Aude: Patrick Nicolle, trumpet major, and composer of presidential marches

the essential
The marches of Presidents Macron, Hollande, Sarkozy, Chirac… Since François Mitterrand included, he has composed them all. We also owe him the anthem of the Lépine competition, that of adapted sport and even the march which was played, when entering Windsor, on the day of Prince Harry’s wedding. Major Patrick Nicolle, now retired, who was trumpet major in his military career, is now based in Castelnaudary. He is part of the oldest family of musical soldiers in France.

Trumpet major… there are very few left in the French Army, only one now bears this prestigious title, he is in La Garde Républicaine. Patrick Nicolle was therefore among the last to whom it was awarded. Entered as a conscript in the 2nd Dragoon Regiment of Haguenau, he studied there at the same time as the one who would become general, Chief of Staff of the Armies, Pierre de Villiers. He got involved in the process and very quickly, he was noticed by his hierarchy, interested as much by his musical level – he graduated from the Strasbourg Conservatory crowned with a First Prize for trumpet – as by his personal history.

In the Nicolle family, we have been musicians and soldiers since 1875, and Mac Mahon, a unique reference in France. The bandmaster recruited him without delay to “perpetuate the continuity of the traditions of the bands and military bands” and two years later, he was assigned to the Saumur Armored and Cavalry School of Application as a music instructor. He will continue his career in the army, still as a musician and will be awarded the title of trumpet major. “The trumpet major, under Napoleon, was the best trumpet in the regiment and was at the General Staff. There was then no other means of communication than sound”, explains Mr. Nicolle. The messages were thus relayed from one squadron to another by means of trumpets, each series of musical notes of which had a very specific meaning.

A musical heritage

The history of these bells has been passed down from musician to musician up to the present day and we have a rich heritage, “like the Consular March, which dates from the Empire, still played today in Champs Elysée for the President”. This is where the shoe pinches for this purist. “We are no longer under the Empire, we are under the Fifth Republic. Why continue to play this march written on Napoleon’s order for the Presidents of the Fifth Republic. It’s absurd, not normal! The Republican Guard , she is the guarantor of the musical traditions of this time, they are not responsible but it is necessary to evolve”, he underlines, explaining thereby what led him to compose the marches for the various Presidents of the Republic for nearly 40 years. “I was lucky, I was received by some of them, others wrote to me,” notes the major. He thinks it, music marks an era. This is true for all musical trends and military music is no exception. He also wanted the works he composed to stick to the personality of the person for whom it is intended: a rhythmic trot, very lively for Sarkozy who recognized himself in the rhythm; “Jupiterian”, for Macron; a gallop for Chirac and Holland…It’s made-to-measure! The score is given to the President and it is then played in the gardens of the Elysée when he reviews the troops to take command of Chief of the Armies.

For Prince Harry

Marching composers are not legion. And yet… “Current conductors have the ability to write but they don’t do it because we have a very rich repertoire. The problem is that it is getting old and we always hear the same thing. In the parades in which the Republican Guard takes part, you can always hear the march of the Guard. And that, since 1870! “, he exclaims. This enthusiast has also composed for Ministers of Defense: Michèle Alliot-Marie, Florence Parly have their march, the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces such as Generals Burkhard, Lecointre or de Villiers. In 2018, it is the composition of honors for the Prine Harry, played by the 12 trumpets of the Queen’s horse-guards. Harry was the helicopter pilot who, in Afghanistan, supported the French troops on the ground. That’s where he met her. Walks all recorded at Sacem, which ensures its exclusivity. We owe many works to our adopted Chaurien, including the anthem of the Lépine competition, that of adapted sport. the next generation is there since his son Sébastien, Republican Guard shares the same passion. As good blood cannot lie, here is that his grandson, barely 5 years old, is already interested in the trumpet.