Church Serpent in C by Baudouin c.1810

One of my prized original historical instruments and among my oldest is this church serpent in C made by Baudouin in Paris, France around 1810, yes when Napoleon was the emperor of France! IF these instruments could talk… What makes it particularly special is that it has two original brass keys in B natural and F# which greatly helps with those troublesome notes. I acquired this instrument from bass trombonist and serpentist of the Boston Symphony, Douglas Yeo, and am forever grateful to be its current caretaker. Doug purchased it from rare instrument dealer Andre Bissonnet while on tour in France with the BSO in 1996. This serpent is crafted from two pieces of carved fruitwood, wrapped in black leather with a brass bocal. It is pitched at A=440. It bears the maker’s stamp twice inside the bell. Baudouin serpents are esteemed as some of the best and were replicated by Charles Sax (Adolphe Sax’s father, a serpent and ophicleide maker) and, more recently, Christopher Monk for his replicas. The most striking feature of this instrument is its lightness and the resonant quality of the old wood, something that can’t be captured in a modern replica. Similar to a historical violin, this serpent has aged like fine wine, becoming more responsive and resonant over the years with proper maintenance (yes, the wood needs to be oiled and humidity controlled like any wooden musical instrument). While most original serpents have deteriorated or been damaged, this one has not. Apart from a minor repair near the bottom bow likely done 150 years ago and a repaired open seam on the bocal, this instrument is astonishingly well-preserved and in excellent playing condition.