letter from a “new” Selmer Centered Tone owner

pict08Dear Sherman:

I became the owner last September of a beautiful Henri Selmer Paris Bb clarinet,  Staff at the orchestra have been unable to provide any information about this instrument’s history. This clarinet has a distinctive octave vent with a 6-sided vent hole cover. It is a seven ring clarinet with alternate Eb/Ab and C#/G# fingerings. Can you add anything to my understanding about this particular clarinet?   I.S., LONDON, ONTARIO    

This question with its implications is reminiscent of many years of my own clarinets and even a good part of ny career. For me, the six sided vent key saved an entire concerto for me, and one that will never be forgotten. In the mid 60s, I was a Fromm Fellow in and at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony. Actually, I had just gotten married and we spent our honeymoon summer on the Lake near Tanglewood, looking at a small faamily of Canadian geese who also chose to live near our cottage on the lake. I remember it as a beautiful, even pristine summer. We had a lovely dog, Taffee, a Shetland sheep dog, rescued from the spca in Lenox and she stayed with us for 15 years. At the beginning of the summer, I had auditioned in order to play the Easley Blackwood Clarinet Concerto during the festival, conducted by Gunther Schuller. I won that audition and played one of the first prformances of that work. It was on the first night of the Festival of Contmporary music . This was no ordinary work, terribly complex and technically challenging as well. I remember only one thng about that concert, and frankly, it was not the Concerto, it was however, the six sided octave vent key. Directly before the Concerto, I was swabbing my instrument. I don’t remember the direction of the swab, but it stuck, and the more or less that I pulled on it, the more stuck it became. Picture yourself. This had never happened, before or after and momentarily I panicked. I passed the clarinet around so that the others sitting nearby could see my problem. In a few moments, another clarinetist opened his case and took out several small wrenches. One of the wrenches fit the six sided vent key cover. It was cleared of the swab in a few moments. Things proceded as expected, but I have never ever thought of the work since, only the panic of that big selmer swab stuck in the top joint of my Centered Tone Clarinet. Somewhere 808 sometimes listed as a Mazzeo System clarinet.your description, you mention the 808 model, I studied with Mazzeo and played this system of clarinet for many years, and found them superb and excellent., and totally reliable. I can easily imagine the possibility that your instrument was once a Mazzeo System instrument. Not everyone was as happy as was I and there was only one reason. The system was unavailable from any other clarinet manufacturer and this was the time of others, especially in orchestras. Selmer has always been at the forefront of model changes and innovations (think of the 10G and other models)

The hypothesis is possible. But, so are others

In any event, what is important is the quality of your instrument, its response and your enthusiasm. Thank you,




One Response to letter from a “new” Selmer Centered Tone owner

  1. bulldoggy2008 says:

    I have such a clarinet with the six sided vent key. It is my Bb Selmer Centered Tone, which I purchased new in 1958 when I played first chair clarinet with the First Marine Division Band at Camp Pendleton, CA. I am still active in playing it in various organizations and settings. My CT is, to me, a wonderful treasured clarinet. I went through a phase a number of years ago when I tried out the then top-of-the line expensive clarinets (Selmer, Leblanc, Buffet, Yamaha), none of which improved my playing or tone one iota, and none was in anyway worth the cost of replacing my trusty CT. I also have a matching CT A clarinet, equally as fine as my Bb.

    As back up to my CT I have an older Ridenour Arioso which plays very well, and also a Bb Leblanc LL which is another fine instrument.

    As an addition, I also went through phases of trying out and purchasing numerous mouthpieces and ligatures. But guess what, I havbe finally settled on to my Vandoren 5RV Lyre which I played before the mouthpiece virus set in. Also, I have settled with my vintage Selmer Magnitone ligature which above all ligatures I have played provides me with the most ease of playing and with a tone that suits me very well. But I have learned that there is no magic answer, only practice, achieving as close as possible the sound in your head, not to mention the joy of playing the clarinet regardless of skill level!.

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