Book: Duets for Chalumeau


The chalumeau is a member of a family of instruments the early development of which is unfortunately not well documented, even by the standards of other woodwinds in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This may be due to it's low social status during those periods. Single reed instruments with a cylindrical bore may have been around from as far back as the 12th century, the term chalumeau is found in 16th century French dictionaries where it refers to such instruments. Use of the instrument seems to have spread from France through the rest of Europe during the course of the 17th century and by around 1800 the instrument maker J C Denner began adapting the instrument, adding keys until eventually the Baroque clarinet was achieved.
This collection of tunes is intended for players of the keyless reproduction instruments that are increasingly popular amongst historical and folk musicians today. The soprano is in C and has a range of a 9th, with chromatics from the E upwards, allowing it play in a range of modes and keys, and the alto is in F a 5th below. Being a cylindrical bored reed instrument it over-blows a 12th rather than an octave, meaning that the 2nd register is of little use unless tunes can be found that do not require the notes between D at the top of the 1st register and G at the bottom of the 2nd. For the purposes of this book, therefore, I have worked my way through the 2nd & 3rd editions of John Playford's Dancing Master of 1652-1665, finding tunes which will fit and transposing them into the keys which will work on the soprano, and adding a lower voice for an alto player. On facing pages you will find versions where the music for the alto at written at sounding pitch, for clarinettists, and written up the octave for the benefit of those more familiar with the treble recorder.


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