Reference : Folk music: Luxembourg
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Arts & humanities : Performing arts
Folk music: Luxembourg
Sagrillo, Damien mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe
Leerssen, Joep
Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms
[en] Folk music ; ethnomusicology

The first folksong collection in Luxembourg, Die luxemburger Volkslieder älterer Zeit, compiled by the folklorist and ethnologist Edmond de la Fontaine (alias Dicks, 1823-1891), was published posthumously in 1904. It contains only forty songs, and due to the unscientific way they had been collected, some important information is missing; nonetheless it offers a first glipse into folksongs in 19th-century Luxembourg. Their lyrics were adapted to the Luxembourg context, although only a few songs originate from the country.

A scholarly, methodical folksong collection following the model of Erk and Böhme’s Deutscher Liederhort (1893-94) was published in 1937, entitled Singendes Volk. Its author, Mattias Thill, a primary school teacher, spent about four decades collecting songs throughout the Grand Duchy; again, most songs are variants of existing songs of non-Luxembourgish origin, 65% from Germany and a mere 3% from France. The remaining 32% have Luxembourgish texts (which, again, speaks for their more complete integration into Luxembourg life, not necessarily for a Luxembourg origin). Indigenous songs are often related to the military history and to the fortress of Luxembourg.

Folk music in Luxembourg is predominantly vocal, with the one curious exception of a mystical blind violin-playing minstrel, Matthias Schou (alias Blannen Theis, 1747-1824) who was led from parish fair to parish fair by his wife and entertained the peasant population with his songs. Until today no sources have been discovered, but it is assumed that this troubadour is at the origin of melodies gathered a century later.

In three cases, songs were subsequently arranged to instrumental music at a later date and gained a persistent performative presence to the point of becoming markers of Luxembourgish musical identity: the Wilhelmus, the Song of the dancing Procession, and the Hämmelsmarsch

The Wilhelmus is the anthem of the Grand-Ducal court (not of the country), and is performed at the occasion of an official appearance of the Grand-Duke or of a member of his family. The melody is a variant of the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus van Nassouwe, evidently based on Mozart’s Seven variations on Wilem Van Nassau (1766, KV 25) The “Song of the Dancing Procession” originates from the famous Procession of Echternach, and is based on the German folksong Adam hatte sieben Söhn’, arranged to a Rheinländerpolka for wind band in a medium tempo suitable for pilgrims taking three steps forward and two steps backwards. The Hämmelsmarsch, a beggar song derived from a 14th-century shepherd’s fair song, was played by pipers and drummers while visitors had to pay a fee. Modern-day local wind bands maintain this tradition, strolling the streets during parish fairs and requesting financial donations while playing this song.
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