The chalumeau is a member of a family of instruments the early development of which is unfortunately not well documented, even by the standards of other woodwinds in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This may be due to its low social status during those periods. Single reed instruments with a cylindrical bore may have been around from as far back as the 12th century, the term chalumeau is found in 16th century French dictionaries where it refers to such instruments. Use of the instrument seems to have spread from France through the rest of Europe during the course of the 17th century and by around 1700 the instrument maker J C Denner began adapting the instrument, adding keys until eventually the Baroque clarinet was achieved.
Soprano Chalumeau in C
The instruments are keyless, parallel bore and fitted with a modern Yamaha Eb mouthpiece. The sound is mellow and an octave lower then a recorder of the same size (overall length is approx. 325mm).
The wood used is sycamore (stained&oiled or just oiled), but other woods are available. (the purple Chalumeaux in the picture were made using Purple Heart).
Price: £130 (sycamore)
£140 (other woods*)
A chalumeau is supplied with 1 Eb clarinet reed. Leather cord is used to hold the reed onto the mouthpiece, as it would have been done on the original instruments.
* Previous woods have included: Olive, Purple heart, American red cherry, Padauk, English walnut, Wild mango and Fig.