HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Posts Tagged ‘reed’

Marlowe Music Week 2009: Wednesday chamber music

Posted by HelenEdith on August 12, 2009

Today’s evening activity for Marlowe Music Week was a wind dectet session. (I expect that there was string chamber music going on somewhere else.) We gathered at the home of one of the participants and worked our way through a set of short dances, the theme from Delius’ Koanga, a Tchaikovsky arrangement, and the Souza Washington Post march, among other things. We were a horn short, but we managed. We also had a conductor. She would have loved to have been playing, but a recent broken wrist had made that impossible. Her skills as a conductor were much appreciated, though. Keeping a group that size together is much easier with someone out the front to direct matters. 🙂

Margaret and I shared out the first and second bassoon parts, although I think I ended up with more first than Margaret did. She reckons that I sight-read the tenor clef better than she does, so anything with tenor clef on it comes my way. I expect that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I still have to admit to not reading every note I saw on a tenor clef this evening. (I left a few quavers out in the interests of staying with the beat. 🙂 )

I’ve got two reeds going this week. I tried out my new reeds on Sunday afternoon and got an idea of how they played, picked the worst one and scraped it and decided that it was much improved afterwards; and have been playing chamber music and orchestra on it ever since. One of the reeds is very free-blowing and loud. That one I’ve reserved for band use. I used it on Tuesday evening, and it will come out next Sunday when I’m on the Horniman Gardens Bandstand. I think it might overpower an orchestra or chamber group, but it’s great for holding one’s own when in the company of euphoniums and other heavy brass.

I’ve put my plastic reed away and not had recourse to it at all. Unlike my late lamented one which split last year, this one has not yet mellowed to the point where I would choose to use it for orchestral playing or for chamber music, although I have used it for orchestra when I didn’t have a cane reed that worked. I quite like the plastic reed. Maybe it is because it has such a long life and I can become more attuned to it, but when the plastic reed is on the end of my bassoon, I can feel as if the whole instrument becomes one with me. I don’t quite get that feeling with cane reeds, but I think that it’s a state that I should aspire to, as the feeling that my instrument is an extension of myself is a truly satisfying experience.


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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Sunday chamber music

Posted by HelenEdith on August 9, 2009

Marlowe Music Week kicked off today. There was a planning coffee morning this morning which I didn’t get to, but I spent some time at home this afternoon going through my new reeds and adjusting them and making sure I had some that were playable for this evening as I’m not sure that my plastic reed has mellowed enough yet to be up to chamber music. 🙂 Then I went along this evening for the first session of music, which was chamber music at Malcolm and Sheila’s house.

I played wind quintets all evening in the back room upstairs, but we had a change of clarinettist half way through the evening as there were two clarinettists present; and each took a turn with the string group downstairs in the front room. 🙂

The wind quintet music included pieces by Gordon Jacob (Swansea Town), the Bizet Jeux d’Enfants suite arranged for wind quintet, a Mozart Divertimento, and an arrangement of tunes from Fiddler on the Roof. I’d never seen the Mozart or the Fiddler on the Roof arrangement before and it was enjoyable to have some different music on my stand, particularly as both were approachable pieces.

It was a good way to start the music week off, and despite spending a good hour or more working on my reeds this afternoon and then two hours playing this evening, my lips are still alive. It just goes to show that my move last year to soft cane reeds was a good idea. I might put some lip balm on before I go to bed, though, as the lips do need a bit of care while I toughen them up.

Maybe this will be the year that once I’ve got my lip toughened up with a week of concentrated playing that I will then take up regular practice and keep my lip toughened up – plus get some repertoire into a state where I can actually stand up and play it!

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Entry for August 03, 2008 – Marlowe Music Week begins

Posted by HelenEdith on August 3, 2008

Marlowe Music Week 2008 kicked off today. I didn’t get to the coffee morning at the Youngs’ place, but I did go along this evening for chamber music, also at the Youngs’ place.

We divided up into two groups. Three violins, two violas, a cello (and their respective players) plus one pianist repaired to the front room downstairs, while six wind players ascended the stairs to Malcolm’s Den (the former back bedroom) where we proceeded to play some quite obscure music arranged for our combination of instruments. We had flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon (me!) and bass clarinet. Much of our music was purchased from Phylloscopus Publications, who specialise in wind chamber music and make the effort to publish lesser-known composers.

One of the most successful pieces we played this evening was by L. J. A. Lefébure-Wély (1817-1869) and was Sortie in Eb arranged for wind quintet with optional bass clarinet. It was arranged by A. R. Cuninghame. It is described as lively music, originally for organ. It had quite a fairground organ feel about it, and we liked it so much that we left it on our stands when we went downstairs for mid-session refreshments and played it again later on. 🙂

I did a bit of reed work before going out this evening, and I’ve brought the least good of the three soft cane reeds I purchased recently up to a playable state. I played on it for a while this evening, but it’s still not as good as the best of the bunch, although a bit more playing on it might improve it even without further work with the scraping knife. I also blew my two remaining plastic reeds and decided that one could stay in my bassoon case but that the other needed turfing out. I need to work on that one to try and bring it up to standard.

Even the playable plastic reed isn’t as good as the one that split recently. That one was very well blown in and had mellowed over the years. (Yes, I did say “years”. That plastic reed and I have been together for a good ten years, maybe longer! Having it split is a disaster.) If I play with a band, I will probably get out the plastic reed that stayed in my case, as it wouldn’t be out of place in a band, and might mellow. It’s a little way off being acceptable for orchestral or chamber music use – unless my lip gets so tired I can’t manage the cane reeds – but that’s an emergency! 🙂

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Entry for April 28, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 28, 2007

It’s been a lazy Saturday, which I needed. I’ve just about got rid of my headache, but my left eye still needs its rabbit’s ears adjusted so that I can see properly through it. It’s just as well that my right eye is my dominant eye or I’d be looking at a very ghostly world today.

April has been unseasonably warm and the spring flowers have been early this year. I don’t know whether I’ll manage to point a camera at any bluebells or the yellow of an oilseed rape crop this year, so today’s picture is of bluebells which I photographed in May 2003, when they flowered at the time they normally flower.

My bassoon came out for some practice this afternoon. I even dug out a cane reed. It’s hard work. I think I’ll be taking my trusty plastic reed along tomorrow when I’m going to be playing wind quintets for fun for an hour and a half. I really ought to build my lip up so that I can play on a cane reed again as the sound is better. It’s undoubtedly a travesty to play a nice instrument like mine with a plastic reed – but it’s better than not playing it!

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