During recent weeks there has been a serious outbreak of music in my family. I don’t know how it started but my daughter, Jennie, is now practising her tenor saxophone regularly and reverts to the trumpet now and then just for a change. Coincidentally, The Jobbing Doctor has ambitions involving the tenor sax and it will be interesting to read how he gets on with it. My older grandson (named Handsome in our blogs) now has a violin (his choice) and has made a good start with a half-size instrument. Meanwhile his younger brother, Cheeky, looks as if he is going to be a guitar man, his current instrument being a small version – though we noticed that he paid a lot of attention to a rather nice mandolin on a recent visit to our local music shop. Since then he has discovered electric guitars and, being an ambitious five-year-old, he wants one.
As for me, well, some time ago I bought a secondhand clarinet with no very clear idea whether I would have enough “puff” to get a sound out of it. As it turned out I had, but only up to “open G” above which I couldn’t get as much as a squeak. So I sought the advice of Jennie’s friend, Maria, who had played a clarinet in her teens and had even survived the music education system up to a high grade. Maria correctly identified the lower joint of the clarinet as the general area wherein lay the source of the problem but the exact cause could not be found. I set about looking for a local repairer and was very lucky indeed to find a lovely old gentleman just a few miles from my home whose woodwind repairirng activities were little more than a hobby these days as he was in his eighties (though certainly didn’t look it). He was clearly very knowledgeable. On my first visit we chatted for an hour while he examined the clarinet and carried out various checks and made small adjustments. I learnt a great deal about clarinets in that hour but eventually it was clear that the specific problem in my instrument would remain a mystery until some systematic dismantling was done. So I agreed to leave the clarinet with him and go home to await his call when it was ready in perhaps a couple of weeks time. Then, without any prompting at all from me, and to my great surprise, he handed me another clarinet and suggested that I use it to practise while he was fixing mine. I was delighted. That was what I call service and there is not much of it about these days but the story didn’t end there.
My Selmer Bundy was fixed and ready for collection the very next day. The damage to a small pad on the lower joint had been invisible prior to dismantling and a second, slightly damaged pad was also changed as a precaution. The cost of the repair was small and ( in my opinion) didn’t even cover the time spent checking and adjusting on the previous day. Meanwhile, I had been trying out the borrowed clarinet. My Selmer is made of Resonite (a hard plastic-like material) but the borrowed Corton was made of wood and was (I suspect) a bit older because it was made in Czechoslovakia – I think that later models were made in the USA and if anyone has any information about this I would be interested to hear from them. The Corton was fairly easy to play, despite my lack of experience, and it had a lovely tone. So I bought it.
At about this time I heard from Jennie that Maria had always wanted to play the violin but had been diverted to the clarinet after starting, like so many of us, with the recorder. Recently she has been given a new violin as an early birthday present. So we struck a deal whereby she would give me some instruction on the clarinet while I would give her some basic guidance regarding the violin.
I have always thought it much more fun to learn and to play a musical instrument in the company of others than to struggle along alone. I can see great potential for duets, trios and even larger combinations a few months hence.