Description

The midwinter horn is made in a traditional way out of a naturally grown branch or trunk. It consists of two hollowed parts of one trunk, of about 4 to 5 feet long, which are sealed airtight lengthwise, the width running from less than wrist thickness to so wide that a fist fits into the  beker (chalice), preferably with a curvature, as formed by the growth of the trunk. The happe, a small, round and hollow, conical pipe, forms the loose mouthpiece of the midwinter horn.

Building a midwinter horn is a 7 phase operation: cutting or sawing wood; drying the trunk or immediate processing of the fresh trunk; sawing the trunk into two and drilling the (hap)hole; hollowing out each half to a thickness of about 3 inches with a wooden hammer or a beater and a firmer gouge; finishing the inside further until the wall of both halves is equally thick and the inside nice and smooth; when the wood is dry enough, gluing both halves together with waterproof wood glue and drying in one day; making the happe of elder wood.

At the end of the process fresh wood is still wet. When they are not being worked on, the horn halves are clamped with properly tightened hose rings. The horn still has to dry well (a week or more). The clamps are also used while working with dry wood (to prevent warping of the halves).

Community

Midwinter horn builders who are members of blowing groups often put their knowledge and skills at the disposal of the group. It happens regularly that courses in midwinter horn building are given by experienced members of midwinter horn groups. Sometimes, however, also by builders who are not a member of a blowing group and as such, are not organised. The latter also goes for builders who only build and do not provide courses. There are generally no formal bonds among midwinter horn blowers.

The Federatie van Gelderse Midwinterhoorngroepen (The Federation of Gelderland Midwinter Horn Groups) and the Stichting Midwinterhoornblazen Twenthe (Midwinter Horn Blowing Foundation Twente) have jointly agreed to act as heritage bearers. Within their working area definitely several hundreds of blowers/builders have built at least one, but often more midwinter horns.

 

History

The earliest images of an instrument, very similar to a midwinter horn, are found in the Utrecht Psalter of approximately 830 AD, and midwinter horn building is confirmed by sources from 1815, in which blowing a ‘mirrewinterhoorn’ in Kotten-Winterswijk is mentioned. The 19th-century museum pieces are roughly equal to the midwinter horns which are presently built in the east of the Netherlands.

The types of wood are mostly alder, willow and birch. In the 19th century midwinter horns were provided with bulrush on the longitudinal saw cut, which swell in water and thus prevent false air. The two halves of these horns were kept together with straps of split willow twigs, stripped blackberry vines or of wrought iron or brass.

In midwinter horns in the Twente region have been blown and thus built in any case since the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the interest in blowing and building decreased. After World War II it was picked up again, although tin horns were used. In the sixties one started to make the traditional wooden horns again. Gerrit Hazewinkel was the man who took it up in Eibergen. Meanwhile the two halves, after hollowing, were glued together with strong, well-sealing types of glue. By the end of the 20th century a building technique came up of custom sawn tapered strips of wood, which were tied to a mould and glued together as two halves of a horn. After drying the halves built in this way were glued together and completed with decorative bands. These horns are called latjeshoorns (strip horns).

Although not documented, the assumption is justified that midwinter horns used to be made by the blower himself in earlier days: often farmers in outlying areas who used the midwinter horn also as a signal horn. Nowadays there is a clear trend that new and existing members of a midwinter horn group build their own midwinter horns, mostly under the supervision of an experienced builder. But there are still also individual builders, where one can buy a horn.

Contact

Federatie van Gelderse Midwinterhoorngroepen
Polsteeg 8
7244 PX Barchem
Gelderland