Vietnam church trumpets its faith

A Vietnamese artisan has made the nation's biggest bronze trumpet for his Catholic parish in the northern village of Xuan Tien - a 5.5 metre long musical instrument that weighs 350 kilograms.

Vietnam News reports that Ngo Van Hoa has had a life-long love affair with the trumpet which was also played by his father and grandfather.

But Hoa, also an expert bronze-maker, was not satisfied with simply playing the instrument. So, using age-old techniques preserved in his northern village of Xuan Tien, he forged a 5.5m-long, 350kg bronze trumpet that ranks as the largest in Vietnam.

"My grandfather's ... passion was handed down to my father and I grew up with the sound of the trumpet," Hoa told the paper.

Whenever he had time, Hoa went to the village's church to watch trumpet performances. Curiosity and passion also drove him to learn the art of bronze making from local artisans.

He soon began to help those artisans cast trumpets and, when he was older, he joined the church's musical troupe.

"I joined the artisans in making trumpets during the day and dreamed of the trumpet at night," he said. "One day, I realised I had fallen in love with the bronze trumpet, which is part of the country's soul."

After high school, Hoa got married. In 2000, he opened a mechanics workshop in the village which specialised in making machines to pluck rice off stalks. "But the passion of trumpets followed me," Hoa said.

In the beginning, Hoa made small trumpets for the Catholic musical troupes in his commune. His reputation grew and many customers from the South contacted Hoa to order instruments, including churches in Nam Phong, Xuan Phong, Phu Nhai, Ha Noi and Vinh. His fame spread and he received requests for trumpets from outside Viet Nam. But despite the notoriety, Hoa was not satisfied.

In his village of Xuan Tien, which is in the northern province of Nam Dinh, 80 per cent of residents are Catholic. During important ceremonies the sound of the trumpets, called tompess, is everywhere. Hoa says most of those trumpets were imported from France and Portugal; local artisans could only make small ones known as com.

"I wondered why France and Portugal could make them, but Vietnam could not. This question kept spinning in my head. I kept thinking about how to make a larger trumpet."

He studied several techniques and quickly moved beyond the comparatively pedestrian imports from France and Portugal. Finally, the biggest trumpet of Vietnam was born.

Trumpeter believes, the bigger the better (Vietnam News, 14/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Nam Dinh Province (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church in Vietnam (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Vietnam Catholics upbeat over PM meeting with Benedict (CathNews, 31/1/07)
Vietnam PM in first Vatican visit (CathNew, 24/1/07)
Cardinals meet in Vietnam "turning point" (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Mother Teresa's order invited to Vietnam (CathNews, 15/11/06)

16 May 2007

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