Paris-Manchester 1918
Conservatoires in time of war

No time for bagpipes

The author’s complaint about being unable to practise his art was common to most of the artists at the front (whether stretcher-bearers or soldiers) and emerged as a recurrent theme in the Gazette des classes du Conservatoire. Even when instruments were available, the unceasing roar of cannon-fire prevented the concentration required for composing or even just recalling music.

Born in 1891, Auguste Neff won a certificate of merit for cornet at the Paris Conservatoire in 1910, then another prize, for trumpet, in 1914 before his career was interrupted by the war. He was assigned to duty as a stretcher-bearer and then as a nurse in the 5th Field Artillery Regiment (50th 75mm cannon battery) and later the 250th Artillery Regiment. He did not resume his studies until 1918; he won first prize (prize for excellence) in 1919. He later became a professional trumpeter and is known to have played in cinema orchestras.

NEFF Auguste (Petit & Franquin), nurse in the art[1]. . . . . . . . S.P.[2]

1 September[3]

This is a quick note to confirm receipt of the Gazette, which is a really interesting read, and I do not doubt for a moment that all my classmates too will appreciate your journal; I’m sorry that I did not reply sooner – I went away on leave and found the package from you when I returned. I began to read it with great pleasure and keen interest, as it seems to me that it really is the Journal of the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . One shouldn’t expect much music in the artillery – which is a way of saying that I haven’t touched my bagpipes for two years and a month; apart from that nothing bothers me here. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Well, I was a stretcher-bearer for 16 months and I’ve been a nurse for 9 months; there’s not much scope for promotion in the health service.

I’m sending you back the form, which I have filled in as best I can – I think you can read my scrawl. Anyway, you’ll have to forgive me – this is not the most comfortable place for writing. My bed has to take the place of a desk, and I am using my medicine box, held between my knees, to press on; so you can imagine the rather awkward posture that I’ve had to sit in to write these lines to you . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

[1]Artillery.

[2]Secteur Postal [postal sector].

[3]1916.

Auguste Neff (1 September 1916) Letter to the Franco-American Committee, in: Gazette des classes du Conservatoire, No. 4, Paris, 27 November 1916, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Music Department, Rés Vm Dos 88 (1), p.26. View on Gallica.

Document description: mimeographed document in violet ink, 21×27 cm.

Catalogue : http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb43639008g

 

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