D’argent à une aigle de gueules, au vol abaissé, membrée, becquée et couronnée d’or, empiétant une montagne de trois coupeaux de sable issant d’une mer d’azur mouvant de la pointe et ondée d’argent.

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About fife from Nice - The musical traditions from County of Nice (MTCN)Traditional music from County of Nice (France)
The musical traditions from County of Nice dins A lou fifre nissart - Li tradicioun musicali de la countéa de Nissa (MTCN)
The musical traditions from County of Nice dans Au fifre niçois - Les traditions musicales du comté de Nice (MTCN)
 You are here: Home > The circumstances. Tuesday November 28th 2023, Saint James. 

Where and when?

1. The places
2. The profane circumstances
3. The religious circumstances
     3a. L’ouferta dòu festin (the offertory of the feast)
4. Yesterday and today

The places

The vocal traditional music meets everywhere, in the privacy of the family home, at place of work... Sung by the women, to put the infants to sleep with ancestral lullabies, or during the watching, happy or painful love songs, of wisdom or fate, funeral laments... Sung by the men, at work, in the church, in the pub... Alone or more, in polyphonies which express the gestures of the daily work, the engagement and the marital unions, the births and the deathes, the separations of the departure to the army...

The instrumental traditional music, played by the duet fife - drum or the trio fife - drum - bass drum, later by other instruments, sometime by the vespa on the coast of County of Nice, takes up the public space:
  • outside, in the street, on the occasion of profane or religious circumstances;
  • inside, in the church or the chapel, on the occasion of religious circumstances.
  • Although both used in the profane-time and the religious-time, the instrumental music and the vocal music were never associated.

    Besides its own repertory, numerous airs played by the fife and drums arise from the vocal music:
  • traditional songs (of the end of the 19th century or first half of the 20th century) written in Nissart (traditional language from the County of Nice) or in french language crossed over in the repertory of the couple fife - drum;
  • songs from the Italian Alps and Piedmount are also resumed by the couple fife - drum;
  • songs of procession are played by the couple fife - drum for the entrance and the exit of the mass.
  • The opposite never occurred: there are no lyrics for example neither on the subjects of farandole of Nice, nor on the air of the offertory.

    The profane circumstances

    In the County of Nice, the profane circumstances of practice of traditional music are numerous and various:
  • the conscription;
  • the passa cariera (round the village through the streets): in the morning of the patronal feast, from dawn to before the high mass, in the evening of the village fête before the ball, in the morning of New Year’s day, during the carnival of Tuesday-fat, fife and drums pass in the village main streets playing farandoles and brandi. They stop on the places where they play waltzes, mazurkas, polkas...;
  • the dawn serenades to the leading citizens and the the middle-class persons of the village;
  • the “cabbage farandole”, in Belvédère, for Saint-Blaise day (previously on February 3rd, nowadays moved on 1st February Sunday). After the mass in the chapel Saint-Blaise and the fields blessing by the priest, all the inhabitants of Belvédère gather at the village entry for farandole. A member of the festivity committee, brandishing the halberd at the head of farandole, is followed by the last bride and bridegroom of the year –the bride holding a ribboned cabbage, giving the name to this farandole–, parents of these one’s and all the villagers. Farandole lasts about one hour and a half, it evolves from the entry of the village up to the big top being raised for the village fête, passing through the main street. During the duration of the crossing, fife and drum play continuously farandoles and brandi;
  • the dance-game of the cepoun, in Utelle village;
  • the historic reconstruction of A stacada, in Breil-sur-Roya village.
  • The religious circumstances

    The liturgy is usually accompanied by the song. The couple fife - drum intervenes only in precise occasions: in the daytime of the patronal feast, on the Assumption, on Christmas... Its playing-time is situated during:
  • the entrance and the exit of offices;
  • the processions;
  • the ouferta dòu festin (the offertory of the feast) or ouferta dòu gal (offertory of the cock), being played in the daytime of the village patronal feast (Saint-Blaise in Belvédère, Sainte-Anne in Lantosque, Saint-Antonine in Levens, Saint-Julien in Roquebillière, Saint-Roch in Utelle...).
  • L’ouferta dòu festin (the offertory of the feast), or ouferta dòu gal (offering of the rooster)

    During the mass, at the time of the offertory, the fife, drum and bass drum enter in the church by advancing up to the altar, playing the air of the offertory. The musicians, who keep their hat on their head, are followed by the festivity committee members, abat-mage leading and brandishing “the halberd feathered by a multicolored stream of ribbons, in the colours of the village, crowned in its point by the poum flouri, the flowery apple, a big pippin apple inlaid with golden coins (in less precious metal since the last war); a magnificent alive cock is suspended by the paws from the iron of the halberd” (Paul Canestrier). The abbat-mage (or two representatives of the festivity committee, or another two young people) removes his hat, greets the officiating priest, offers him the traditional presents (sometimes replaced by pigeon or rabbit) and kisses the relic of the patron saint. The whole assistance goes in his turn, the men then the women, to worship the relic, while the musicians execute the air of the offertory (“tune for the men” during the men turn, then “tune for the women” during the women turn). Paul Canestrier places the origin of this happy air in the medieval time.

    Yesterday and today

    Numerous circumstances of fife practice disappeared, as in the ritual frame as in its festive frame. These disappearances have direct consequences on the music for fife: either the music disappears at the same time the circumstance does, either it mutes, to be associated to another circumstance. It is the case for conscripts’ music: the brandi are played today indifferently for the farandoles and the “round of the village”. Today, only the airs of the ouferta dòu festin, the cepoun and the a stacada are specific to a circumstance.

    The regression of the traditional repertory of instrumental music also depends on the progressive forsaking, since the beginning of the 20th century, of the couple fife - drum, for the benefit of the municipal harmony instruments. But this observation is not specific to the County. So, the generation of the persons been born at the beginning of the 20th century very often knew the ouferta dòu festin only played by brass instruments. In the 1950’s, the couple fife - drum was sometimes even being replaced by the electric sound system in the streets of the village and the broadcasting of recorded music...

    Since the last quarter of the 20th century, the musicians of the hinterland of the County of Nice, particularly from the villages of the Vésubie valley, like Zéphirin Castellon, fife player in Belvédère, restored not only a new breath in the instrument, but also composed a new music repertory for fife.
    (According to Emmanuelle Olivier.)

    © 2001-2023 Jean-Gabriel Maurandi.

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