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Turkish crescent

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Title: Turkish crescent  
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Subject: Military band, Fanfare band, 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers), Pogo cello, Bunchuk
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Turkish crescent

Chapeau chinois of the French Foreign Legion. One can see it as an honored object in most videos of Legion music, such as this one.
Schellenbaum of the German Bundeswehr
Turkish crescent in a German museum.

A Turkish crescent, (also Turkish jingle, Jingling Johnny, Schellenbaum (Ger.), chapeau chinois or pavillon chinois (Fr.), chaghana[1]) is a percussion instrument traditionally used by military bands. In some contexts it also serves as a battle trophy or object of veneration.


  • Description 1
  • Non-musical aspects 2
  • History 3
  • Use in specific musical works 4
  • See also 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7


The instrument, usually six to eight feet long, consists of an upright wooden pole topped with a conical brass ornament and having crescent shaped crosspieces, also of brass. Numerous bells are attached to the crosspieces and elsewhere on the instrument. Often two horsetail plumes of different colors are suspended from one of the crescents; occasionally they are red-tipped, symbolic of the battlefield. There is no standard configuration for the instrument, and of the many preserved in museums, hardly two are alike.[2]

The instrument is held vertically and when played is either shaken up and down or twisted.[3] Sometimes there is a geared crank mechanism for rotating it.[4]

Today the instrument is prominent in the marching bands of the German Bundeswehr, the French Foreign Legion, and in Ottoman military bands. Some folk music features similar instruments based on a wooden staff with jingling attachments. A notable folk example is the Australian "lagerphone", made by nailing crown-seal bottle-caps, from beer bottles, onto a wooden broomstick handle, and used to provide a percussive beat for a folk song or bush dance.

Non-musical aspects

Turkish crescents had symbolic value for the military units that used them. The 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) famously captured one at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. It became an object of pride and veneration at the regiment's ceremonial parades.[5]

In the early 20th century, Turkish crescents were used in processions honoring important dignitaries. They were skillfully twirled by dignified performers, much as batons are handled today by drum majors.[6] This aspect survives today in the use of Turkish crescents as mostly symbolic objects in military marching bands. This can be clearly seen in the videos in the External links section at the end of this article.


The instrument possibly has antecedents in Central Asian shaman staffs. Similar instruments occur in ancient Chinese music, probably diffused from the same Central Asian sources.[7]

Europeans knew of it in the 16th century. In the 18th century, it was part of the Turkish Janissary bands that were the source of much interest in Europe, and in the 19th century, it was widely used in European military bands. It was abandoned by the British in the mid-19th century but survives today, in an altered form, in Germany.[3] It is also found in the military bands of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil (only in the Marching Band of the Brazilian Marine Corps and the Band of the 1st Guards Cavalry Regiment "Independence Dragoons"). Its presence in the bands of Chile and Bolivia is due to the Prussian military influences which arrived in these countries during the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Its heyday in Europe was from the mid-18th to mid-19th century, when it was commonly played by elaborately dressed black Africans, who made all manner of contortions while playing. Some of these gestures survive today, in the stick twirling by bass and tenor drummers. An aspect of the elaborate costumes survives in the leopard skin apron worn by bass drummers in British military bands.[8]

In 1881, the German Emperor William I presented a Turkish crescent to King David Kalākaua on the occasion of the King's visit to Berlin during his trip around the world[9] bearing the inscription "no ka hoomanao ana ia Berlin" (to commemorate Berlin),[10] which was then used by the Royal Hawaiian Band.

In the mid-19th century this instrument was replaced in most bands by the glockenspiel, which was carried similarly but could be played musically.[2]

Use in specific musical works

  • The Turkish crescent was used by the composer Joseph Haydn in his Symphony No. 100 (1794).
  • Beethoven is said to have made use of the Jingling Johnny or Turkish crescent in the finale to his Ninth Symphony.[11][12]
  • Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (1840). His "dream ensemble" of 467 instrumentalists included four pavillons chinois among its 53 percussion instruments.[3] He said about the instrument: "The Pavillon Chinois, with its numerous little bells, serves to give brilliancy to lively pieces, and pompous marches in military music. It can only shake its sonorous locks, at somewhat lengthened intervals; that is to say, about twice in a bar, in a movement of moderate time".[13]
  • John Philip Sousa's Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (1923) also called for the use of the Turkish crescent.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Chaghana", Dolmetsch Music Dictionary
  2. ^ a b Chenley, Brian (September 1961). "Jingling Johnny: a Note on the Pavillon Chinois". Berlioz Society Bulletin (36): 29–30. 
  3. ^ a b c   (subscription required)
  4. ^ Blades, James (1980). "Turkish crescent". In  
  5. ^ McBride, Charlie (1994-10-20). "The Fighting 88th". Galway Advertiser: 32. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ "jingling Johnny".  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ "Influence of Prussia", , January 23, 2005Honolulu Star-Bulletin
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "TV review: QI Jingle Bells Christmas edition" by Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 22 December 2012
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Berlioz, Hector (1858). Tr. Mary Cowden Clarke, ed. A Treatise Upon Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration. London: Novello, Ewer & Co. p. 233. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  • Chappell, Mike. Wellington's Peninsula Regiments. Osprey Publishing, 2003.

External links

  • at 0:12chapeau chinoisShort video clip (0:25) of French Foreign Legion music with a clear shot of
  • at 0:55, 1:45, and 3:45.chapeau chinoisWWII (1940) video (5:13) of Legion troops departing for combat. See
  • is featured as an honored object from 1:06-1:30 and especially from 7:30-10:25.Chapeau chinoisLong video (12:00) of French Foreign Legion music.
  • as an honored object and glockenspiel as a musical instrument from 0:10-1:35.SchellenbaumVideo (2:18) of a German marching band, showing
  • from 0:55-1:05.Schellenbaum and musical glockenspiel at 0:40 and a smaller whirling musical SchellenbaumVideo (2:31) of another German band, showing a ceremonial
  • from 0:50-1:00.SchellenbaumVideo (14:34) of a Chilean military parade, showing a glimpse of a ceremonial
  • History of Turkish Crescent from ancient times until the 18th century; in German: Janissary instruments and Europe
  • Alla turca: Ottoman Band Influences on European Music.
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