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Stephen Chambers

Pierre Monichon

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Tonight I received an email from my good friend Gérard Dole in Paris to tell me that "Poor ole Monichon just passed away ... A great man !"

 

Monichon.jpg

 

Pierre Monichon was born in Paris on 24th October 1925. From 1945 onwards he worked to rehabilitate the accordion amongst classical musicians, to which end he invented his "Harmonéon" or "Accordéon de concert" in 1948.

 

The harmonéon is a chromatic accordion with a melodic left-hand end, the buttons being of the same size and having the same fingering as those on the right-hand keyboard, so somewhat similar in principle to a duet concertina. The photograph (from the very interesting website of my friend Laurent Jarry) is of the second example to be made:

 

harmobusato.jpg

 

Pierre was a pioneering researcher of the history of free reed instruments and published three books on the subject: "Petite Histoire de l'Accordéon" (E.G.F.P., Paris 1958), "L'Accordéon" in the series "Que sais-je ?" (Presses Universitaires de France, 1971) and a more recent work titled "L'Accordéon" (Van de Velde, Paris/Payot, Lausanne 1985). Extracts from the latter (without illustrations) can be found here on the web, and a Resume (with illustrations) here. He was working on a fourth book, "L'Accordéon à travers le monde", intended to have a more encyclopaedic format.

 

His groundbreaking "Petite Histoire de l'Accordéon" was for many years the only book on the history of free reed instruments, and I devoured it when I first found a copy on the shelves of the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester around 1971. It was in this work that I first saw the black and white photograph (below) which made me aware of the existence of the Wheatstone prototype concertina, the same instrument that is now both my most prized possession and my avatar:

 

Wheatstone1stConcertina.jpg

 

Pierre's historical research and collection of early instruments were the main inspiration for me in attempting to do similar work, so I was delighted to be told that he had read my articles and wanted to meet me. I was invited to visit the Monichons, on a trip to France in June 2003, at their idyllic home above the Marne valley, outside la Ferté sous Jouarre. Their hospitality was very warm and almost overwhelmingly generous, starting with a glass of locally-made Champagne (from just across the valley) when I arrived. Here's a picture of Pierre and myself (with their cockerel in front of him), taken outside their house by Madame Monichon:

 

Monichon2003094.jpg

 

We had hoped to renew the acquaintance ...

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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I live in France. Pierre Monichon had been my professor and almost my grand father.

I entered in the nationalmusical school of Aubervilliers in 1976. I staretd to read Harmoneon in the middle of the year on Feburary 1977 tahnks to incredible teaching in June I had my first degre :the firsst price with unanimity of the jury. I spent some time at his home in Meaux to prepare during the week end my examination. he was like a grand father to me replacing the one I have quit when I was a little child in Martinique (French caribbean)

I red with him my first ever newspaper ever. I was jut 8 years old. I red it while I was playing the harmoneon at the same time ! For him I had to be good enough to play and retain in my memory the music , read the newspaper to him while I was playing. It has been the most incredible teaching i ever received.

4 moths later while I was the yougest and so small to alsmost disaspear behind the instrument I got the highest awards of the Musical school with the unanimity of the jury. I was good. I had some great future in that musical field i guess I was working to give himback what I was receiving from him. I left the school when I changed home. it has never been the same. I've lost a professor and a grad father. I've lost someone who was knowing my scret. I was feeling alone and the instrument and meet him each week was structuring my week and my childhood. I was livving in a difficult suburban town close to Paris. going in that musical school with such a practice helped me to go in the new path of life. Iwas just eaigh I had to take the bus and walk so much to go to that school to carry a 12 kg instrument. when I probably wheigted only 32 kk.

I was young, a young black boy. It was strange to ee a young black practicing an instrument that so few was knowing at that time but that had so much possibilities. I was the only black guy in the school. he helped me to get confidence in me. 4 months had been enough and not enough. Isom years after I gave up because I was never found the magical I got while practicing with him. It was 30 years ago

Thank you gread Dad Mr Pierre Monichon. I guess I will take the instrument again.

 

Patrick Aglaé

 

Tonight I received an email from my good friend Gérard Dole in Paris to tell me that "Poor ole Monichon just passed away ... A great man !"

 

Monichon.jpg

 

Pierre Monichon was born in Paris on 24th October 1925. From 1945 onwards he worked to rehabilitate the accordion amongst classical musicians, to which end he invented his "Harmonéon" or "Accordéon de concert" in 1948.

 

The harmonéon is a chromatic accordion with a melodic left-hand end, the buttons being of the same size and having the same fingering as those on the right-hand keyboard, so somewhat similar in principle to a duet concertina. The photograph (from the very interesting website of my friend Laurent Jarry) is of the second example to be made:

 

harmobusato.jpg

 

Pierre was a pioneering researcher of the history of free reed instruments and published three books on the subject: "Petite Histoire de l'Accordéon" (E.G.F.P., Paris 1958), "L'Accordéon" in the series "Que sais-je ?" (Presses Universitaires de France, 1971) and a more recent work titled "L'Accordéon" (Van de Velde, Paris/Payot, Lausanne 1985). Extracts from the latter (without illustrations) can be found here on the web, and a Resume (with illustrations) here. He was working on a fourth book, "L'Accordéon à travers le monde", intended to have a more encyclopaedic format.

 

His groundbreaking "Petite Histoire de l'Accordéon" was for many years the only book on the history of free reed instruments, and I devoured it when I first found a copy on the shelves of the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester around 1971. It was in this work that I first saw the black and white photograph (below) which made me aware of the existence of the Wheatstone prototype concertina, the same instrument that is now both my most prized possession and my avatar:

 

Wheatstone1stConcertina.jpg

 

Pierre's historical research and collection of early instruments were the main inspiration for me in attempting to do similar work, so I was delighted to be told that he had read my articles and wanted to meet me. I was invited to visit the Monichons, on a trip to France in June 2003, at their idyllic home above the Marne valley, outside la Ferté sous Jouarre. Their hospitality was very warm and almost overwhelmingly generous, starting with a glass of locally-made Champagne (from just across the valley) when I arrived. Here's a picture of Pierre and myself (with their cockerel in front of him), taken outside their house by Madame Monichon:

 

Monichon2003094.jpg

 

We had hoped to renew the acquaintance ...

:(

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Patrick,

That is a very moving eulogy for the man who I also called "mon professeur". He seems to have touched on the lives of many people, in different but always very positive ways, which must surely be the mark of true greatness?

I would dearly love to have met him again.

Here is a photograph of the Monichons that I took at their home in June 2003, which I hope you will like:

Monichon2003093.jpg

Though I'd say Pierre was always happier on the other side of a camera! I'd been warned about his penchant for photographing his guests, so I wasn't too surprised to find him with a video camera, on a tripod, waiting to greet me outside la Ferté sous Jouarre railway station - at least it made him easy to identify, on our first meeting. :rolleyes:

So here's another photo of him, preparing to take yet another picture of me ...

monichon20030782.jpg

Edited to add photos.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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I found a delightful short film (in French) about Pierre Monichon tonight, that brought back some lovely memories of the two days I spent with himself and his wife in 2003. In it you can see the very first, 3-row, harmonéon, built for him by Busato in 1948.

 

The film can be viewed here: L'HARMONEON DE MR MONICHON

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