French “Trompe de Chasse” or
“Cor de Chasse” Hunting Horns
Normandy is famous for its horses and, by association, with hunting on horseback. One characteristic of hunting with hounds on horseback are the amazing hunting horns that frequently accompany the riders. These brass horns are some fifteen feet in length, rolled into a spiral.
For centuries horns of various types have been used by hunters in Europe to communicate with each other and their hounds in the forest and to signal their positions. However, the modern French style of “trompe de chasse” was developed in the early 19th century as a musical instrument before it was adopted by hunters.
Nowadays there are groups of enthusiasts who play these horns purely for pleasure, with no connection to actual hunting. There are even “fanfare” competitions for hunting horn players at local, national and international level.
The sound produced by hunting horns is particularly suited to the acoustics of high, vaulted ceilings and concerts are regularly given in churches across Normandy-Maine, particularly around the feast of Saint Hubert (30th May), patron saint of hunters and forest workers. In September 2010 a group of hunting horn players from the “Club Sonneurs Normand” played in the village church here at Ancinnes and we popped along to listen to them.
Here are a few snippets from their performance.
French Hunting Horns in Ancinnes Church
Lung-busting stuff – a long fanfare can leave the player fairly exhausted!
History of Hunting Horns
The brass horns that are used nowadays can trace their origins back to 17th century musical instruments; horns were made of varying lengths and numbers of turns, but between 1814-1818 the model known as the “Orléans” was developed and that is what players use now.
This type of hunting horn is about 4.5 metres long with 3.5 turns. Its name comes from Louis-Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who placed the original order for fifty horns of this type.
This unusual instrument, equally at home in the church or the forest, is now a deeply rooted part of the French cultural heritage or “patrimoine”.