|Pham Phao village's products (Photo: Ngoc Thanh/ vnexpress.net)
Pham Phao is a peaceful Catholic diocese in Hai Minh commune. The village name contains the surname of a majority of the villagers - Pham. The Pham clan is one of the four clans credited with having reclaimed Hai Hau district. From above, the village resembles a cannon, or phao, hence the name Pham Phao.
In the early 16th century, Catholicism was introduced to the village. When Pham Phao Cathedral was built in 1908, a brass orchestra was established. Ever since that date, the orchestra has been maintained to perform at church services and village events.
At first all the orchestra’s brass instruments were imported. If they broke, it was expensive and took a long time to send them abroad to be repaired.
Villager Nguyen Xuan Phat told VOV: “The Western brass orchestra played music for religious and social events. This led to a need to have their brass instruments repaired. Eventually, the villagers learned how to fix the broken instruments themselves and then how to make new instruments.”
Today, Pham Phao villagers are masters of repairing and making brass instruments as well as playing them.
Initially no more than ten families in the village were involved in brass instrument making. As playing brass instruments became more popular in Nam Dinh and neighboring provinces, as many as 70% of the local families took up the trade.
|59-year-old Nguyen Van Cuong (Photo: Ngoc Thanh/ vnexpress.net)
The family of Nguyen Van Cuong has practiced the craft for decades now. Cuong says karma binds him to the craft, adding that, “The brass making has been handed down from generation to generation. I’m the fourth generation. Because broken brass instruments are carefully repaired at my shop, we are loved by everyone. This is my family’s job and now my children are getting involved.”
Pham Phao brass instrument makers are true farmer artists. At harvest time they are busy with farm work. When they return to their workshops, they are artisans who do most of their work by hand. Customers speak highly of the quality of Pham Phao products.
Saxophonist Quyen Van Minh, who has known Cuong’s family for more than 30 years, said, “I have known Cuong for decades and believe he makes very high quality brass instruments.”
1,500 Pham Phao villagers understand music theory. 1,000 of them can play brass instruments well. 7 are young people who have graduated from music schools. When a festival or a church service is held in the diocese, the farmers become artists who play brass instruments as skillfully as a professional band.