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Violon Bidon!
Claude Ribouillault and his band: Didier Oliver (singer, violins, mandolin, harmonica): Paul Grolier (singer, accordion, percussion): Claude Ribouillault (violin, mandolin, flute, percussion): Emmanuel Pariselle (singer, concertina, accordion): Daniel Muringer (singer, violin, mandolin, concertina): Michael Wright, (voice, percussion): Luc Weis (singer): Philippe Gibaux (singer, violin)
rec. 2016, Saint-Flour, Laetitia Thérond
Texts in French, no translations
Les Musiciens et la Grande Guerre - Volume 20
HORTUS 720 [72:33]

This is the first volume of this series that I’ve come across in which the booklet is in French only. Indeed, such is the rather specialised nature of the undertaking that it’s almost conceded as a not-for-export product. Which would be something of a shame, both on the part of Hortus – and this is volume 20 in their long running series – and on behalf of the prospective purchaser.

Violin Bidon! presents a programme of the kind of do-it-yourself music-making to be heard in the trenches of the First World War. The surviving texts, most to pre-existing popular songs, historical, contemporary or indeed rustic, were not largely written down – though some were – with many surviving orally. The accompanying instrumentation is a mix-and-match of things available to the soldiery at the time. Many will be familiar with the kind of ‘tea chest’ cellos to be found at the time and the variety of skiffle-like instrumentation sometimes to be encountered in the grim circumstances of the front or rear lines. They are augmented by some elements of instrumental exotica, many supported by mandolin and guitar and fiddle.

The humorous, witty or slightly more ribald narratives enshrined in these songs are sung by a variety of singers and the various ensembles derive from the band of Claude Ribouillault. An attempt has been made to scan the horizon of experience of the largely French forces; the beginning of the war, the front and second lines, the prisoner of War camp (German songs) and the ‘Front d’Orient’. Portable instruments such as fife, accordion and harmonica were popular and loom large in this selection, as naturally does the guitar. The concertina makes it mark in Garde de nuit à l’Yser whilst the jolly Music Hall pleasures of Le Bois Bouchout are eminently hummable. The argot of the Poilus can be savoured in Marmites as can the rusticity of the string playing and the suitable rough-hewn singing in Tournée de cinema.
Old dance tunes rub musical shoulders with Tipperary – Michael Wright sings the English language lines here which include some not often encountered, shall we say – whilst his confreres sing in French in an entente cordiale. There are balladic moments as well as jovial instrumentals, full of good cheer and colour; try the infectious instrumental track 19 as well as a kind of kazoo march called En Cilicie and Bulgarian bagpipes in the final track.

Given the close examination of this disc and its French-focused documentation, habitués of this series might feel cautious about it. Given a minimum of French-language skills, however, and these objections may well disappear. We are offered a fine recreation of the musical sustenance explored and enjoyed by the troops - sentiment, drollery, wit and nostalgia, in an earthy but sympathetic production.

Jonathan Woolf

1.La ballade du Kronprinz [3:56]
Adolf Spahn
2.La retraite de Guillaume [3:27]
William Laurie (1881-1916)
3.The Battle of the Somme [3:00]
Lucien Boyer
4.Garde de nuit à l’Yser [3:10]
Vincent Scotto (1874-1952)
5.Le Bois Bouchot [4:08]
6.Marmites [3:11]
7.Auf dem Hartmannsweiler Kopfe [2:29]
8.Wie es uns Feldgrauen an der Front ergeht [2:25]
9.L’arrière et l’avant [3:48]
Albert Arnaud
10.Tournée de cinema [4:41]
Paul Marinier
11.Au clair de la lune [3:38]
12.It’s a long way to Tipperary [4:22]
Adhémar Sablon
13.Chanson de Craonne [3:38]
Aristide Bruant
14.Les Éparges [3:20]
15.Les pluies [3:13]
16.Mazurka à Martin [2:06]
Bénech & Desmoulins
17.Notre Eden [4:09]
18.Notre captivité [3:04]
19.Sur la montagne de la Picardie [2:09]
20.C’était la guerre [4:03]
Louis Bousquet
21.En Cilicie [2:23]
22.Rondeaux gascons [2:00]



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