par Sylvain Beaud, vielleux, Le Pâquier, Fribourg, SUISSE

The devil's instrument.

  Swiss folk music a lot looked like certainly that of France in a certain time : bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies and the other instruments danced the population during numerous holidays. The hurdy-gurdy was played in french speaking Switzerland since put off enough times but it never entered the Tradition. In the same way as the bagpipe and the other instruments popular, the hurdy-gurdy would have been forbidden in Switzerland by the Church in 17-th century. In this time, in real guard of the Morality, the Swiss Catholic Church had a very heavy influence on the population, notably on the cultural plan. Any heathen holidays, dances and profane musics were reprehensible. All which was forbidden with the Church was banished. An old legend claims what is more a rider without head would have trampled the young people who danced during a ball Sunday, by way of punission not to have gone to the mass. Many old traditions disappeared then to leave place bit by bit with a Tradition more in agreement with values lauded by the clergy as the Family, the God... Moreover, traditional songs collected today carry still very sharply this mark. Because of the quality of instrument to dance, what for the Church of time led quite straight ahead to the debauchery, the hurdy-gurdy then the bagpipe and some the others were gradually forbidden. Some persons however preserved viellistic tradition since these times put off to be reborn it. There was then a traditional music only the eternal together : bass, accordion and clarinet.


It is in the years 1960-1970, with the Genevan René Zosso (singer coming along in the hurdy-gurdy and person known well in the viellistic French-Swiss environment) that the instrument goes out really of its long silence. Player having influenced a lot of french speaking swiss players, the other persons have as him contributed a lot to the Helvetian revival of the hurdy-gurdy. One can quote among private individual Marcel Karlen who lives non-far from the city of Morges, in the campaign vaudoise. Already fascinated by modal music, the taste for the hurdy-gurdy completely became a reality with the meeting of a stringed-instrument maker - hg's player of Argenton-sur-Creuse (France) : André Barbe. Closing the studio, this last one encouraged him to learn the manufacture of the instrument. There are some dozens of years hurdy-gurdies were still made in the Canton of Neufchâtel. Today Marcel Karlen lives on the hurdy-gurdy by giving concerts, classes and by selling the instruments of his making.
It is with the meeting of this man that my passion for the hurdy-gurdy began. Passionate person of French and medieval folk music, I decided to take some classes to him by renting a hurdy-gurdy. Being almost the only one to distribute classes, and in spite of the distance, several players makes this same route.

Hard, hard to be a Swiss hg's player.

See difficulty learning the hurdy-gurdy in a country where it is almost unknown of the population (we would be it adorned some hundreds in Switzerland to be practised this instrument). When I play in the streets of the cities of my canton (Fribourg - and I should the only one be played it in my district), people ask me if I speak French, if I am Breton or Irish... One sometimes can meet vielleux of the other countries which play in streets : Québecquois, Hungarian, Frenchman. Switzerland it is also the German-speaking Swiss ! It represents the most important part of the territory and counts a good quantity of players as well as a stringed-instrument maker based in the North of the country. The hurdy-gurdy moreover knew about it the same lot as in french speaking Switzerland (cf. the instrument of the devil).

The hurdy-gurdy has certainly the beautiful future in Switzerland because groups integrate it more and more. One can quote notably Montferrine which relives Switzerland's traditional music and of surroundings. The group uses the hurdy-gurdy , the mandolin and the mandole, the diatonic accordion, the violin, the clarinet and the other instruments. German Swiss side , let us quote the groups Trio`döh using the hurdy-gurdy, the French bagpipe, the accordion and the dulcimer, Dodo Hug, and Turikante.

The hurdy-gurdy impresses young and old who do not know it ; they always carry there certain interest. Personally I regret that we are not more numerous to be able to share our passion in our small country. But if Switzerland's players reads to me and wishes to get in touch with me or to correct some errors, I would be it very very happy.

That the wheel turns on the Alps !

Sylvain Beaud

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Copyright avril 2000 - Sylvain Baud - Le Pâquier, Fribourg, SUISSE - Reproduction interdite