Friday, April 27, 2018

Dinant, Birthplace of the saxophone


Luxembourg. This blog was supposed to be about Luxembourg but we were in a tunnel and seemed to drive through the country without noticing.

We were on route to Dinant, in Belgium. It's famous for two things. One is very sad and quite horrific and will be the subject of next week's blog. The village was the site of an atrocity in 1914, a famous incident where this gentleman...

                                            received the  wound that made him limp for the rest of his life.

As it is today,  you do get the feeling that everywhere you go in Dinant, the Citadel, the fortress on the hill, is looking after the village. It has been  doing so since 900 or so.
The memorium  to the fallen of that fateful night in August 1914.

More about that later, but for now Dinant is a small town in Belgium, in the Walloon district. It’s only 38 square miles and has a population of less than 14 000. It’s a very long thin town, sitting in the upper Meuse valley which  is very steep sided. So there is a river, the road and mostly a single row of buildings before things start to get a bit vertical. 

The word Dinant, means, roughly translates from some ancient tongue as The Sacred Valley.
                                              View from the cable car, right over the river.

Billy Connolly has a famous quote about Belgium. He said it would be great when it was finished.

There is a similar town on the other side of the Meuse,  Bouvignes which has a gentler, rolling landscape behind it.
                                                                 The Cathedral.

Apart from the events of 1914, Dinant is famous for......being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax who invented….. the saxophone!
Antoine-Joseph Sax was born on 6th November 1814 and he was quite a character.  Nobody, least of all his mum, expected him to survive. As a kid he had fallen out his house from the third floor, accidentally hit his head on a stone and temporarily lost the ability to walk,  he swallowed a pin amongst other near lethal objects, and he was messing about with some gunpowder when it exploded and burned him badly. He managed to fall onto a hot pan and gave himself third degree burns and then, just to put the tin lid on it, his family were varnishing some furniture and left the items in his room to dry overnight.  He passed out with the fumes.
Then he fell over again on a cobblestone and concussed himself. 
Then fell in the river, in the Meuse. 
I wonder if his mum was…amused.
Nowadays he would be subject to a social services referral.
His clumsiness, inability to look where he was going,  or plain daftness earned him the nickname, the little ghost as   his family presumed that one day, his luck might run out.

The bridge is lined with saxophones, all different, one from each EU country. The UK still has their's but I'm writing this on Thursday, who knows what might happen on Friday so here's Mette's saxophone for Denmark.


Sax died in Paris aged 79, and is buried in Montmartre. He died in complete poverty after fighting legally to protect the legitimacy of his patents, the legal fighting went back and forth for over twenty years, using up all his funds and sending him into bankruptcy.

In early the 1840’s he invented the saxophone. (He played the flute and clarinet.)  He also invented the saxotromba, saxtuba and the saxhorn which evolved into the euphonium.

Saxotromba? I think that would be the blog word of the week!
It's all cool and froodie, with the citadel watching like a matron over a troublesome patient.

Just because they could, in 1854 a band in the Scottish borders formed as the Jedforest Instrumental Band and The Hawick Saxhorn Band formed a year later, doing their things with the saxhorn. It sounds much better than the bagpipe (in both senses).
                                                         ( one of these is a useless instrument)

In 2015, google marked Sax’s 201st birthday with one of their wee google doodles.

I liked this house... very spooky.

                                                   And this tree. It seemed to be connected with the memorial in some way but I am still trying to research it.

Nice place.

Caro Ramsay 27 04 2018

1 comment:

  1. So many punning opportunities, so many straight lines, where is a body to start? I think I'm going to take a pass out of fear that should I start there will be no way of slowing down the sax drive that would take over my soul. I loved the youtube bit, and to be frank--though since the subject is sax perhaps I should say, "to be john or stan or sonny or cannonball"-- your description of Adolph Sax's developmental years don't sound all that different from many who took up his instrument. Perhaps it's something in the DNA of sax players, or their DEFGABC.