An instrument that ruled the world.

Many special instruments from different parts of the world have been known for centuries. For example, the didgeridoo from Australia, percussion instruments from Asia or stringed instruments from the Orient. The ocarina, however, was present in many ancient civilisations. In Mesopotamia, a clay vessel flute with an animal head from the 6th millennium BC was found. The oldest Chinese vessel flutes, precursors of the xun, date back to the 5th millennium B.C. In America, they were played by the Maya, Inca and Aztecs. There, they were usually shaped like birds or other animals, whereas the xun in ancient Imperial China were more egg-shaped.

The name ocarina comes from Emilia-Romagna and means something like “little goose”. Around 1860, the Italian clay distiller Giuseppe Donati from Budrio developed the beet-shaped instrument with a range of one and a half octaves, the 10-hole ocarina, which is predominant today. He built his instruments in several sizes, from the small soprano ocarina to the large bass ocarina. The first public performance of an ocarina quintet took place in Budrio in 1863.

The composition “Okarina” by the Russian composer Veniamin Myasoedov is particularly striking. The latter was born in 1951 in Mitchurinsk. Mitschurins is a town southeast of Moscow with about 100,000 inhabitants. There he is a saxophonist, orchestral musician, composer and music teacher in the city institutions.

The Symphonic Wind Band in Villafranca de Xira, Portugal, was founded as an ocarina orchestra. These old instruments are exhibited in the foyer of the association’s own orchestra hall. On the occasion of a wind orchestra competition, I was able to follow the metamorphosis from an ocarina to a wind orchestra. I was familiar with the smaller to medium-sized ocarinas, but the bass ocarinas – I don’t want to have to carry them around…..

Conclusion: Ocarina and wind orchestra? Is there anything to it? A few works are listed here with which you can introduce the ocarina to your audience.

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