Years and years ago, I used to go to Paris, as I was studying nearby and a trip to see the Selmer Factory and have lunch with one or the other of the Selmers was always a treat.
While there, as a matter of course, I would play every clarinet they had in the factory (I have a picture of me with about 8 cradled in my arms, which I must find).
On the way back at the end of the summer, I would stop by again and buy about three Paris instruments, which cost about 250-300 dollars a piece, with lovely french cases, mouthpieces, ligatures, etc.
I was very impressed with Maurice and Jean Selmer, and the lunch they provided was always wonderful as was the inevitable factory tour, and the ride back and forth from Nantes in that crazy Citroen, the one with the automatically rising and lowering suspension.
As we say, it was a trip.
When I got to Idlewild one time, it was extremely hot and for some reason, ( Iwas waiting for a friend), I dallied in the large room until I was asked by two fellows to go into a room, where I was gently asked to empty my pockets, which I did, showing nothing out of the ordinary, save for two selmer clarinet bells and a barrel or two.
They then went through my luggage, Coming to the zippered section containing dirty laundry, they stopped momentarily, then dove in and came up with a couple of selmer clarinets.
In the interim, I had chewed up the tissue paper receipts I had been given at the Factory. I needn’t have done that.
I told them that I was a Selmer Clinician, which was true and they went and got the number of Selmer USA in Elkhart. I was given Jack Feddrson, who was the president of Selmer. He asked me if the horns were for my own personal use. I replied that indeed they were and I was given permission to take the instruments with me, and no duty paid.
This preface is for your interest.
The idea was born into me that 2 or 3 hundred dollars was a decent price to pay for a new Selmer Paris instrument.
Frankly, I have never seen a reason for them to be more costly than that.
Of course, what has transpired is the cue taken from the manufacturers of Oboes, Flutes and Bassoons and the many changes that have taken place in the monetary system, plus 20 or 30% added by the various groups of middlemen who comprise the system of sales, resulting in the inflated absurdity of the price of a French Clarinet.
I also became aware of the cost of synthetic material, and the fact that these were made of an inexpensive material, without much finishing done, and using what are know as basket keys which are not well fitted at all.
I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful to get these French makers to manufacture me a set of plastic instruments using the most carefully finished tecnics available. Why wouldn’t they play as well as the wooden clarinets?
As I may have said, I never did get or even apply for the grant to get the Selmer Company to make me a set of horns.
Mind you, my friend, the Late Robert McGibbon, who had a wonderful shop in Milwaukee, told me about the famous full-boehm silver instrument that had been made in the 20s by Selmer, and then dropped from their catalog.
But the price of those great wooden selmers and the price that the kids have to pay for a modern french instrument reflects only the cynical manipulation of the industry on the parents of these students who feel that perhaps they may help achieve the goal of their children to play the clarinet for a livelihood.
We always get the best for our kids, don’twe?Spare nothing, even if we know nothing.
So finally, this is my reason for the clarinet made of hard rubber.
I have found that Ridenour’s instruments achieve better results in the making of sound, tuning and pure pleasure playing than instruments costing ten times their price.
These instruments are virtually impervious to extreme temperature changes and the structural integrity is much better than any wood. For a student who play for hours and hours a week in bands and other ensembles and suffer the incessant binding of various parts of their instruments, this problem disappears .
Now, I have to say Tom Ridenour’s instruments, because the above characteristic do not hold true for other Chinese Ebonite instruments. Their sound is pretty, however the intonation is rather traditional, typically that of the ordinary Buffet R13 clarinet. I have one, beautifully fitted and keyed by the way, nice sound, but sharp in the throat and not as evenly timbred as all or any of Tom’s.
I do not know what he has done, however I do know that the manufacturing has had to be done on a kind of assembly line system because there were many of them made.
The instruments all play well, with little deviating from horn to horn.
So, a recording of me playing aria would be of little value without me also playing the same on a wooden clarinet and then we are in a different playing field, for different reasons.
These horns cost a tenth of what one of these French clarinets, and they are simply better, and the parents do not have to have the total BS as part of the Band Directors sell, or the Buffet Artists pitch, so to speak.
These then are my reasons for fostering their purchase.
as ever, Sherman