Galpin Society logo

The Galpin Society

HBS Logo

Making the British Sound, Conference

Instrumental Music and British Traditions

London - Edinburgh

7 - 11 July 2009



See also the Conference Programme

Conference administration: Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments and The Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ.

Trumpet and cornet: an exploration of ancestry and stylistic affinities in British orchestral brass playing of the twentieth century

Simon Baines
University of Leeds

This paper draws upon a series of more than twenty interviews conducted by the presenter in the 1990s, with some of the leading orchestral brass players working in London in the second half of the twentieth century (including Philip Jones, Elgar Howarth, Willie Lang and Maurice Murphy). Consideration is given to lines of influence and tradition throughout the century with a focus on the period from the 1930s to the 1970s.

From the end of the nineteenth century, and notwithstanding the influence of slide trumpeters like the Harpers, following generations of players used a growing diversity of instruments in orchestral trumpet work. As well as special instruments for Bach, the cornet made appearances as a trumpet substitute. As the century went on it was cornet players (rather than the instrument itself) who came to have a particular influence on the range of performance practices we might consider British.

Nevertheless, a lot of the next generation of trumpeters trained specifically, usually at one of the London colleges, and were orientated towards orchestral playing; these might be termed 'establishment' trumpeters. Many came from families of professional musicians. Philip Jones was a third generation orchestral musician, as was Bob Walton (playing in Beecham's LPO). One of the strongest formative influences for them was Ernest Hall (BBC Symphony). There were others who had switched straight from banding to the orchestras, without much by way of formal preparation. Harry Mortimer joined the Hallé in 1927; Jack Mackintosh was invited to the BBC Symphony Orchestra on its formation in 1930; and Harold Jackson went to the Philharmonia.

There arose two strands in the British trumpet tradition. The one vernacular and, by-and-large, of provincial origin; the other, again as a generalization, London-based and schooled as the profession's progeny. These strands are traced through mid-century case studies focusing on the London Symphony Orchestra (where George Eskdale, Lang and Murphy played) and the Philharmonia (Philip Jones). A case is made for the recognition of distinct and separated approaches in the trumpet sections of British orchestras, blossoming post-war. This was not as clear in the first decades of the century, nor the last. In framing a sense of plurality in the British tradition, reference is made to early connections with French orchestral brass and the later influence of American playing.

The road to Masquerade: The influence of the voice on brass band style and repertoire

Peter Bassano

Philip Wilby's compositions for brass band frequently use quotations from earlier composers. In Masquerade - where Verdi's Falstaff is transformed from the original opera but where the words of the libretto remain fundamental to the composition process - harkens back to the stylistic traditions associated with the foundation of the British Brass Band. In 1849, seven years after Aldolphe Sax opened his Paris workshop, Meyerbeer's Le prophht featured a band of 22 sax horns and 2 percussion - musique sur le theatre, en vue du spectateur. It is argued that here is the British Brass Band making its deb{t on the stage of the Paris Opira. It was opera that was to shape the repertoire and playing style of the brass band from its inception up until modern times.

Berlioz promoted the use of the cantabile cornet as a distinctly separate stylistic entity to the trumpet. His Roméo et Juliette employs an entire brass section in an extended unison recitative which in itself was to establish the possibility of a large body of brass players 'singing' in the guise of a colossus.

For the best part of a century it was operatic works of Auber, Balfe, Berlioz, Verdi, Weber, Rossini, Spohr, Thomas, Wagner and Gounod that influenced the stylistic approach to both solo and ensemble playing amongst bandsman who were born in an era when singing was an everyday activity and where their approach to performance was as 'word' aware as the composer's approach to composition was 'word' inspired. Recordings of soloists like Harry Mortimer and Philip McCann display influences which are more easily attributed to the voices of a Galli Curci or a Bronskaya than to the violin of a Kreisler.

Percy Fletcher's Labour & Love written in 1913 is regarded as the first major work for band but stylistically it springs from the operatic tradition. Within this short work there are clear examples of vocally inspired writing: recitatives (both tutti and solo), a lyric soprano tune in the style of Verdi, a coloratura soprano cadenza and an operatic grand finale. Keighley, Jenkins, Holst, Ireland, Bliss, Vaughan-Williams, Ball through Vinter and Gregson up to Wilby all maintain to differing degrees a sense of this vocal tradition. This paper will explore the importance of 'word awareness' in the performance of the brass band canon and whether conservatoire training with its leanings towards orchestral style may have been detrimental to a definitive performance.

Oboes by Thomas Stanesby Sr.: bores and perturbations

P.J. Berry and L. Jones
London Metropolitan University

The bore of the baroque oboe shows a number of characteristic features including a tapering reed socket or counter-bore, a choke or narrowest section, a truncated conical bore, a small outward step between the top and middle joint, a larger step out between the middle joint and the bell, a flared bell, and an internal bell lip. In addition, the bores of most instruments show individual localized perturbations or expansions. Most present-day makers reproduce the main part of the bore of each joint including the expansions with a single composite reamer. 

Comparison of bore plots of the four oboes by Thomas Stanesby Sr. which survive in the UK showed their bores to be very similar, and that the localized expansions were clustered in a small number of key positions in the bore. While the exact position of these expansions varied by up to a centimetre or more between different instruments, their diameters at each location were the same to within 0.5mm. A single instrument had an additional expansion just distal to the choke. These findings could be explained if a `basic' bore was created by a single reamer or series of reamers, and the localised expansions were then added using the same set of secondary reamers for all four instruments, but introduced to different depths according to perceived need.

A set of reamers and a series of instruments were made to test the feasibility of making instruments in this way, and to evaluate the effect of secondary reaming on the intonation and sound of the baroque oboe. Secondary reaming resulted in rather subtle changes in intonation, but tended to correct errors of tuning inherent in instruments with the “basic” bore. The most striking effect was to greatly strengthen their sound. It should be possible to reconstruct the bores of all four oboes using this single set of reamers, and it is concluded that Stanesby may well have used one set of reamers for all four instruments.

Making what they could sell. Or, if they were so clever, why weren't they rich ?

Robert Bigio

Frustration with the limitations of the old eight-keyed flute in the middle decades of the nineteenth century is evident from the number of newly-invented flutes presented to the market. Four important additional factors made London the ideal place for the promotion of new flutes: first, the size of the market, in which the flute was such a popular gentleman's instrument; second, the relative wealth of the gentlemen who played the flute; third, the ready availability of skilled workers to execute an inventor's design; and fourth, the comparative absence of restraint of trade which made it easy for newcomers to enter the market. Many newly-invented flutes were offered, some by established makers such as Rudall & Rose or Cornelius Ward, and some by inventors such as Abel Siccama or John Clinton, who set up new companies and employed others to make their instruments for them. Inventors stood to become prosperous if they had a good design, some marketing ability and the capital to employ good workers. Rudall & Rose held the British rights to the Boehm flute, which has turned out to be perhaps the most successful woodwind design in history, and they and their successor firm Rudall Carte also supplied, among other designs, Richard Carte's 1851 and 1867 system flutes, which for a time outsold the Boehm. Ward, Siccama and Clinton were among those whose instruments did not succeed. This paper will attempt to explain the successes and the failures, with particular reference to Rudall Carte, makers who would supply flutes to almost any design, and whose surviving stock records offer powerful evidence of which flutes were popular and which were not.

An icon of the English clarinet school: Boosey & Hawkes and the Symphony 1010

Jenny Brand
Goldsmiths College, University of London

The Symphony 1010 clarinet, which was manufactured by Boosey & Hawkes, is often seen as being inextricably linked to a certain kind of sound favoured by English clarinettists of the mid-twentieth century. It was championed by high profile professional players such as Frederick Thurston, Jack Brymer and Gervase de Peyer, and was at the centre of a whole school of clarinet sound and playing during this time. In spite of this, the 1010's heyday was fairly short-lived, and changing fashions in the second half of the century sent it into relative obscurity.

This paper uses empirical evidence from the Boosey & Hawkes archive to trace the development - and eventual decline - of Boosey's flagship clarinet model. I shall examine the organological features of this instrument that made it so popular at the outset, and that enabled it to develop its iconic status. I will explore the idea that many of the design features applied to this model were in fact a collection of ideas inspired by the study of foreign - notably German and French - clarinets. Using data from Boosey production records I will place the 1010 in context with other Boosey clarinet models, and argue why - though it was not made in much greater numbers than many other models - it was the 1010 in particular that was so highly regarded.

Drawing on evidence from technical drawings in the Boosey & Hawkes archive, and anecdotal evidence from musicians, I will suggest that the 1010's conception and initial popularity were responses to a desire in British orchestral music making for a stronger sense of national identity. Using data from the company records I will also demonstrate how changes in national taste towards the end of the century affected the production of the 1010, and led to its eventual decline.

Fanfare's fanfares: heralding a new era

Raymond David Burkhart

English writer and composer Leigh Henry (1889-1958) began publication in October 1921 of Fanfare: A Musical Causerie, a magazine designed to deal with literature, drama, painting, sculpture, and theatre-craft as matters a knowledge of which forms a necessary complement to musical culture. Henry wrote articles for each edition, and contributing writers offered occasional articles and notes on music in London, Birmingham, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Belgium. Jean Cocteau contributed both articles and drawings.

Fanfare's most distinctive feature was its inclusion of fanfares in the magazines centerfold. Many of these were composed especially for Fanfare and were performed in a series of concerts conducted by Sir Eugene Goossens at Queens Hall in late 1921. Despite the claim not to be bound by political or geographical limitations, the Fanfare Movement also declared the intention to enfranchise the British musician among the other European artists, and the list of composers whose fanfares were printed in Fanfare shows a decidedly English dominance: Auric, Bantock, Bax, Bliss, Brian, Bryson, Coppola, de Falla, Fogg, Goossens, Harrison, Harty, Holbrooke, Malpiero, Milhaud, Poulenc, Pratella, Prokofiev, Roussel, Satie, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Wellesz, White, and Williams.

Like most fanfares, the publication of Fanfare magazine was bold and brief. After only seven issues it was melded into the magazine Musical Mirror, which in the early 1930s became The Music Lover. This paper will examine Fanfare's goals and its observations on music and culture. The focus will be on its fanfares and their composers, and sound files of representative fanfares will be presented along with their scores (and new orchestrations, where needed).

The saxophone in England in the long nineteenth century

Stephen Cottrell
Goldsmiths College, University of London

The saxophone was developed by Adolphe Sax in the late 1830s and early 1840s. In the non-Germanic countries of western Europe it achieved moderate success as an addition to various military wind ensembles from the mid 1840s onwards, although it was by no means universally adopted. The instrument appears to have crossed the English Channel no later than 1848. It is found in the instrumentation of certain military ensembles for a few years after this, but then largely seems to have disappeared from the public eye. George Bernard Shaw, for example, observed in 1885 that “probably not one student in the Royal Academy or Royal College of Music could spot a saxophone blindfold”. Notwithstanding the disassociation between military music making and conservatoire training, the assertion is striking.

But the saxophone had not, in fact, disappeared from English soil. The Distin family imported the instrument from Sax's own company from at least 1849, with Rudall & Co taking over as sole agents in 1853. Other agents around the country were offering the instrument for sale from the 1860s. Data from the Boosey and Hawkes archive at the Horniman Museum demonstrates further sales patterns for the latter decades of the century.

Furthermore, the saxophone continued to be found on the English stage. Several important musicians who went on to become key figures in the global dissemination of the instrument in the 1850s-1870s were working in London prior to achieving greater fame elsewhere. The concerts they gave were widely reported in both London and Paris. The saxophone was utilised as a novelty instrument in promenade concerts given by Jullien, Mellon and Riviére, and was also employed by several music hall artists in the latter part of the century. This was particularly true of the Elliots and Musical Savonas, an English cycling and multi-instrumental troupe who were advertising themselves as the Buffet Saxophone Band in the early years of the twentieth century.

This paper will set out the hidden history of the saxophone in England in the long nineteenth century, and consider its deployment in a variety of military, popular and light classical contexts, in order to demonstrate that while the neophyte musicians of the London conservatoires may not have known a great deal about the instrument, it was certainly there to be spotted had they but cared to look.

A newly-discovered English bassoon

Mathew Dart
London Metropolitan University

In the summer of 2008 an intriguing bassoon turned up on ebay in England. It was made with a high degree of crafstmanship and experience but was stamped with a previously unknown maker's name. English bassoons of eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries from known makers show a great deal of similarity in turning and keywork; though this one was clearly of English style it had some unusual keywork and other unique features.

Several features attest to a date of manufacture close to 1800, however its wing mounted C# key would be precocious at this time in England or anywhere in Europe. Is this the earliest bassoon C#, in a form that directly relates to the modern Heckel design, produced by a maker of whom we know nothing more than this one instrument?

Farewell to the kidshifter: the decline of the G bass trombone in the UK 1950-1980

Gavin Dixon
The Horniman Museum

The narrow bore G bass trombone was a distinctive feature of British bands and brass sections in the first half of the twentieth century, but by 1980 it had been almost completely replaced by the wide bore Bb instrument. This paper tells the story of how the transition came about, drawing on contemporary documents, instrument production records, and interviews with players who started their careers on the G trombone.

The adoption of the Bb bass trombone was connected with a number of broader changes to brass instruments in the UK in the decades following the Second World War. Orchestras visiting from the USA in the late 1940s had impressed British players with the dynamic range and warm sound that was possible from wide bore brass instruments. In the 1950s, most British professional orchestras adopted wide bore brass, and the Bb bass trombone entered British orchestral life as part of this line-up.

The demise of the G bass trombone is also closely linked to the decline of wind instrument manufacture in the UK. In the early 1950s, all Bb bass trombones, like all other wide bore brass instruments in Britain, were imported. Domestic wind instrument production was under the effective monopoly of Boosey & Hawkes, although until 1972 the Salvation Army supplied their own players from a smaller factory in St. Albans. The surviving production records of both companies have been consulted to chart the decline of G trombone production, as military and brass bands moved over to wide bore instruments. The production records of Boosey & Hawkes are particularly interesting in this respect, because they show how the company fought back against American imports by introducing their own wide bore Sovereign range. The first Bb bass trombone appears in the records in 1957, an instrument based on the designs of the American models the company was hoping to undercut. Production of the Bb bass trombone increased as that of the G declined, until the factory's last G trombone was completed 1978. In the last years of G bass trombone production, the company turned to making higher quality instruments in smaller numbers, presaging the status of the G trombone today as an instrument for collectors and connoisseurs, and particularly those with an interest in the history of the British brass sound.

The cornet à pistons seen by Fétis through his writings about the World Exhibitions of London and Paris, 1851-1867

Géry Dumoulin
Musée des instruments de musique (MIM)

François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871) was a leading figure in the French musical world of the nineteenth-century. He held an influential position in the musical life and his role as a critic, a music historian, a theoretician, a professor, in one word as a musicologist, if sometimes controversial, was immense. His deep interest for the musical instruments has been recognised and suggests that his views in this domain might be pertinent. This paper will focus on the cornet à pistons - in vogue on the continent and in Britain - seen through the writings of Fétis related to the World Exhibitions of his time.

Great Britain and France organised alternatively the first four major World Exhibitions, rivalling in proposing a most memorable event, to the glory of their respective industry: London in 1851 and 1862, and Paris in 1855 and 1867. These occasions, symbolising progress and innovation, were of crucial importance for the industry in general, and instrument making made no exception to this phenomenon. They represented an international showcase for makers avid to display their ability and their products, looking for official rewards and public acclaim. Their impact influenced both the British and the French musical scenes, and they generated numerous reports or reactions by different authors, Fétis being one of the most assiduous of them.

The views of Fétis concerning the cornet, already outlined in his Manuel des compositeurs (1837) resurfaced in his Lettres written for the Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris in 1851, from the London Great Exhibition, an event that had a significant influence on the English brass scene, principally through the saxhorns of Adolphe Sax. In 1855, he was more precise in a detailed report about instrument making, and in the official report of the Belgian jury. For the return of the exhibition in London in 1862, his advice became more severe but perfectly clear-sighted, before he summarised his point of view in his comments concerning the 1867 Parisian exhibition. During those years, the position of this “most eminent and enlightened theoretician and critic of [his] time” - according to Dauverné - about the cornet evolved from the enthusiasm for the orchestral potentialities of the instrument to the noticing of a kind of degeneration, and reveal the appreciation of a brass instrument by a member of musical establishment.

The influence of the Distin family on the development of the brass band movement in nineteenth century Britain

Ray Farr
University of Durham

An historical musicological study, considering the effects and influences of the Distins on the developing brass band movement in the nineteenth century, drawing on previous research and critical theory of authors such as Herbert, Myers, Newsome, Jones, Taylor, Russell and Scott.

This paper examines and re-interprets existing research on the Distins in the light of new findings and theories with particular focus on performance and repertory.

Throughout the nineteenth century the brass band movement developed through various synergies such as social and cultural change, publishing, contesting, and most significantly the introduction of valved instruments and the Distin contribution is considered significant in many of these aspects. An investigation into the performance style and repertory of the Distins reveals attitudes and practices, which became established and accepted as the norm.

Particularly relevant in showing the importance of the Distins are the reports from an estimated 10,000 performances during their concert tours around the world, their repertory, their catalogues and descriptions of early brass instruments and the consequent development of brass bands.

The brass band movement developed rapidly following the adoption of the Distin franchise of Saxhorns in 1844 and by 1890 there were an estimated 30,000 bands in existence.

The excellence of the group in performance at home and abroad was emulated by the brass bands of the day and similarities in repertory between those of the Distins and contemporary brass bands will be examined.

On one hand, the activities of the Distins are becoming increasingly documented as a mounting level of detail is unearthed. On the other hand the relevance and importance of these activities within the context of brass band development is obscure and a case for proving a direct influence and effect will be shown and facts interpreted.

The similarities and connections between the various Distin activities and the emerging brass band movement will be examined (such as the Distin Ventil Horn Union and the Distin Grand Instrumental Union and similar repertory piece such as Robert le Diable by Meyerbeer).

The viol displayed, the iconographer dismayed

Michael Fleming

This paper concerns images of instruments, with a particular focus on English images of viols. Paintings, prints and other images are commonly used by organologists who seek evidence to support general theories, and images are often cited as providing detailed information about particular features of instruments. But for visual sources to be used most effectively, aspects of their production must be known and understood in detail, and the images must be interpreted systematically and objectively. Both these matters will be addressed in this paper. In England, print is by far the commonest medium for images of musical instruments, so particular attention will be paid to the production and distribution of prints, and the consequent implications for their use as an organological resource. An ongoing project to record all English images (before 1800) of viols in a wide range of media will be described. The current state of the collection will be presented and examples shown (there will not be sufficient time to show all the images during the talk, but reproductions of all the English images of viols that are currently known will be available for inspection). Individual images will be discussed to place them in an international context. The use of such images will be exemplified and the value of such a collection of data will be explained. The question of whether such images can help to explain why old English viols had the leading reputation in Europe will be explored.

British and continental clarinets compared

Heike Fricke

The relation between the conical and the cylindrical part of the bore in a clarinet differs between clarinets of different regions. For example, clarinets made in the U.K. at the end of the eighteenth century are almost cylindrical, whereas clarinets made in France feature a long non-cylindrical part. This is surprising, because we would expect the typical French bore to be a feature of the so called Boehm clarinet, which was invented much later. Where did the preference for the chalumeau-like bore in England derive from? What was the further development like? A digression reflecting upon the early repertoire for chalumeau will show that the chalumeau obviously had much more influence on the idiom of the clarinet than we would assume.

“Loud noyses of musicke”: musical representation and the court and civic ensembles of Elizabethan London

Helen Green
The Open University

Within the medieval walls surrounding Elizabethan London there existed an urban metropolis that prospered in trade and culture. Of the complex network of musicians in the city, two instrumental ensembles were of particular significance: the waits (the official civic musicians under the employment of the Mayor) and the instrumentalists of the royal court. As representatives of the Lord Mayor and Queen, these instrumental ensembles were at the height of their profession, performing for their patrons and any visitors to the city and thereby communicating the wealth and splendour of London and England. This paper will discuss the duties of these musicians who, in accordance with their roles as musical representatives, met the demands of the civic and court entertainments of Elizabeth's reign while portraying a positive image of their patrons to any onlookers. The development of these ensembles amidst the cultural prosperity of the age will be presented and the establishment of communities of instrumentalists who were often drawn to the city from other areas of Europe.

Brass intersections: performance domains and the British brass identity

Trevor Herbert
The Open University

Musical recordings provide the clearest evidence of the globalisation of performance preferences: the progression from difference to sameness in national performance styles. But until the closing decades of the twentieth century, differences prevailed and were easily perceptible. The British sound was one of the most distinctive; not all players played in the same way, but almost all drew from a pool of shared features that made them recognisable.

Three broad agencies contributed to the creation of the British sound between the late nineteenth century and the last thirty years of the twentieth century:

The story of the dynamic between these agencies is one of the most interesting and neglected in recent British music history. This paper draws on documentary sources, commercial recordings and recorded interviews with players to explore this story and the legacies it conveyed to composers and others who were influential in British music.

The contribution of women to the design, manufacture and maintenance of the piano

Marie Kent
London Metropolitan University

The contribution of women to the design, manufacture and maintenance of the piano has not been an area commonly considered in documenting the instrument's history.  From the onset of the piano's popularity in England c 1770 to the present day this study explores the work and locale of female dealers, decorative artists, factory workers, French-polishers, fret-cutters, key-makers, manufacturers, piano-silkers, small work-manufacturers, string-makers, tuners and music wire-drawers and their numbers and activity compared with male counterparts in the trade.  It challenges the premise that “men make pianos” and endeavours to quantify the scale, pattern and duration of women's involvement in the industry.

An examination of London's commercial and trade directories from 1770 to 2008 identifies women advertising annually in specialist manufacturing and maintenance activities and provides evidence of geographical congregation, kinship and legacy among men and women working in the trade.  Quantitative data drawn from the directories expose the flux of female participation in the industry and the gradual retreat of women in the face of co-efficient competition.  Findings from transcripts of trial proceedings at the Old Bailey (1784 to 1913) and the London Gazette (1822 to 2008) expose a workforce dealing with legal and fiscal issues wherein women were found to have been embroiled both personally and vicariously.  Finally, the English census for 1881 reveals the extent to which wives, daughters, sisters, widows and mothers were wholly or partly dependent on the industry.

It is argued that the role of women in the history of piano manufacture and maintenance has been greater than hitherto documented, but that the extent of their contribution has been rendered increasingly invisible by the erosion of time and relevance. 

The Auxeto-Instruments of Charles Algernon Parsons

Aleks Kolkowski and Alison Rabinovici
Brunel University and University of Melbourne

The quest for louder sound reproduction in the acoustic era (1877 - c 1925) occupied the minds of the greatest inventors and engineers of the age. It is no surprise then, that the most successful and powerful mechanical device to amplify recorded sound - the Auxetophone - was the product of combined efforts by Horace Short (of Short Brothers' aviation fame) and Sir Charles Algernon Parsons, inventor of the modern steam turbine engine. Compressed air was modulated by a valve, simulating the workings of vocal chords; the blast of sound projected by a giant horn. When playing gramophone records, this reproducer could be used in the open air, in a large hall, even compete with an orchestra. Parsons's use of the valve on acoustic string instruments in the early 1900s resulted in the auxeto- violin, cello, bass and harp - the very first externally amplified musical instruments, preceding electronic methods by decades.

Despite endorsments by famous musicians, auxeto- instruments met with open hostility from the musical fraternity and a mixed response from the public. The disillusioned inventor abandoned his groundbreaking project. In any case, mechanical systems of amplification were soon to be rendered obsolete by the thermionic valve and “Wireless” technology.

Consigned to a footnote in his biography, neglected by historians and unexplored by organologists, Parsons's auxeto-instruments remain important in any discussion about the mechanical amplification of sound and early attempts to amplify live music. This paper will examine the auxeto-instruments from two different but complimentary perspectives; firstly, an organological focus will examine the intentions of the inventor; instrument design, construction and function. Secondly, the historical context of these mechanically amplified string instruments will be discussed; Parsons's air-powered auxeto-violin (patented in 1903) as a response to the earlier diaphragm & horn amplified violin of Augustus Stroh; previous and contemporary endeavours to increase the loudness of sound reproduction devices and instruments, including Fleming's oscillation valve; the introduction of the Auxetophone to scientific circles through the “conversazione” and through the press; the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts of 1906 which featured an auxeto-double bass and the auxeto-cello recitals of Auguste van Biene.

The Auxetophone and it's application to musical instruments represented a radical shift in the function and reception of recorded sound and amplified music, making it possible for the first time in history to successfully play at significantly loud volume in public spaces. It is the precursor to the Public Address system and electrical ?pick-ups? for musical instruments which have so transformed modern music-making.

British and continental evidence of the early shuttle-drone bagpipe

Jim Kopp

Instead of long drones, a bagpipe sometimes had a “shuttle drone” or “racket drone” - a short, multi-drilled cylinder in which the parallel bore cavities were connected end to end; lateral vents to the bores were adjustable by sliders or shuttles. The term is often associated with the French musette of the 17th and eighteenth centuries, but the shuttle drone was sometimes seen in other bagpipe cultures.   An early depiction of a musette with shuttle drone occurs in a French emblem book - Claude Paradin's Devises Heroïques (Lyons, 1551). This little-noted woodcut casts a helpful light on archival evidence of musette-making in Lyons during the 1540s. Among later editions was The Heroicall Devises of M Claudius Paradin (London, 1591).

At Rossend Castle, Burntisland, Fife, a painted ceiling (dated to between 1581 and 1621) depicts a mouth-blown bagpipe with shuttle drone. (The bagpipe depiction is an informed variant of the woodcut from the 1591 edition of Paradin.)  The collection of the National Museum of Scotland includes an incomplete bagpipe with shuttle drone, dated 1695, of uncertain provenance.   The shuttle drone, the racket, and the chanters of the phagotum (a bagpipe described in 1539 as an invention or improvement by Canon Afranio of Ferrara) are among the earliest examples of a folded-bore woodwind instrument. I will offer a revised interpretation of the phagotum's provenance. I will also examine evidence of a folded-bore woodwind at the court of Maximilian I - possibly a shuttle drone or racket - dating from 1515. This early evidence will provide a suitable context for interpreting citations of instruments called fagoth, faghotto, and fagotto, respectively, in Ferrara and Mantua, 1516-18.    

The use of the classical guitar in the chamber and orchestral works of Denis ApIvor

Mark Marrington
Leeds College of Music

In the wider context of British music, Denis ApIvor (1916-2004) was an important member of the small circle of modernist composers that emerged in London during the mid-1930s, a group which also included Humphrey Searle and Elisabeth Lutyens. These individuals were among the very first British composers to explore contemporary compositional techniques (particularly serialism) in their music during the early post-war period and effectively laid the foundations for the more radical experiments of such groups as the Manchester School during the 1960s. ApIvor's association with the classical guitar was characterized by a breadth of output found in few British non-guitarist composers, with the notable exception of Peter Maxwell Davies. He was keenly concerned with future of the classical guitar in contemporary music and highly sensitive to the technical considerations involved in writing for an instrument that was often overlooked by the serious music establishment. In his championing of the instrument in his work and his exploration of its compositional resources ApIvor played a vital role in establishing a contemporary British repertoire for the instrument which is still only partially acknowledged. This paper (supported by rarely heard recorded examples) will explore and evaluate ApIvor's employment of the classical guitar in the large scale chamber and orchestral works produced at the height of his Webern-influenced serial period.

What is "the british sound" in plucked keyboard instruments ?

Darryl Martin
University of Edinburgh

Any experienced listener is aware that different plucked keyboard traditions each have their own “sound”, and these listeners are often able to accurately know the country of origin of a played sample based on its sound. This is true both of original instruments and reproductions of them. This tonal similarity can be found in instruments built from the late sixteenth- to the end of the eighteenth century and, even though no experienced person will confuse a late instrument for an early one both are still recognised as British - in other words: the British sound overrides other factors such as case materials, instrument size and compass, disposition and even shape. As it is not possible to point to a single obvious cause of the British plucked keyboard sound this paper will attempt to describe what the sound actually is, and to explore some of the variables which might be responsible for it, as well as rule out other features which are found in both the British and other traditions.

The contribution of Herbert Barr to the formation of the twentieth-century British orchestral trumpet sound

Alexander McGrattan
Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama

This paper will examine the development of the British orchestral trumpet sound during the early twentieth century. The main focus will be on the career of Herbert (“Bertie”) Barr, principal trumpet with Thomas Beecham's orchestra from 1913 and co-principal of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from its formation in 1930 until 1950. Herbert Barr is chiefly remembered as the first player in Britain to perform the trumpet part of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 at its written octave throughout (at the 1922 Leeds Festival). However, his legacy has been eclipsed by that of his contemporaries Ernest Hall and George Eskdale, trumpeters who epitomised the two contrasting schools of playing that coexisted in Britain throughout the twentieth century, deriving, respectively, from the orchestral trumpet style established by players of the nineteenth-century slide trumpet and the cornet traditions deriving from brass and military bands. During the early part of his career Herbert Barr was one of the most sought after trumpet players in London, and, it will be argued, laid the foundation for the acceptance of players from the cornet tradition into the orchestral realm.

France and Britain: crossroads of brass instrument making

Eugenia Mitroulia
University of Edinburgh

John Henry Distin and his family brass ensemble started touring Europe in 1837; in the early 1840s they brought back to Britain from France Adolphe Sax's patented saxhorns and saxotrombas. The Distins became Sax's sole agents for selling his brasses in Britain. Later, though, they started making their own instruments and this led their collaboration with Sax to an end. French brass instrument tradition had already left its mark on British brass instrument making. This paper will examine the influence of Sax and other French makers to British brass instrument making and the interrelations of French and British nineteenth-century brasswind traditions. Through the close examination of surviving instruments of the time, as well as patents and other primary sources it has been noticed that the French influence had been significant. The study of copyright legislation of the time has shed some light on the real reasons behind the phenomenon.

Trumpet vs cornet at the turn of the twentieth century; sound, perception and reaction

Paul Nevins
Birmingham Conservatoire

At the end of the nineteenth century the sound quality of the cornet was considered by commentators to be inferior to that of the trumpet, particularly the slide trumpet. Thomas Harper Jnr. states: “the cornet ... [has] ... a looser or less dense, piercing, brilliant character than ... the trumpet”; and later: “Up to a certain extent trumpet parts can be played upon the cornet, although with a distinct difference and marked deterioration of tone” (Harper's School for the Trumpet ... and 100 Progressive Exercises (London: Rudall, Carte & Co. [1875])). To the ears of a twenty-first century audience, who have been primarily used to the sound of the modern trumpet throughout their lives, would these criticisms still hold true?

A series of lecture recitals have been given over the past year to audiences varying greatly in age and musical experience. During the recitals they have been asked to complete a questionnaire. Short solo items by Thomas Harper Jnr., Orlando Morgan and Edwin York Bowen, as well as orchestral excerpts from popular works of the day, have been performed on a reproduction slide trumpet (John Webb), an historic cornet (Boosey & Co.) and an historic F trumpet (Boosey & Co.), after which the audiences have been asked to comment on the sound quality of each instrument. The influence of the sound of the modern instrument has been minimized by its exclusion from the recital, and a starting reference-sound provided with an historic nineteenth-century natural trumpet.

An analysis of the results of these questionnaires, along with the opportunity to hear these instruments being played live, will form the basis of this lecture-recital.

The workshop accounts of the London harp firm of Erard, 1807-09

Jenny Nex
Royal College of Music and Goldsmiths College, University of London

In three bound volumes held at the Royal College of Music are to be found the ledgers of the London branch of Erard's harp manufactory.  Sebastian Erard set up his establishment at 18 Great Marlborough Street in London in 1792, having left his brother managing their original branch amid the insecurities of Revolutionary Paris.  The majority of the information held within this archive relates to instrument sales and repairs undertaken between 1798 and 1917.  However, in addition there is a section dating from February 1807 to June 1809 pertaining to the manufacturing side of the business.  These pages offer a tantalising glimpse into the daily operations of an instrument making firm in Georgian London.  While there are details concerning certain activities, such as the regular purchase of varnish, sound boards and carved eagles, there is frustratingly little detail about the workers: a weekly amount is entered for the “Workmen” but with no indication of individual wages.  Suppliers of strings, screws, wood and packing cases are named, as are the engraver, the gilder, and even the tax collector.  We are also allowed glimpses into everyday life such as the name of the housekeeper and her regular expenses, and we know that Erard provided a “Beanfeast” for his workers on the Saturday closest to Bastille Day in both 1807 and 1808.  This paper looks at the information this resource offers concerning the network of people and companies involved in putting together a harp for Erard's, and examines the financial information which is included in the records.  Thus, this archive gives us a fascinating glimpse, albeit through frosted glass, of the workings of a musical instrument manufacturer in early industrial London.

British horn design in the eighteenth century: an analysis of acoustics and playing technique

Lisa Norman
University of Edinburgh

The revival of interest in historical performance practice has led to much speculation concerning how early instruments might have been made and played, and in particular how early ensembles might have sounded. At the start of the eighteenth century, the hunting horn became increasingly accepted as an integral member of the orchestra. This new role led to gradual changes in the design of the instrument and also in player technique. Horns that have survived from the eighteenth century show significant variation in layout or 'wrap' and bore profile, possibly related to geographical trends and the rate at which different instrument makers adopted new designs. For this reason, assessing the evolution of the instrument can be problematic, and in this paper a new method of instrument analysis is described, based on superposition of the outlines of examples of early horns. This approach to instrument analysis allows aspects such as differences in the wrap of the instrument and in the positioning of the bell and mouthpipe of the horn relative to the corpus, to be determined easily. Perhaps the most significant and contentious debate surrounding developments in horn technique from this period concerns how and in what situation the hand was employed within the bell of the instrument. The potential effect of this on intonation and timbre is great, and coupled with the bore profile, the use of the hand in the bell has a significant effect on the ease with which notes in the upper register of the instrument can be played. An objective indicator of these factors can be gained from measurements of the acoustic impedance of the instrument, and may also offer insight into its evolution. Correlations between measurements of bore profiles and details of instrument wrap are assessed in order to provide further insight into the consistency and evolution of horn manufacture and design and to compare trends in instrument making in Britain and mainland Europe.

Guittar manufacture and marketing in late eighteenth-century London

Panagiotis Poulopoulos
University of Edinburgh

The guittar appeared around the middle of the eighteenth century and quickly became the most popular plucked stringed instrument in Britain until the beginning of the nineteenth century. During this time London was the most important centre of guittar making and distribution, a fact evidenced in various surviving instruments and historical documents. These sources illustrate an interesting scene consisting of large-scale manufacturers and innovators establishing the dominant designs and trends, and of small-scale outworkers and imitators following the models and styles set by the leading names. It is quite remarkable that a large number of London guittar manufacturers seem to have been occupied primarily in violin or keyboard instrument making, and that many of them were of non-British origin. Additionally, most of them also composed, taught, played, and published music for the guittar.

The aims of this paper are to investigate the social, economic and cultural relations between guittar makers, patentees and distributors, and to present the main facts and figures pertaining to the development of a guittar culture in late eighteenth-century London. Emphasis will be placed on the work of the most influential names: Hintz, Preston, Rauche, Longman & Broderip, and Clauss. Details of production methods, workshop arrangements, advertising and trade policies, and the role of the patent system, will also be mentioned. Conclusions will be supported by the examination of extant guittars from various collections, and the investigation of archival sources and the relevant literature.

Charles Nicholson and the making of a British flute sound

Ardal Powell

  The foreigners who dominated Britain's concert life from its beginnings at the Restoration introduced continental ideals and practices to the middle and upper classes by performing new compositions in public. Elsewhere a contrasting British taste was emerging, marked by direct and sentimental expression and a preference for simple melody, especially of Scotch Airs.

The native style developed in church, in the pleasure gardens, and in the theatre, but most of all in private, where the flute, as the instrument favoured by male domestic amateurs, became an increasingly significant vehicle during the eighteenth century for exploring and displaying a national habitus of “taste and judgement”. Taste in flute-playing thus became a matter of general concern: expressions of native ideals and performance practices gathered rapidly in sophistication and confidence throughout the 1780s and 90s, and eventually became the focus of public debate during a crucially formative period of British Gemeinschaft between Waterloo and Victoria's accession.

Regency flute-playing's main distinction was its opposition to everything French. Whereas the social and artistic establishment promoted orderly classical values manifested in new composition, the native ideal favoured the supposedly ancient folk heritage and the dark, inward sentiment, of the Gothic manner. While continental artists astonished London with their refined and polished artistry, the pre-eminent British flutist, the Liverpudlian Charles Nicholson the younger (1795-1837), charmed and moved his listeners with a sound of unprecedented power and an execution of idiosyncratic “expression” upon an instrument of his own characteristic design. Though criticized as “impure” and “Gothic”, the Nicholsonian taste was perceived as uniquely British at a time when the distinction conferred urgent political and moral significance.

If Nicholson's taste made his performances British, his pedagogy served to institutionalize a British Flute School. Nicholson was the first to use a standard instrument and consistent methods, repertoire, and technique that became the traditional tools of British and Empire flutists. The style remained uniquely British not just because it was practised by Britons, but because it retained an ethos of manliness, heroism, and undemonstrative virtuosity - as well as a sharp contrast with French practice - even after every detail of its founder's repertoire, performance practice, and instrument had vanished.

This paper briefly examines the making of both a British flute sound and a British School of flute-playing, and reflects on the broader question of how traditions and conventions obtain their power in “art worlds” in general and in musical life in particular.

Single-manual English harpsichords with machine stop: the Thomas Culliford harpsichord (London, 1785) of the Conservatory of Music of Florence

Gabriele Rossi Rognoni
University of Florence

The Collection of the Conservatory of Music of Florence includes an English harpsichord signed by Thomas Culliford and made for Longmann & Broderip in London in 1785. The instrument is equipped with 2x8', 4', lute and harp stops, a single manual, venetian swell and machine stop and is closely related to other two instruments in private collections (Kenneth Mobbs Collection and Alexander Mackenzie of Ord Collection, Bristol) made by the same workshop in the same year. The peculiar action of this machine stop was thoroughly studied and published by the two collectors in several articles in the Galpin Society Journal. However both instruments, as evidenced by the authors, were somehow heavily modified by Arnold Dolmetsch and some of the conclusions had to be based on hypotheses.

The restoration performed by Kerstin Schwarz and Tony Chinnery in 2008, on the opposite, convincingly led to believe that the Florentine instrument is still in pristine conditions and did not undergo any relevant modification through its life, apart from re-quilling of all the registers in leather. Therefore further study on this instrument confirmed, enriched, and sometimes offered an alternative proposal for some of the solutions reached by previous studies.

In particular some parts that were considered later additions or modifications, mainly because of rough workmanship that contrasted with the general accuracy of the other parts, were confirmed to be original and explicable with the fact that Culliford seems to have used, for these cheaper single manual models, the metalwork that was serially made for the more common double keyboard ones, modifying and adapting them by hand to this model.

The paper aims at presenting the peculiarities of this instrument and to discuss the conclusions reached by analyses of the materials and comparison of the elements of the three surviving specimens, drawing some further general conclusions on this kind of action.

Lecture-Recital proposal

Crispian Steele-Perkins

[ Abstract to follow ]

Ergonomic analysis of a renaissance sackbut

Bill Tuck and Frank Tomes

Iconographic representations of sackbuts during the 17th century in England are few and far between. Among the currently known examples is a painting dated 1643 on the case of a chamber organ made by a little known maker Christianus Smith now in the possession of the John Mander organ workshops in east London. This sackbut exhibits some unusual features, which at first sight might be attributed to the unfamiliarity of the artist with the instrument. Given the care with which other features - such as costume - are rendered, however, it seems at least plausible that the representation is accurate. To test this we are attempting to create a replica, to see if this will indeed work. It is the intention of this paper to describe and exhibit such an instrument, to show some of its unique features and to demonstrate its ergonomic viability (or otherwise). The paper will also address some of the general issues of design and ergonomics of the renaissance sackbut, prior to the mid 17th century.

Charles Nicholson and the London flute market in the early nineteenth century

Simon Waters
University of East Anglia

This speculative paper draws on existing research and new evidence in order to attempt an evaluation of the claims made by and on behalf of Charles Nicholson with respect to his 'Improved' model of flute. Drawing on a variety of sources Nicholson's influence is placed in the context of competing claims for 'improvement' to the instrument which characterised a period of increasing demand, and of the realities of flute manufacture and marketing in London in the last decades of the eighteenth- and first half of the nineteenth century.

Current literature tends to recycle the notion that Nicholson's 'Improved' flutes introduced large fingerholes and embouchure holes to the London flute market, and that the playing characteristics of these flutes afforded the powerful tone for which the flautist was renowned. Surviving Nicholson flutes are far from uniform, however, and in some respects vary surprisingly little from other successful contemporary instruments. An attempt is made to decouple Nicholson's undoubted success as a player from the claims made for his instruments (not least because he is known to have preferred and performed on modified versions of earlier flutes) with a view to presenting Nicholson's flute as a triumph of marketing, rather than a radical shift in design. Paradoxically some features become more pronounced in the flutes produced by Prowse after Nicholson's death, and Nicholson's legacy was clearly valuable enough both for Prowse to advertise his unique privilege to the production of 'authentic' Nicholson flutes, and for unscrupulous makers to continue to cash in on the fashion for his instruments.

Nicholson's collaboration with Clementi and Prowse can be understood as one of a number of significant challenges to a prior (even more successful) marketing campaign by the Potter family which led to their flutes being all but ubiquitous in the London of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries. That Potter's flutes continued in regular use through the early 19C is clear from the number of surviving instruments with 'improvements' and modifications.

The Spanish influence on the guitars of nineteenth-century London

James Westbrook
London Metropolitan University

Many London based makers of the period 1830-60 proclaimed their Spanish methods of construction. The most famous, Louis Panormo, although born in France and trained by his Italian Father, proudly labelled his guitars: 'The Original Maker of Guitars in the Spanish Style'. This paper assesses the legitimacy and motivation of Louis Panormo's claim; and seeks to identify the characteristics of the nineteenth-century 'London School' of guitar making. Louis Panormo's methods of construction are compared with those of his immediate predecessors in London and with those made in Spain and elsewhere. To answer these questions a detailed comparative study between a 'typical' London made and a Spanish made guitar was carried out. An 1831 Louis Panormo guitar (made just a few years after the 'Guitars in the Spanish Style' claim was added to his labels), is compared in detail (using CT scans, plantilla tracings and photographs taken during restoration) with an 1822 Joseph Pagés guitar. It is shown that the London guitar makers are divisible into three main categories: those conforming to the French/Italian school, those following essentially Spanish basic methods of construction and those with distinctly innovatory approaches.

Wells Street Scottish Secession Church:  a congregation of piano makers

Lance Whitehead
Royal College of Music

Comparative studies are an important means of identifying potential links between different makers and the existence of regional schools of musical instrument manufacture. Conversely, the recognition of social ties and networks, including membership of the same Guild, Livery Company or Masonic Lodge, may point to the possibility of organological similarities worthy of investigation. From a study of the Baptismal Register of the Scottish Secession Church in Wells Street it is clear that this Church was an important focus for piano makers of Scottish ancestry active in London during the first half of the nineteenth century. By identifying those makers whose children were baptised there, this paper will attempt to gauge the significance of this institution for piano manufacture in the capital as well as the strong influence one maker, in particular, probably had on attendance figures.

For further information, please contact Arnold Myers, Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments, Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Square, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, E-mail: or Bradley Strauchen, The Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ, E-mail

This page updated: 15.7.09; re-published 13.2.13