Fernand Halphen, a Jewish composer in the Great War

A radio program by the European Institute of Jewish Music hosted by Hervé Roten

MUSIQUES JUIVES D’HIER ET D’AUJOURD’HUI – TUESDAY MARCH 11, 2014, JUDAÏQUES FM (94.8), 21H05. Radio program in French


Between 1914 and 1918, the Great War destroyed Europe and did 9 millions killed and more than 20 millions wounded : among them, many Israelites, French, Belgian, English or German, who fought with patriotism for their land. In those terrible times, between horrifying noise of the shells and the use of the first chemical weapons, music played a particular role to maintain the moral of the troops and the civil population.

While most of the composers and musicians were assigned as hospital porters or ambulance drivers, Fernand Halphen, 42 years old and father of two children, was assigned as lieutenant on the 3rd battalion of the 13th territorial infantry regiment of Compiegne. On August 23, 1914, two weeks after the beginning of the war, he conducted “a big concert in front of a packed park” in Compiègne.
In 1915, he composed a military march, entitled “Les Poilus”. On August 22, 1915, his orchestra performed in front of King Albert 1st, King of the Belgian and Raymond Poincaré in the castle of Davenescourt. However, in December 2015, the troop is reorganized, surely because some of the younger members were integrated in the active troops to compensate the losses. The orchestra was disassembled.

Between December 1915 and February 1917, Fernand Halphen gathered a new orchestra, in the region of Amiens, and performed more than 50 concerts. On February 13, 1917, his battalion was dissolved, as each soldier was requisitioned for the active defense.

On February 18, 1917, 5 days after this dissolution, he was hospitalized. Seriously sick, he was repatriated in Paris where he passed away on May 16, 1917.

During this radio program, the musicologist and president of the EIJM Laure Schnapper will tell us about the history and the music of this Jewish composer, killed on dutyy for France, and which the works starts to be recognized today.

herve_photo_retouche_fond_uni_bleu_500px.jpgOfficer of the Ordre of Arts and letters, PhD in musicology at Paris University Sorbonne, prize-winning graduate from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, Hervé Roten is the director of the European Institute of Jewish Music since its creation in 2006.
Ethnomusicologist, he quickly developed an interest in the safeguard and digitization of archives, subjects he taught for several years in Reims and Marne-La-Vallée universities.
Author of many articles, books and recordings related to Jewish music, producer of radio programs, Hervé Roten is recognized today as one of the best specialists of Jewish music in the world.

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