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Les cloches de Hinckley

jhnbrbr

New member
Another atmospheric masterpiece from the genius Louis Vierne..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84RMbM3bUbc

but does anyone know the background to the writing of this piece? What was the connection between the organist of Notre Dame and a small town in Leicestershire? I'd love to know.
 
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rovikered

New member
One suggestion is that Vierne heard the carillon in the town of Hinckley when he was on one of his recital tours of England, and was inspired to write this piece.
 

jhnbrbr

New member
I'm sure that has to be the most likely explanation, but Hinckley still seems an unlikely venue to include on his recital tours (no offence, Hincklians!)
 

rovikered

New member
I'm sure that has to be the most likely explanation, but Hinckley still seems an unlikely venue to include on his recital tours (no offence, Hincklians!)

I am neither a native nor inhabitant of Hinckley and the suggestion is not mine.
I merely passed it on having read it on a website giving a potted biography of Vierne.:)
 

wljmrbill

Member
according to Flag Digital Music summary...Rovikered you are right as to what they think was inspiration for the piece...
 

Thierry59

New member
One suggestion is that Vierne heard the carillon in the town of Hinckley when he was on one of his recital tours of England, and was inspired to write this piece.
Quite so.
Here's the story: Vierne stayed in Hinckley when he toured in England, Ireland and Scotland in 1925. He gave a concert on the 5th of may 1925 at the Parish church of St Mary on a beautiful instrument built by Norman and Beard in 1908. As Vierne and his "amoureuse" Madeleine Richepin spent the night in an hotel in front of the church, he was waken up every 15 minutes by a chime ringing a descending scale in E major. On the morning, Madeleine Richepin suggested to Louis Vierne to use the distressing theme of the chime for a composition. This idea was very soon taken up by Vierne who wrote effortless in the train to Tenbury this piece of fantaisie. From the Pierre Labric's recordings in Saint Ouen de Rouen.:)
 

rovikered

New member
Quite so.
Here's the story: Vierne stayed in Hinckley when he toured in England, Ireland and Scotland in 1925. He gave a concert on the 5th of may 1925 at the Parish church of St Mary on a beautiful instrument built by Norman and Beard in 1908. As Vierne and his "amoureuse" Madeleine Richepin spent the night in an hotel in front of the church, he was waken up every 15 minutes by a chime ringing a descending scale in E major. On the morning, Madeleine Richepin suggested to Louis Vierne to use the distressing theme of the chime for a composition. This idea was very soon taken up by Vierne who wrote effortless in the train to Tenbury this piece of fantaisie. From the Pierre Labric's recordings in Saint Ouen de Rouen.:)

Thanks for this. It's interesting (and entertaining) to hear the full story.
 

jhnbrbr

New member
It certainly is. I wonder if there's a plaque or anything to commemorate this happy event. I think I'll go take a look next time I'm in the Hinckley area.
 

acc

New member
I'm afraid Labric is slightly overdoing it: at night, the Hinckley chimes sounded every three hours (not every 15 minutes).

Moreover, they did not produce a descending scale, but a tune: actually, there were seven tunes "programmed" into the mechanism, one for each day of the week, and Vierne must have drawn the main theme of his composition from the tune that sounded on the particular night he was staying there.

A much more likely source of inspiration for the descending scales (of which Vierne did indeed put 28(!) in a row at the end of his composition) would be change ringing: it is very likely that Vierne had the opportunity to listen to some of it during his stay in Britain (possibly in Hinckley itself).
 

jhnbrbr

New member
The plot thickens! The piece does indeed seem to me to evoke "change ringing" very successfully and cleverly. Presumably the automatic carillon would have played hymn tunes or popular songs, so it ought to be possible to detect a recognisable melody in there somewhere too. Anyone?
 

eameece

New member
I was the one who posted the piece on you tube; thanks for posting it here jhnbrbr, and folks for visiting. Thanks for the information Thierry. Originally I didn't find St. Mary's church when I made the video. I don't know why. Since finding this thread, I searched and found this website:
http://www.stmarysparishchurchhinckley.co.uk/BELL%20HISTORY.htm
and at the bottom is the story about Vierne. acc is correct. They also say he stayed with a distant relative who was organist there.

Interestingly, according to their organ history page, there was also an organist there who died on the organ bench (on Good Friday 1932). Quite an astonishing and macabre coincidence. I assume you all know the same thing happened to Vierne 5 years later at Notre Dame.
 

jhnbrbr

New member
Thanks to you, eameece, for posting this wonderful music in the first place. It's great how everyone has provided a piece of the jigsaw to answer my question, but i am particularly interested in your comment about the Hinckley organist being a distant relative. This confirms my original thought that Hinckley was a slightly obscure place for the organist of Notre Dame to perform, unless there was some other connection which drew him there.
 
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Thierry59

New member
I'm afraid Labric is slightly overdoing it: at night, the Hinckley chimes sounded every three hours (not every 15 minutes).

Moreover, they did not produce a descending scale, but a tune: actually, there were seven tunes "programmed" into the mechanism, one for each day of the week, and Vierne must have drawn the main theme of his composition from the tune that sounded on the particular night he was staying there.

A much more likely source of inspiration for the descending scales (of which Vierne did indeed put 28(!) in a row at the end of his composition) would be change ringing: it is very likely that Vierne had the opportunity to listen to some of it during his stay in Britain (possibly in Hinckley itself).

In the leaflet attached to the recording made by Labric, it is clearly indicated that the carillon sounded every 15 minutes whereas the site says 3 hours. I think the first version is more likely since Vierne was complaining about being waken up very often...But all the witnesses have passed away...
 

acc

New member
Presumably the automatic carillon would have played hymn tunes or popular songs, so it ought to be possible to detect a recognisable melody in there somewhere too. Anyone?

More specifically, the site mentioned by eameece gives the titles of the seven tunes, so the question is to see whether one of them is close enough to Vierne's main theme: B---E---A-F#-B---E---AGF#-B---c#---d#ec#-g# (first heard in the pedal at bar 11).
 

acc

New member
In the leaflet attached to the recording made by Labric, it is clearly indicated that the carillon sounded every 15 minutes whereas the site says 3 hours. I think the first version is more likely since Vierne was complaining about being waken up very often...But all the witnesses have passed away...

My source for the three-hour period was not the site mentioned by eameece, but the Vierne monography by Rollin Smith, p.561, with an acknowledgment on page xvi to Phillip J. Herbert from Hinckley, who may not have witnessed Vierne's visit, but who definitely knows the Hinckley chimes.

Since there are two "chime" works in the Pièces de Fantaisie, there might be a confusion with the other one, "Carillon de Westminster", since Big Ben indeed sounds every 15 minutes.

Of course we can't know the truth, but I'd rather trust information coming from people in Hinckley directly than third- or fourth-hand accounts (especially if they already contain other information that is clearly false, viz. the descending scales).
 

Thierry59

New member
My source for the three-hour period was not the site mentioned by eameece, but the Vierne monography by Rollin Smith, p.561, with an acknowledgment on page xvi to Phillip J. Herbert from Hinckley, who may not have witnessed Vierne's visit, but who definitely knows the Hinckley chimes.

Since there are two "chime" works in the Pièces de Fantaisie, there might be a confusion with the other one, "Carillon de Westminster", since Big Ben indeed sounds every 15 minutes.

Of course we can't know the truth, but I'd rather trust information coming from people in Hinckley directly than third- or fourth-hand accounts (especially if they already contain other information that is clearly false, viz. the descending scales).
You may be right!
In fact before reading this thread, I was pretty sure that this story was about Westminster and not Hinckley. Perhaps there is a confusion in the explanations provided by the (unknown) author of the leaflet. I will consult the book on Vierne by Bernard Gavoty to cross the sources...
 

acc

New member
I will consult the book on Vierne by Bernard Gavoty to cross the sources...

I have already done that. I haven't found any mention of Hinckley at all, and only a single sentence about Big Ben, at the bottom of p.149:

Et, en passant, il note le thème du célèbre carillon qui servira de prétexte, quelques années plus tard, à l'une de ses compositions les plus populaires.
(Translation: “And, on this occasion, he writes down the tune of the famous chimes [of Big Ben] that would become the basis for one of his most popular works a few years later.”)

Assuming I haven't overlooked any other passages — the lack of an index doesn't make life easy when one tries to use Gavoty's book to look up for anything specific. :( (Of course, Gavoty never intended his book to be a scholarly work in the first place.)
 

jhnbrbr

New member
I seem to remember hearing once (probably on BBC Radio 3) that it was not Big Ben he heard, but the chimes of Westminster Cathedral. I can't be sure as it was a long time ago. Has anyone else heard this? Not terribly important if the notes were the same anyway! I also heard (possibly in the same programme) that the first time he played C. de W. as a postlude at Notre Dame the worshippers were so entranced by it that they refused to leave their seats until it was over (and who can blame them?)
 
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