Beyond the famous amateur musicians (such as Pepys or Robert Louis Stevenson) who played the flageolet, very little is known about many of the other major makers and players. The following pages give brief summaries about some of the more important ones.
Two French flageolet virtuosi, a father and son, are known by the name Collinet. Unfortunately, very little is known about either. Most of our knowledge about their lives stem from their entry in the 1837 “Biographie Universelle Des Musiciens et Bibliography Générale de La Musique” by François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871). Although their are numerous mentions of the younger Collinet in 19th newspapers, these only provide the briefest sketch of his life. Equally unfortunate is the fact that very few pieces by either performer are currently known to survive.
Edmé Collinet (1765-1841); the older of the two Collinets; a Paris-based musician and dealer.
Hubert Collinet (1797—1867): Son of Edmé Collinet, who exceeded his father’s abilities and became the most notable 19th Century French flageolet virtuoso.
Thomas Greeting (?–1682); Court musician who wrote the first important treatise on French flageolet playing, The Pleasant Companion.
Frédéric Bonnisseau (?–late 1882): French flageolet player and composer who was born in Paris and was active in both England and France from at least the 1860s.
Narcisse Bousquet (1800-1869): French flageolet player and composer who appears to have been active in both England and France in the first half of the Century. The dates given are the conventional ones, though there is a lack of evidence to support them.
In about 1855, Bousquet worked with Jules Prudence Rivière at the “Casino Paganini” and Philippe Perlot has found a reference to him working in Paris at the Bal Barthélémy between about 1860 and 1865.
One book “Le Polycorde ou Nouveau Traite Théorique et Pratique de Musique”, published in 1872 by J. Frédéric Giraud, describes a six-key French flageolet as the “Systéme Bousquet” so he may have been involved in the development of this type of instrument.
Beyond this, very little is known about Bousquet and he does not appear in any of the usual sources for information about 19th Century French musicians. However, he left quite a large range of music, including some of the most interesting pieces for the French flageolet, such as his Caprices or 36 Etudes for the flageolet.
C. Eugéne Roy (1790-1827): French flageolet player and composer. He appears to have travelled quite widely: the 1822 Bibliographie Musicale states that he was the “flageoliste-solo des fêtes de Tivoli et du Prado”, presumably referring to the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen and the Salón del Prado (now the famous Museuo del Prado) in Madrid. The Harmoicon in February 1825 (XXVI) has a report of a concert he gave in Strasburg:
Among the Concerts of this season was one given in the theatre by M. Eugene Roy, the following was his announcement; “Flageolet solo des Fétes de la Cour de France, compositeur de musique et artiste d’un des principaux theatres de la Capitale ; La Caprice des dames Parisiennes; aussi divertissement, ou pot-pourri burlesque, tiré de l’opéra, Freischütz de Rossini!! arrangé à grand Orchestre par M. Roy, tel qu’il a eu l’honneur de l’exécuter devant plusieurs Souverains, et récemment à la cour de S. M. Le Roi de Wurtemberg, dout il a reçu les temoignages les plus flatteurs.” But singular as this advertisement may appear, we must do M. Roy the justice to say that his performances on the flageolet are very extraordinary, particularly the effect of a prolonged echo which excited great admiration; in the dying falls of which, the tones were so faint that they were produced by the artist with his instrument quite beyond his lips.
Roy was a prolific composer and producer of instruction manuals (including for the Cornet which appears to have been his other main instrument).
Harriett Bainbridge (?–early 1841): Wife of William Bainbridge whom she married in 1823. Both she and Bainbridge had remarried having been widowed. She ran her second husband’s flageolet-making business from his death in 1831 until 1835. In that year, the business was taken over by Henry Hastrick. She must, however, have maintained a good relationship with Hastrick, since she continued to live in the house where the business was run until her death in 1841.
John Briggs (active 1809 onwards): English flageolet maker. The earliest reference to John Briggs is a 1809 advert for an apprentice in the London “Morning Advertiser” of 31st May:
Wanted an Apprentice to a Wind Muscial Instrument Maker, where he will be made master of the business, and treated as one of the family-a premium expected. For particulars enquire at J. Briggs’s, 14, King’s Head-court, Shoe-lane, real Mannfacturer of French and English Flageolets, with Cestern Caps and D. Sharp Key. Also wanted two good Turners and a Finisher.
Between 1815 and about 1819 he was involved in litigation with William Bainbridge who sued him for publishing a number of fingering charts without his permission in Briggs’ 1815 “Introduction for Playing on the Patent Double Flageolet”. The matter, which Briggs eventually won, was reported in a number of early law reports. Other music he published included Bernard Lee’s “Choice Collection of 20 Airs” for double flageolet.
He was still active in 1826 when was involved in a benevolent appeal on behalf of “Journeyman Printers of the Metropolis”, according to an advert placed in the “Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser” on 26th August 1826. He unusually described himself solely as a “Flageolet Maker” although, by this stage, he had moved from the City of London to the East End at 75 Parson’s Street, Ratcliff-highway.
A number of his instruments survive, including double flageolets. The English flageolet by him which I have seen has a very interesting turned ivory conical windway over the barrel, almost looking like a turban, which I believe is unique.
Henry (Thomas) Hastrick (?–late 1854): Flageolet maker who took over William Bainbridge’s business at 35 Holborn Hill from his widow, Harriett Bainbridge, in 1835 and seems to have run it to his death in 1854. He was apprenticed to Bainbridge and 1814 and continued to have good relations with him since he was a witness to his Will in 1830. A number of single English, double and triple flageolets by him are still in existence. Although the New Langwill Index suggests that the business continued after Hastrick’s death under the name “Post & Staker”, I have come across no flageolets nor references to flageolets made by his successors. It is likely that the business died out with Hastrick.
John Simpson; (c.1800-c.1869). English flageolet maker. Quite a large number of double flageolets by Simpson survive and their striking similarity to Bainbridge’s instruments, coupled with a lack of protest from Bainbridge about them, might suggest he was a former apprentice who then worked independently.
John Wood (early 19th Century): Sometime partner of William Bainbridge (many sources give dates of the partnership as being between 1808 and 1821). Since very little is otherwise known about Wood and the New Langwill Index suggests that he was unrelated to the other Wood families of instrument makers, it may be that he was a pure financial backer of Bainbridge when he was starting to expand his business.
Claude Duval (1643–1670); Highwayman who played the French flageolet.
Samuel Pepys (1633–1703); Admiralty civil servant and diarist who was a keen amateur musician. Skilled at the French flageolet, he took lessons from Tomas Greeting and bought on of the first copies of his treatise, The Pleasant Companion.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894); Scottish author and amateur flageolet–player.
Sieur de Juvigny (late 16th Century) is often erroneously credited with the invention of the French flageolet. This is due to an 18th Century English mistranslation of a description of the 1582 “Ballet comique de la Royne” by Beaujoyeux. Sieur de Juyigny, who may have been an actor rather than musician, was playing the Greek character, Pan. In the ballet, Pan was credit with inventing an instrument. This was later mis-construed as referring to an invention by the actor rather than his character. In any event, considering the imprecise use of the word “flageolet” by early authors, the instrument in question could have easily been a pan-pipe or a simple reed flute rather than a flageolet proper.
Jean-Pierre Freillon-Poncein (c. 1700); Writer of the woodwind instruction manual La veritable maniere… one of the earliest French manuals for the French flageolet.
Marin Mersenne (1588–1648); French polymath. Over his long career he wrote a number of philosophical and scientific works. He had a particular interest in musical theory and many of his works are dedicated to music and music-making. He is important to flageolet players as one of the first musicologists to comment on the instrument, in his Harmonie Universelle, where he quotes a short vaudeville for the flageolets.