TCS: Sackbuts and Krumhorns – Early Music for an Early Morning

Good Morning!

Coffee cup


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

My husband played tuba in his high school orchestra and marching band, using an instrument loaned to him by the school. Aside from being bulky and expensive, the tuba does not lend itself to urban living, so he never owned one of his own, and hadn’t played in years by the time we met. But a few years after we got married, he heard about the Early Music Society of Los Angeles, and found one of its leaders who gave lessons in her home, which was not very far from where we were living at the time.

So he took up recorder and transverse flute. Other members of the society played some of the more exotic period instruments, like the shawm, the sackbut, the krumhorn and the rackett.

As Unitartian Universalists, we are definitely not “Jesus is the reason for the season” folks. I love all the pagan stuff which make the holidays colorful and fun — mistletoe, Yule logs, decorated trees, all the good things to eat and drink — and of course the music, especially the Early Music, which is sometimes a pagan or secular tune, with Christianized lyrics.

Just the thing to listen to on a winter’s night while stuffing our holiday letter into envelopes, and adding stamps and labels. With some hot Wassail to sip, it’s a great getaway from all the Christmas stress of the annual Type-A-for-America craziness that engulfs our society. And I hope it gives your day a good start this cold December morning.

“A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock”  do start to wear on me the 4th or 10th or 23rd time the Muzak starts over. There’s something about a cappella voices and simple acoustic instruments not made on an assembly line that I never get tired of hearing.


Happy Holidays! 


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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3 Responses to TCS: Sackbuts and Krumhorns – Early Music for an Early Morning

  1. ann summers says:

    the sound of classical music is quite different on original instruments aside from their fun names

  2. I had a friend who was an expert on organs. Not just organ music, but organs themselves. Modern pipe organs have electrically actuated valves. When a key is pressed, a solenoid instantly opens and closes the air valve to the pipe of that note. In the days of Bach and other great baroque organists, the pipes were operated by pneumatic pressure. Tubes were typically made of lead, and pressing the key sent an air pressure impulse to the individual pipe valve. Thus, the action of each note was slower than pipe organs with electric actions.

    My friend posited that most pipe organ music in those pre-electric days was much slower than played on modern keyboards. For example, toccatas were not as fast as we are accustomed to hearing on more modern instruments. It was not physically possible for a pneumatic action to be as fast as electric.

    I have listened to many organ tunes on YouTube, but the organs are almost always “restored.” Unfortunately, when they restore a two or three hundred year old organ, they rip out the lead pneumatic pipes and replace the ancient actions with wires and solenoids.

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