The Pleasant Companion is dedicated to the family of instruments known as “flageolets”. Popular in Europe and America from the late 16th until the early 20th centuries, particularly amongst amateur musicians, flageolets are interesting instruments which deserve greater interest than they current receive.
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I recently came across a page from the “New York Jeweler Annual Catalogue” for 1900 which advertised musical instruments at wholesale prices.
Two types of English flageolet made from Cocoa-wood are offered. They are described as being “in B” and “in C”, although from the illustration it seems they have seven tone holes on the front so they were probably a standard English flageolet in D and a far more unusual one in C. Both types of flageolet came with at least one key, although the flageolet “in C” was also available with four or six keys.
What, however, particularly interests me is the pricing. The cheapest flageolet “in B” with one key was $3.60. The most expensive, “in C” with six keys was $5.95. The inflation charts I have looked at suggest that that equates to about $100 to $175 at today’s prices which, curiously, is not dissimilar to what an antique English flageolet might sell for today!
Although these are not huge sums of money, they are considerably more than other instruments advertised on the same page. Two tin whistles, both described as “flageolets” and made by Clark or an American company sell for 25-40c; whilst fifes range from 13c for a tin one to $2.50 for a Grenadilla “extra qualty” model. Only the Ebony fifes with pure silver ferrels are more expensive. Indeed, the prices are far more equivalent to for more professional instruments such as flutes (ranging from $3.33 to $6.58 for one- to six-key models) or piccolos. At these prices it is easy to see why the English flageolet lost so much ground to the tin whistle following its invention amongst it primarily amateur audience.Published on: Sat, 02 Sep 2017 11:06:08 +0100
This site’s navigation has relied on hovering over the menus with the cursor for some time now. I realise that this has made it almost impossible to use on a touch-screen device. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to rectify by making a proper small-screen or mobile-compatible version but have provided a semi-fix by making the arrows non-links so you can touch them to get the menu without reloading the page.Published on: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 18:05:26 +0100
About this Site: “The Pleasant Companion” is designed to be a resource for anyone interested in flageolets and their history and music. Transcriptions of Historical Flageolet Tutors from the 17th to 19th Centuries are available, along with free sheet music; biographies of famous flageolet–players, such as Samuel Pepys, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Parry; articles about flageolets (both new and historic); and a bibliography and discography for further listening and reading.
A short introduction: From simple beginnings in France as recorder–like instruments, over the centuries flageolets became increasing complicated and sophisticated instruments, used for personal enjoyment; making guest appearances in operas and even being used to teach birds to sing. In an attempt to smooth rough amateur breath control a distinctive arrangement of barrels and beaks was introduced in the early 18th Century and, soon, instrument makers were combining this unique profile with the simple 6–holed fingering system of recorders and transverse flutes to make a new instrument—the English flageolet. Both this and the traditional (“French”) flageolet continued to be popular in the 19th century, joined with the multiple–flageolets, invented at the turn–of–the–Century. However, despite a late revival as the solo instrument in Quadrille bands, the production of cheap tin or penny whistles took away the amateur market, resulting in a slow decline of the instruments into obscurity.