Bombarde in A
Gilles (Jil) Lehart
Kernigen, Trezelan, 22140 Begard, Brittany, FRANCE
Tel: +33 296 453603

The bombarde is the most common instrument used in Breton music and is traditionally played in duet with the biniou kozh (literally, “old bagpipe”). Due to the stiff nature of the reed and the difficulty of playing a melody non-stop throughout a tune on the bombarde, they are played together in a kind of call and response manner in duets called sonerion in Breton, or sonneurs de couple in French. The bombarde plays the first phrase with the biniou, stopping on the repeat of the first phrase, then picking up the melody again on the last notes of the repeat, and continuing likewise throughout the tune. Bombardes are quite loud, and as such were useful for large dances in Brittany before the advent of electricity and PA systems. The biniou kozh is pitched an octave above the bombarde and its sound carries across large dance floors while the bombarde takes a breath.

Sonneurs de couple duets have been documented as far back as the 1700s, and scholars have found manuscripts and other records that indicate they date back as far as the 1500s. Drummers were often added in centuries past but they are rare today. The duets often played for weddings and festivals as well as dances.

I commissioned this bombarde from Gilles on a trip to Brittany in 2000 after he declared my old A bombarde a lost cause. It is made of blackwood and French boxwood and has two keys below the tonic.

Larry Rone

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