A fanfare has been described as a ceremonial flourish or tune that is performed on a brass instrument normally played to introduce something or somebody special.
One of the most popular instruments that fanfares are played on is the trumpet, and early forms of the instrument date back to around 1500BC. Early forms of musical instruments were unearthed in the grave of Tutankhamun which were made from silver and bronze and were fine examples of Egyptian trumpets. But there are also records of similar instruments from China and Scandinavia that also date back to this period.
The trumpet together with the fanfare were extremely popular for European royalty and their military. Many European rulers formed brass bands that were used to lead their armies into battle. In fact the trumpet had close associations to royalty and trumpet players were highly sought after.
During the medieval period, many rulers and influential people showed their importance by having their own special groups of trumpeters that they would use to announce their arrival. This could be when they arrived at the gates of a neighboring city or simply at court to signify their entrance. As the period went on then trumpets developed into far more sophisticated instruments and became a more mainstream instrument that featured in orchestras and musical ensembles.
Coming out of the medieval period and heading into the 16th Century, the trumpet was used in a much wider musical context than just playing fanfares. It was still called the natural trumpet at this stage as it had no valves. Still a skilled player could get seven or eight notes out of it.
Fanfares for Everybody
As time progressed it became popular to introduce the fanfare into mainstream music and they were not just used by noblemen and royalty. This signified that the trumpet, bugle and other brass instruments were far more than just military instruments.
Famous composers started to introduce both fanfares and the trumpet into their music, but it was still to herald significant events in operas or ballets such as the Governor’s arrival in Fidelio. Another famous modern fanfare is Fanfare for a New Theatre by Stravinsky. The fanfare was composed for the new theater at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Fanfares and the instruments that they were played on have changed dramatically since they were first introduced to the world. But having said that they are still very much fanfares, and college marching bands and bugle bands of today want their music to make people stand up and take notice.
In this respect the fanfare still achieves its main focus and that is to announce something great or different is happening. It seems ludicrous that some of the most historic occasions could have possibly have taken place without the pageantry of a fanfare. Perhaps fanfares have crossed over to the common man, but we still need them to signify special occasions and to welcome in something or somebody special.