Songs of The Ohio State University

Le Règiment de Sambre et Meuse - A History

Title: Le Règiment de Sambre et Meuse (The Regiment of Sambre and Meuse)
French National Defilè March
Composer: Jean Robert Planquette (1848-1903).
Band arranger: Joseph François Rauski (1837-1910).
Orchestrator: J S Seredy or L. P. Laurendeau
English Translation Courtesy of Robert M Goodman; Mechanicsburg, PA

SAMBRE ET MEUSE, Robert Planquette

One of the most famous French marches outside France is Sambre et Meuse, which is almost considered the French national march, played with bugles also in other countries. French military music is equally well known and misunderstood. One sign of this is all futile efforts made to explain the meaning of the French concepts marche, [march] defilè[processional] and pas redouble [quickstep]. One reason for this is, of course, linguistic, i.e., that French military music authorities only express themselves in their own idiom, and another is that the surrounding world cannot understand why the Frenchmen drown their marches in bugles, which usually entertain regular soldiers and which comprises a cross between a hunting horn and a trumpet called a clairon [bugle].

Jean Robert Planquette (1848-1903) was born on July 31, 1848 in Paris, but considered himself Norman. His father was a sculptor and modern choral singer at the Paris Conservatory. Robert grew up under very poor conditions, but studied at the Paris Conservatory, including with Jules Laurent Duprato, and received a first prize in song and a second prize in piano. He started his career as a pianist and composer of songs to later become famous for 23 operettas, of which the best known is Bells of Corneville which premiered in 1877. He was also a versatile singer and was able to both sing baritone and falsetto tenor soli to mimic the female voices. He died on January 28, 1903 in Paris.

About 1870, he published his Refrains du Règiment [regimental refrains], a collection of twelve military marches of which the most famous is Sambre et Meuse, which was a musical setting of Paul Cèzano's 1867 patriotic poem Le Règiment de Sambre et Meuse with motifs from the French Revolution. It refers to a mythical regiment named after the war-torn region of the rivers Sambre and Meuse in northern France and Belgium.

At the request of a senior officer, the music director of the 18th Infantry Regiment, Joseph François Rauski (1837-1910) arranged the march for military band, which was first performed in 1879 at the Place de Verdun in Pau. Rauski should be praised for its arrangement, but should not be credited as being the composer, since little new thematic material had been added. It is therefore not correct to write that Rauski "on themes from the song, composed the march." The reason for the erroneous data (including an A. Turlet, a publisher in Paris, who made a transcription for piano and small orchestra) would be that the gentlemen of the SACEM [Central Organization of Swedish Workers] stated him as being the composer. The French music historian Èile Vuillermoz writing a 1937 essay about these relations concluded "As some have decided to award a French composer 'immortality', let them do it right and not confuse one adapter's rights with the rights of the musician who really was the father of a celebrated and glorious piece of music." Unfortunately, it is also played, as a rule, in connection with the incorrect author Turlet, after an American arrangement with the incorrect title, French National Defilè March, which is particularly remarkable when one in the USA believes that defilè[processional] is something essentially different from pas redoublè[quickstep] as it is in this case.

The march was the regimental march of the 5th Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps, that was set up in 1919 as a unit in the Non Permanent Active Militia and later merged with the Règiment de Dorchester et Beauce in order to form to Le Règiment de la Chaudièe that retained its regimental march. In Canada, it is also the regimental march of Le Règiment de Maisonneuve.

Swedish musicians have often had difficulties with French work's titles, and an amusing example was A 6's musical director Enock Nilson.  In his band were, from 1920 to 1930, musikstyckjunkarna [?] Bror Sandberg and Carl Böös, and when Sambre et Meuse would be played, it instead became Sandberg and Böös. Whether the march was then played with hunting horn or clairon parts is not known, but at the Guards Comrades' concert at Hasselbacken on September 21, 1997, they were.

Lars C Stolt


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Webmaster: Nick Metrowsky
The Ohio State University, BA, History, 1979
Life Member The Ohio State University Alumni Association
Life Member of The Ohio State University President's Club
Annual Member of The Ohio State University Varsity "O" Association

Last Updated: 23 September, 2021

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