From: (Neville Young)
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 08:20:49 GMT
Subject: Re: Krakow

[Further to Wendy's wonderful mention of trumpets in Krakow:]

Found it. Here's what Don Smithers says:

"While nearly every large town and city in Europe before the Industrial Revolution had its trumpet blowing, Stadtpfeifer watchmen, this long and important tradition was allowed to atrophy in all but one place. The Polish capital of Krakow is a unique exception. It is a tribute to the intelligent preservationists in Poland today that the remarkably preserved medieval city of Krakow still maintains the office of the fire watchmen trumpeters.

Krakow still knows the charm and security that towns like London, Nuremberg and Leipzig once did many years ago. Almost unbelievably, the Krakow fire department maintains six tower watchmen trumpeters who, in pairs, share the endless cycle of twelve-hour morning to noon and twelve-hour noon to midnight watches from the highest point in the city. This is at the top of the taller, octagonal north tower of the thirteenth-century church of St Mary the Virgin, whose Veit Stoss altar piece is one of the world's rarest treasures. From high up above the equally medieval market square the six fire-brigade trumpeters take turns playing a natural trumpet tune called the 'Hejnal'  (pronounced 'hey-now'), which is heard each hour, four times on the hour, twenty-four hours per day, 365 days a year. With the exception of the era during the Napoleonic wars, this is a nearly unbroken tradition since 1241. That was the year when a Krakow trumpeter supposedly had an enemy arrow shot through his neck while in the process of sounding an alarm from his post on top of the city wall to warn the town of approaching Tatar invaders. To commemorate this act, all subsequent Krakow alarm-trumpeters are reputed to have abruptly broken off the melody-signal, which the hapless trumpeter is said to have been playing at the time. The sudden break in the melody still heard today vividly reminds us of the deadly, however legendary, marksmanship of the Tatar archer and the implications  of an invading army.

"The 'Hejnal' has most certainly been played this way since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Playing each hour to each of the four corners of the world, but today on modern Czech B flat trumpets, the firewatch trumpeters can be heard all over Krakow within the old city walls. Outside the walls, the Krakow trumpeters are heard live all over Poland once each day at noon, again playing the 'Hejnal' four times to the four compass points of the globe, simultaneously broadcast on all programmes of the State radio and television. The effect of this tradition is quite unlike anything now known in the West. It might well be a salutary one if revived, particularly once it is realized that the office of the trumpeter-tower watch is in part ecclesiastical and that the trumpeters are reminding us not only of our safety but of our responsibilities to God and to one another."

Don L Smithers, The Music and History of the Baroque Trumpet before 1721,
Dent, London, 1973, pp 130-131.

I wonder how much (if any) of the above has changed in the 26 years since it was published?


Neville Young