Romanian Music and Ritual Instruments – The Shepherds’ Ancient Trumpet
No one knows the ancient rituals of the trumpet better than a shepherd. Born in 1951, in a sheep-raising farm, Gales Simion becomes shepherd of the sheep. He tells the story of the trumpet as he lives it, as an extension of himself.
The sheepfold without a trumpet is like a garden without flowers, he says.
The trumpet is a long flared tube, up to 5 ft (150 cm), shaped in a primary oblong loop without valves. It is usually made of tin, brass or stainless steel, with a wooden mouthpiece.
This wind instrument was used for giving war signals at a distance and for musical purpose. In Romania, the rituals related to this musical instrument have been passed down from generation to generation, since archaic times, when shepherding was the main occupation.
The Shepherds’ Trumpet Widely Used in Transhumance
The movement between higher pastures in spring and lower valleys in autumn has been retained all along. These mountain people were not being aware of time or calendars, but rather guided by the stars and seasons. Wandering in the wilderness, burnt by the sun and wind, filled with longing, they would often sing about it, playing pipes and trumpets. The anonymous folk ballads were composed this way.
When leading the livestock to the mountains, the shepherd was walking in front of the flock and blowing his trumpet. Behind him, the sheep and the guarding dogs walking on the sides. They were trained to protect the sheep from anything.
Up there, the trumpet was used for giving long distance signals. A short time after the sun was descending from its zenith in the sky, the trumpet was calling the flock back for milking. Then again in the evening, before sunset. In the foggy evenings, one was guided through the forests by the sound of his fellow shepherd’ trumpet.
Without approvals and itinerary, since 2008, the transhumance is forbidden in Romania. The alignment of our country’s legislation to the EU led to the disappearance of a millennial lifestyle.
Trumpet Played at Funeral Procession
By tradition, to announce a death in the community, churches ring their bells three times a day. The trumpeter plays his trumpet every evening inside the house of the deceased. On the day of the burial, if the dead was wealthy, up to three trumpets will escort the funeral procession to the church and grave, singing a sad song at times.
For his service, the trumpeter will receive one sheep as a payment.
This custom has been and will be kept alive in Bucovina, it will not be lost. It represents the trumpet of the last Judgement in the Apocalypse.
Other than that, the trumpet is used during ceremonies, inauguration of monasteries and school opening.