jenkins
Harold Taylor
Martin Sheeley
George Linde
Merton Sheeley
Louie? Baxter
Grier? McClenan
Jim? Magiaer
Henry Garrett
Thomas Jones
John Williams
Albert Patterson
Frank La Flamme
Jerome Theelan
Thomas Laughlin
Walter Thompson
Olints Washburn
Gerald Shigley
Bert Guitar
Howard Lord
Bruce Taylor
William Andrews
John Meikle
Wm Ayrman
Charlie Ayrman
Paul Di Bona

Many of these names are found in the 1920 census for Mooseheart. Several have brothers and sisters also in the institution. In fact there were 15 pages just for the wards of the home, making over 750 children from ages 2 to 18. Another three pages listed around 150 adults living in Mooseheart, many of an elderly retired age.

The school was started just before America's involvement in WWI but there was probably an effort to instill military discipline or certainly patriotic values in the young wards. This second postcard shows the Mooseheart Band and Cadets on Dress Parade, presumably on the institution's grounds.

Postmarked Aug 6, 1918 from Aurora, IL the postcard was addressed to
Mrs. May A Hart at the Buena Vista Hotel in Belmar, New Jersey.

Dear Wife
Splendid Convention
Vice Presedent of US
here today. Hope you
are enjoying yourself

Thomas Riley Marshall
28th Vice President of the United States
The second line was a puzzle to figure out but it refers to Thomas Riley Marshall (1854 –1925), the 28th Vice President of the United States (1913–1921) under President Woodrow Wilson. On the webpage for Mooseheart history it describes how Vice President Marshall, who was from Indiana, was the guest speaker at Mooseheart’s dedication ceremony on July 27, 1913. He returned five years later, for the 1918 International Loyal Order of Moose convention which is the event that Ed refers to. At that time, the Vice President confessed he had been very skeptical on that hot day in 1913 as he spoke beneath a circus tent rented from Ringling Bros. Circus for the occasion.  "I felt that . . . it was only a circus performance and when the tent went down, the show would be over. Thank God that today...all that I hoped for on that interesting occasion has come to pass at Mooseheart."

The next postcard is undated but I believe it dates from the late 1920s or early 30s. Perhaps some of the younger boys in the first band are now in the Mooseheart High School Concert Band. There are trumpets now instead of cornets. No mellophones that I can see, but two horn players. And three different styles of sousaphones.  Note their jodhpurs which were a strange trouser for a marching band, but popular in the the 1920's. Perhaps Hollywood had an influence on uniforms.

And now a special treat, a souvenir folder booklet of Mooseheart, The School that Trains for Life. This collection of 22 colorized images of the children's school and home was no doubt produced in the school print shop, which you can see here along with pictures of the many school facilities and activities including two photos of the band. Given the size and number of buildings, I would date this from the 1920s or early 1930s.

There are so many pages, that rather than sprain anyone's scrolling fingers, I have put them together in a presentation file, courtesy of Google Docs. Click the play button for a slide show and the little rectangle button to see a full screen enlargement for best effect.

 Please let me know if this viewer doesn't work for you.
You may have to refresh the webpage for it to load.

For anyone using Windows Internet Explorer who can not see this viewer.
Try adjusting your Privacy Settings Slider to Low  under Internet Options.

Today the Mooseheart campus continues with the same mission started nearly 100 years ago. The curriculum may be more sophisticated now, but it still includes music with both a band and a choir. Children are accepted from anywhere and offered vocational training and educational opportunities that would be unavailable to their families. Not every child is an orphan, and I suspect that was true back in 1913 too. Some parents have financial conditions or other challenges that force them to put their children into the school. It is a credit to the Loyal Order of Moose that they have maintained this benefit for their members for almost a century.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where the theme this week was either sleep or libraries, or both,
(or in my case neither.)
 Click the link to see what other photo enthusiasts have chosen.



  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP