Bull Bands 3/27/1943
The custom of serenading newly married couples goes back to the antiquity, and it may be that the Pipes of Pan were used for mythological newlyweds. To the English the serenaders were known as a Calithumpian band, to the French the serenade was a charivari and to the Pennsylvanian Dutch it was a Bull-band. In earlier days no wedding was considered complete until the serenade had taken place. Couples that were separated also were entertained when they became reunited.
Several days after the wedding the concert would take place wherever the couple was living.
The players assembled quietly after dark and then suddenly the stillness of the night would be blasted by the sound of the band. There was nothing sweet or melodious about the music of the Bull-band. The main instrument was the “sei-geig” and the sounds that came from this can only be described as “farrischderlich!”
According to Charles “Butch” Schoener and “Cal: Grimes of Womelsdorf, the “sei-geig” gets its name from the fact that thte trough used for scalding hogs (briedrog) furnished the body of the geig or fiddle and hence the name sei-geig or pig fiddle. Wires were stretched from one end of the trough to the other and as the ends were higher than the sides the wires, which acted as the fiddle strings were elevated and could be played upon. When a scalding trough could not be obtained a strongly-made box, such as a tobacco case was used as a substitute.
A piece of two-by-four or narrow board one side covered with rosin was the bow and was drawn across the wires. It required a man on each end of this to operate the geig and the noises produced were indescribable. Squeals, groans, moans, roars, rumbling howls and just plain noise came forth.
Along with the “sei-geig” were all kinds of noise-makers, cowbells and dinner bells were rung, tin horns and conch shells were blown, dishpans were beat upon – anything and everything to make a racket. This uproar continued until the groom either invited the serenaders into the house for refreshments or took them to a hotel for a treat.
As the manufacture of the “sei-geig” represented quite a bit of labor the band was allowed to play for a half hour or more before the groom appeared. Sometimes the new husband was contrary and refused to act as host, then the noise continued until the neighbors put a stop to it.