Conservatoires in time of war
A concert at the front
At the front, music is played only during the rare rest periods. Most of the time, to hear any music one had to go to the rear (a zone a few miles wide behind the lines), where the soldiers’ barracks had been set up.
In 1916, after two years of stalemate at the front, the French General Staff were hoping to keep the troops’ morale up with music. Accordingly, General Pétain encouraged entertainment for the troops and recruited new military musicians to form symphony orchestras.
The concert for which Léon Laggé has copied out the programme here is one of a number of official concerts organised by the General Staff; the purpose in this case was to celebrate the United States’ entry into the war on 6th April 1917. What emerges clearly here is that the concert programme was put together from the resources immediately to hand: the regimental band plays both the “fashionable” repertoire and the inevitable military numbers: extracts from operettas, ballet or comic opera feature alongside marches and the obligatory Marseillaise at the close of each concert.
I am sending you herewith the programme for the concert at the Citadel of Verdun on 8 April 1917, which was given by various regiments involved in the defence of Verdun to honour the American entry into the war on our side,.
1 – Band of the . . . . . . . . I.R.
Les Saltimbanques . . . . . . . . . . . Ganne
3 – Mr. Aveline from the Opéra-Comique
4 – Film: A Telephone Call in the Mountains
5 – Band of the . . . . . . . . I.R.
Coppelia, a ballet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Léo Delibes
6 – Mr. Mâcon, 1st prize at the Paris Conservatoire
7 – Mr. Mèffre from the Opéra de Marseille
8 – Mr. Laggé, 1st prize at the Paris Conservatoire
9 – Mr. Devèze from the Vaudeville theatre
10 – Miss Pulchérie (known as “Bouton d’Or”)
11 – Band of . . . . . . . . I.R.
Vacherauville March (15 December 1916) by Mr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guillon, bandmaster
The band of the I.R. was conducted by Mr. GUILLON
Célestin-Ernest Cros-Saint-Ange (1855-19..), cello teacher at the Paris Conservatoire.
Compagnie hors-rang [exterior company].
Secteur Postal [postal sector].
Les Saltimbanques [The Acrobats] by Louis Ganne, an operetta composed in 1899.
Charles Frédéric Coffinières (1894-1971), known as Duvallès, a French film actor.
Newspaper appearing in 1915 and 1916, the full title of which was “A weekly comic, anti-Hun front-line newspaper”,
Émile Macon (born1885), 1st prize for viola, 1905.
Léon Laggé (11 May 1917) Letter to the Franco-American Committee, in: Gazette des classes de composition du Conservatoire, No. 9, Paris, May 1917, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Music Department, Rés Vm Dos 88 (1), p. 23-24. View on Gallica.
Document description: mimeographed document in violet ink, 21×27 cm.
Catalogue : http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb43639008g
Francfort, Didier (2014) “Musiques militaires” in Gétreau Florence, Entendre la guerre. Sons, musique et silence en 14-18, Paris: Gallimard/Historial de la Grande Guerre, p. 24-35.
Hirschfield, Claire (1992) “Musical Performance in Wartime: 1914-1918”, The Music Review, No. 53/4, p. 291-304.
Leterrier, Anne-Sophie (2014) “Les concerts au front”, in Gétreau Florence, Entendre la guerre. Sons, musique et silence en 14-18, Paris: Gallimard/Historial de la Grande Guerre, p. 76-87.
Visse, Sandrine (2014) “Les “concerts” au front pendant la Grande Guerre: entre engagement dans le conflit et vie artistique en marge”, in Doé De Maindreville Florence, Etcharry Stéphan (eds.), La Grande Guerre en musique. Vie et création musicales en France pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, Brussels: éd. Peter Lang, p. 27-50.