From Heartwood Long Term Care/ Joan and Beverly

August 6, 2015

We sit at the same table, mostly.

Joan sits at my left. She has very lovely knowing eyes.Someone combs her hair most mornings, and, every once in a while she looks at me knowingly with large, remembering, knowing eyes. But she says little; no sentences,just makes her choice easily known and understood by her servers.. The rest of her face are unkindly appearing to be very much younger than all else.. She walks well with her wallker, though needs assistance to sit at the table. Sitting, she looks virtually collapsed, very small, shriveled, though with her occasional glance, there is a kind of communication, which is assuring..
When finished she, helped to her feet, walks quickly back down the hallway, her movements much younge appearing than sitting, Once in a while, I see her helping Ransom into his room nest to hers, actually pushing him in his wheelchair. He is intelligent,seemingly have losthis ability to talk , or even move at all.

Beverly sits to my right, and she is a new resident. She appears perfectly well, and seems to move by herself, though must be accompanied from her room and back.she looks well, her eyes appear bright. and she can speak, or seems to to speak.
She says she has no cholesteral, doesnt have anything wrong about her heart, and needs no pills for blood pressure.

When she speaks, she wants to know what utencil to use, frequently drops them, and knows nothing about their function, but she eats quickly , finsihing every drop, then asks for a towel, but she means a Tissue, for her nose leaks and drips constantly after finishing eat ing her food. She then begins to call various severs, whom she recognizes, but, in a very small voice, over and over , and asks why there is no response. She asks if she has had dessert, and keeps on asking until she is noticed.

Tonight, a server came to her and told her that she used used to live downstairs from and the server reminiisced about her childhood with Beverly, perhaps 20 years ago , or more. There was a brightening of her face, saying sometimes, yes, I remember that. The server was kind and smiling. It was touching to see, and helped me to understand her condition.

And, I suppose, to understand mine..

shermen friedland


orchestras/trouble

June 24, 2015

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the VIenna Philharmonic, summer concert

what an orchestra can be

It has been a dark few years for this country’s orchestras. In the past season, a bitter strike in San Francisco and a lockout in Minneapolis led to cascading cancellations, including of the San Francisco Symphony’It has been a dark few years for this country’s orchestras. In the past season, a bitter strike in San Francisco and a lockout in Minneapolis led to cascading cancellations, including of the San Francisco Symphony’

This remarkable venture, which resulted in works by Lukas Foss, Paul Hindemith, Roy Harris, Gunther Schuller and many others, put Louisville and its orchestra on the international cultural map and attracted luminaries like Shostakovich and Martha Graham to visit the city. But that wasn’t enough to fend off the regular financial crises that have dogged the orchestra over the decades since, until its recent bankruptcy filing.

This perennial instability has stemmed in part from an overreliance on bailouts from private sponsors and large corporations, some of which reduced donations during difficult economic periods or moved out of town. “No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” said Jorge Mester, the orchestra’s current music director, in a telephone interview.

One solution being discussed is to reduce the Louisville Orchestra’s 71 salaried players to 55 and fill in the gaps with freelancers. “The musicians, of course, don’t want to abandon their colleagues,” Mr. Mester said. While the ideal is an orchestra that plays 52 weeks a year, he added, “it’s not a calamity” to use freelancers. He doesn’t fear that quality would suffer.

A reliance on freelancers is growing increasingly prevalent in many industries. Some first-rate orchestras, like the New York ensembles Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, have long had freelance structures. But even with lower overhead many freelance music organizations are now playing fewer concerts and producing less income for the musicians.
Stewart Rose, a horn player with St. Luke’s since 1983, also plays with Orpheus and the New York City Opera Orchestra and is currently on a temporary arrangement with the New York Philharmonic. He enjoys “the variety that comes along with freelancing,” he said in a telephone interview. But the time lag between performances during a slow stretch can be demoralizing, he said. “It’s really been tough for everyone with the decline in the amount of work out there.”

While the freelance model can be perilous for musicians, the upside for orchestras is a more flexible operating system. The rotating work force of the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke’s, for example, makes it easier to survive challenging times.

“One of the things that makes us resilient is our flexibility,” said Katy Clark, the orchestra’s president and executive director. “We don’t spend what we don’t have. We don’t guarantee work to our musicians and don’t require that they turn up. Even though you might think this would be anarchic, we have very stable personnel to an amazing extent.”

Another benefit of freelance orchestras, Ms. Clark added, is that they tend to have more inclusive management styles and thus suffer less labor friction.

St. Luke’s currently has balanced budgets, no operating deficit and a new revenue stream from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, a complex for performance and rehearsals that opened in March, with rooms for rent by outside groups at affordable rates. The orchestra, which is often presented by Carnegie Hall and other organizations in collaborative partnerships that Ms. Clark described as fundamental to its success, has not cut any of its self-produced programs but has received fewer fee engagements during the recession.

This perennial instability has stemmed in part from an overreliance on bailouts from private sponsors and large corporations, some of which reduced donations during difficult economic periods or moved out of town. “No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” said Jorge Mester, the orchestra’s current music director, in a telephone interview.

One solution being discussed is to reduce the Louisville Orchestra’s 71 salaried players to 55 and fill in the gaps with freelancers. “The musicians, of course, don’t want to abandon their colleagues,” Mr. Mester said. While the ideal is an orchestra that plays 52 weeks a year, he added, “it’s not a calamity” to use freelancers. He doesn’t fear that quality would suffer.

A reliance on freelancers is growing increasingly prevalent in many industries. Some first-rate orchestras, like the New York ensembles Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, have long had freelance structures. But even with lower overhead many freelance music organizations are now playing fewer concerts and producing less income for the musicians.

Stewart Rose, a horn player with St. Luke’s since 1983, also plays with Orpheus and the New York City Opera Orchestra and is currently on a temporary arrangement with the New York Philharmonic. He enjoys “the variety that comes along with freelancing,” he said in a telephone interview. But the time lag between performances during a slow stretch can be demoralizing, he said. “It’s really been tough for everyone with the decline in the amount of work out there.”

While the freelance model can be perilous for musicians, the upside for orchestras is a more flexible operating system. The rotating work force of the excellent Orchestra of St. Luke’s, for example, makes it easier to survive challenging times.

“One of the things that makes us resilient is our flexibility,” said Katy Clark, the orchestra’s president and executive director. “We don’t spend what we don’t have. We don’t guarantee work to our musicians and don’t require that they turn up. Even though you might think this would be anarchic, we have very stable personnel to an amazing extent.”

Another benefit of freelance orchestras, Ms. Clark added, is that they tend to have more inclusive management styles and thus suffer less labor friction.

St. Luke’s currently has balanced budgets, no operating deficit and a new revenue stream from the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, a complex for performance and rehearsals that opened in March, with rooms for rent by outside groups at affordable rates. The orchestra, which is often presented by Carnegie Hall and other organizations in collaborative partnerships that Ms. Clark described as fundamental to its success, has not cut any of its self-produced programs but has received fewer fee engagements during the recession.


storm in buffalo philharmonic woodwind section rages

June 7, 2015

for those even thinking of the orchestra business, look elsewhere, for there are fewer positions and much better ways to sustain oneself,  musically,during our time.  

stay well, sherman

 The accusations might seem insignificant – even trivial.

The sweeping gesture of a musical instrument. Hitting a flat tone. Or playing too slowly at times.

But to some musicians in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, it smacked of sabotage.

And it cost Pierre Roy his job as principal oboist for the orchestra.

Not even an apology to the orchestra or his skill – by all accounts he is a highly talented player – could mend his relationships with the principal flutist and the second oboist, among others.

Normally, the ins and outs of a workplace squabble aren’t news. Most everyone knows what it feels like to work alongside co-workers who don’t get along – or are hard to deal with. But this infighting played out in one of Western New York’s highest-profile cultural institutions and affected the performances and moods of its members.

In workplace disputes, people often don’t like to talk on the record, and that is the case with the orchestra, where hard feelings drove a wedge in the wind section. The Buffalo News reached out to lawyers for Roy and the orchestra, offering an opportunity for anyone involved to speak. Roy’s attorney spoke. No one from the orchestra responded. So The News pieced together what happened by reviewing court documents, including an arbitrator’s report and the emails, letters and testimony from musicians and orchestra managers that leave no question about the turmoil inside the orchestra

Several musicians supported Roy, citing their good relationships with him and admiration for his musical skills and professionalism.But others felt belittled or annoyed by what they called his distracting behavior in rehearsals.

“I felt like he was mocking me when I was sitting there,” flutist Betsy Reeds told an arbitrator, of several occurrences. “Just the tone. I felt like he was making fun of my tone and my movements when I play.”

After orchestra managers investigated complaints against him, they fired Roy in July 2012, ending his nearly 17-year career at the orchestra.

But Roy won’t go away quietly. In March, he filed a petition in State Supreme Court, hoping to void the arbitrator’s ruling that supported his firing. He wants to be reinstated. The case has since been moved to federal court.

e hall and the musicians were warming up.

“Why did you hit me?” Roy asked him.

“That little bump?” Christner replied, according to Roy.

“Then he said … ‘If you want to start something, go right ahead. But if I would have hit you, I would have knocked you (down),’ ” Roy recounted.

The confrontation happened in view of the audience, though it’s unclear if anyone in the crowd could hear what was said.

Christner, in his testimony, said he tried to stop the argument with Roy.

“I said this is no place to do this,” Christner said. “If you’re having an issue with me, don’t do it on stage. It was just inappropriate.”

Six months later, the orchestra sent warning letters to both, citing Roy for pursuing Christner on stage and Christner for his remark to Roy.

Mimicked and mocked

Musicians reported more incidents after that, but only one occurred during a concert. Second oboist Kate Estes testified Roy played “extremely under the pitch and very much behind the beat, almost half a beat behind the rest of the orchestra” at a concert in January 2012.

“I didn’t know whether I should play with him or with the orchestra,” Estes said. “I decided to play with the rest of the orchestra. There was no way I could match his pitch level at that point.”

On Feb. 11, 2012, Davis filed an email complaint saying Roy had mimicked her movements during a rehearsal for the Broadway Rocks concert.

Roy testified that he was cleaning reed shavings off his lap. But Davis didn’t buy his explanation.

“Pierre mimicked and mocked everything I did for the entire rehearsal, from brushing lint off my pants to how I was sitting in my chair, to taking the hair off the back of my neck, to how I was cleaning my flute,” she testified.

Several musicians noted Roy’s gestures, which surprised them because they described Roy as a player with minimal body movement.

“It wasn’t a gesture that I had ever seen before in the orchestra and I wondered what was happening, and then I saw Christine brush something off her pant leg and immediately afterward Pierre Roy did the same thing but in a very big gesture,” Estes said.

Yet another long-tenured musician, in court documents, said she did not witness anything unusual or rude in the behavior of Roy, or any flaws in his playing, during this time.

Later in February 2012, Davis again complained to managers about Roy, accusing him of aggressively swinging the bell of his oboe into her space, in a side-to-side movement, during rehearsals for John Adams’ “Lollapalooza.”

She said he consistently made the gesture at a particular place in the score where she was having trouble with an entrance.

“When we got back to the same place to rehearse, Pierre Roy made a very sharp movement with his oboe, pointing his bell at me,” she said in an email to the orchestra manager, Hart.

Mattix, the horn player, testified that Roy made similar gestures toward Estes.

Once, “I was concerned because I thought he was about to strike her instrument with his instrument,” Mattix said.

Roy denied making such gestures. He said he was cuing the principal clarinetist. But after Davis’ complaint, orchestra managers installed a Plexiglas shield between her and Roy.

In his testimony, Roy said that he felt Davis was a “very dangerous person in the orchestra” because she would complain and write letters about others she was not happy with. He said she was “sort of like the orchestra police.”

Fallout with Falletta

During rehearsals for the Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in March 2012, several musicians noticed Roy “playing flat,” according to the arbitrator’s report.

“They concluded that this could only have been deliberate,” the report said.

“It was really horrifying,” Falletta told the arbitrator. “The playing was deliberately out of tune, which, of course, creates a situation that is completely confusing for everyone. A person of Pierre’s level, skill and professionalism would only play that way intentionally. It was something I’ve never heard in my life. I can’t remember another situation where a musician would sabotage a rehearsal like that.”

g, she said, “is just not the way things are done.”

Roy and Falletta seemed to have a good relationship for a long time. In court documents, he talks of her support for him over the years, and her kindnesses to him with words and tokens.

“I think she’s been very complimentary to me throughout my history with the orchestra,” Roy said.

They talked about music, he said, and Falletta told him at times “how much she has enjoyed my playing.”

Yet, Falletta by March 2012 issued a warning letter to Roy about his employment.

She cited an episode in early March that year, saying Roy played during a rehearsal with “a marked lack of musicianship.”

 He said he didn’t think that was fair, and that it seemed like more was being required of him than of others.

Personality conflict

While the arbitrator said he admired Roy’s musicianship and spirit, he ruled out giving Roy his job back.

“He never came to terms with his anger problem,” Rabin said in his Dec. 1, 2014, decision. “He engaged in unacceptable conduct that made it difficult for the musicians around him to do their job. His return would cause unacceptable anxiety.”

 


Fear, Lennie, Trouble in Tahiti, and after

June 1, 2015

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Above 1960, Carol Plantamura, sf and pianist, George Crumb, rehearsing.

I have been quite ill for more than two years, am now unable to walk, and in a long term care home.
they do what I need, and i am comfortable and well cared for.
This site has been my second career in music, and i have, almost desperately, been trying to write something that would be true, of quality, which has eluded me until, perhaps today.. It started with a call from my doctor telling me to go to the hospital, as I had pulmonary edema.

I was given an echocardiogram, and told to go for angiogram, which found an aortic valva worn out, was told that i had about two weeks to live, unleass i had surgery, was too old, abd offered a less invasive surgery that would provide me with a replacement from a pig( ), faster healing less invasive, and possible.
It took abot a year, operation successful, except that my femoral artery ruptured and I lost almost all of my blood.
I survived and much of this will describe the last year and where I am today.

One of the many gifts we have, is the joy and recollection of musicswhich we havent remebered for years.  Truly unbelievable,

That is what I did before lunch: listen to, and watch, Trouble in Tahiti. (you can find it easily on youtube.) This work, like all of Bernstein, contains all of Bernstein; three notes followed by the leap of a sixth or seventh; before On The Waterfront, and of core West Side.

And I was at the  rehearsal in Waltham, at Brandeis Univesity, invited by my teacher, who was playing Bass clarinet . 

It is where I first heard Felix Viscuglia, who was playing eb clarinet, as beautifully as this difficult opening can be played. In retrospection, he is the finest player of my lifetime. Playing all on everything, and exemplary saxophone, as well.He had the intuition of Wright, without quite the imagination and pristine presentation. But phil could do all of the possible with ease. He became my best friend in the business, my most fondly remembered, may he rest in peace.

more soon.


New Orleans, La. Mardi Gras 1955

February 18, 2015

This is not Canada, nor Monreal, nor New York or Boston, or Paris or Fonainebleau near Paris.

Come back with me 60 years to the time of my bandsmanship, to one of the most briefly exciting moments of any year, Mardi Gras, 1955, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Some think of it as simply Mardi Gras, or in French Fat Tuesday, but it happens to be the very day before the start of the Lenten Season, the forty days during which many resolve to further resolve, be it diet or alcohol, kindness, love, and any or everything of this mark in the year.

Lent is very serious, contemplating the very birth of Christianity. But one day before, you, we, may do as we please, and celebration is one of the great things we do. It is the joyous day to celebrate the coming of the Lenten season, the coming of Christ.
The U.S. 4th Army Band

Ft. Sam Houston
San Antonio, Texas
The U.S. 4th Army Band (FAB) was one of the finest service bands during the Korean and Vietnamese Conflicts. The Commanding General at Fort Sam Houston in the early 1950s was Lt. General I.D. White who endorsed appropriate music for all occasions, a tradition which was followed for more than two decades. Warrant Officers Dawson McElwee, Emil Krochmal, John Parrott, Homer Tampke, Alexander Difronzo and others were able to obtain qualified musicians to provide fine military, concert, jazz and string orchestra music for the many requests. Of paramount importance was a weekly radio program, The 4th Army Show (Concert In Khaki beginning in 1953) a 30-minute show that included military features and the finest concert literature, broadcast throughout five states of the Southwest. On Sundays the band was found in the Quadrangle on the Post in a formal Guard Mount and concert setting. The FAB traveled to Houston in 1952 to honor the 1st Armored Division from Ft. Hood as they left the Houston Harbor for assignment in Europe. In 1954 all the bandsmen were fitted with smart “dress blues.” The FAB participated in the annual River, Fiesta Flambeau and Battle of Flowers Parades in San Antonio. The “Turkey Trot” celebration in Taylor, Texas was a frequent gig. While playing for a Boy Scout Jamboree on a ranch near San Antonio in 1952 a raging bull took offense and charged through the band. Fortunately everyone survived. Armed Forces Day always found the FAB in a Texas community for a special event. Governors called upon the FAB to march in the Inaugural Parade every four years. Falcon Dam was a Texas/Mexico flood control project on the Rio Grande River dedicated in 1953 by President Eisenhower and President Cortines of Mexico. The FAB represented the U.S. contingent. President Eisenhower was very complimentary regarding the band’s participation. The FAB was sent to New Orleans three times in the mid-50s. They led the Rex Parade at the Mardi Gras in 1955 and 1956, and were flown to New Orleans in 1955 to perform on the pier to welcome home a division from Korean service. The band performed at two movie World Premiers in San Antonio, and as a concert band performed as the official reading band annually for the Texas Bandmasters Association. The FAB String Orchestra performed for visiting dignitaries, including the Secretary of the Army and Mexican generals.

In 1955, I was a member of the 4th Army Band, designated as an eb clarinetist. That designation kept me from playing in the 7th Army Symphony, the passing of which earned an entire page in black in the national magazine on music,  Musical America. It had been a good orchestra, comprised of many  trained players, who at the time, toured Europe creating nothing but good will and good music for the hundreds who saw and heard the concerts. The cost per year for the 7th Army Symphony was the same as one medium tank. To have to cut the services and good will generated by such a group seemed completely without logic. When an actual opening did come through,the first sargeant was quick to tell me that the only other place I would go would be to Fort Hood, Texas, a very different place for a musician to be located during those years,(and these remembering the massacre of several years past by the jihadist psychiatrist). That was scary then and even now.

We were a Headquarters Band, serving the 4th Army Area, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, located in San Antonio, Texas, a lovely city, a wonderful climate, and, of all things ,dozens of used car lots, the place to exist for a bandsman, who was virtually free to roam the city. We used to regularly attend the Pearl Brewery, which made several presentatons a day, complete with refreshments of an alcoholic nature. Ditto for the Lone Star Brewery

Our duties were to play and record one radio broadcast per week. (Vic Damone was stationed with our band), play an occasional parade and not too much more., an ideal place to be.
That Tuesday morning, we were mustered to Lackland Air Force Base, loaded on a large transport by 5:am to be flown to New Orleans in order to lead the Mardi Gras Parade. It was a relatively short trip and we arrived early enough to start and lead the long parade. It was esitmated to be 13 miles long, literally dozens of ensembles of all numbers of musicians from every service branch. We lead the parade , a pivotal and importsant spot, for we were directly behind several horses, determining the exact course. Jose Mendez, a tall trombonist held that corner of the marchers. He carefully changeddirections avoiding the continuing obstacles caused by the animals.

Because of the length of the parade, there was a continuous spasmodic accordion motion, This was of course greatly enriched by the overwhelming presence of alcohol, frequently given or shared by everyone. I’m saying everyone!
After a few moments of marching, the groups began to slowly diminish in size./ After an hour, the parade began to diminish in size. As more time passed, the formations became spread apart as they diniinished in size. By the end of the parade, there were few bands fewer marchers and a final. rather shaky diminution.

Stay well, do not give up practicing for Lent.

sherman


Legato, getting even; the how

December 23, 2014

I have always considered the Debussy Rhapsody, for clarinet and piano to be one of the most challenging of the repertoire, even though the Mozart is more difficult; total transparency for the entire half hour of performance. And it must all be beautiful, from beginning to end. I have played it many more times than the Debussy, but never perfectly.There is always something about which I am not happy. Sometimes one note out of place. And you remember that one note forever.

After playing our clarinet for over 60 years or more, i have come to the conclusion that there but three notes on the instrument that pose the most problems in all of its considerable repertoire. Only three notes. Those three are heard at the very beginning of the Debussy Rhapsody for clarinet, written in 1909. You see, I had previously selected the three notes, and then came to the rhapsody, thinking to myself, Why did Debussy choose those three notes to begin this gorgeous little work? (Which,incidentally, nobody plays perfectly.) Virtually nobody, I only wish I could hear Harold Wright do it, for I consider him to be the finest musician clarinetist of my lifetime. But, I never heard him perform the work.

We know that as the new president of the Conservatory, Debussy was asked, by Gabriel Faure, to compose two works for the prize consideration, and the two were the Rhapsody, and Petite Piece.  Did he know the clarinet intimately? No, he did not, but somehow chose those three notes, open g, throat Bb and C to begin the piece. And I have come to the conclusion that the three comprise the most difficult problems of the learning of the instrument, especially in the delicate context in which they appear.”piano, reveusement”(quietly, dreamlike) And that context is legato, with small “crescendi and diminuendi”. How did he know? He didn’t ,I reasoned; but, my friends, I do know, and indeed, so do you.
The open g on the horn is the very first note one learns. It comes out sounding either as a noise or a thin sharp note similar to an open string on the violin. I am sure you all remember, and some, like myself, will never forget . It becomes easy and later becomes the note you try your reeds with. toot toot toot on that first Van Doren,or Rico, or who only knows what. That is the note upon which you will gauge your progress. Your embouchure will form itself around tempering that thin sound and blending it with all of the other notes you will learn. And you will determine that going from that open g to all of the following notes will be the most difficult, the first note to  travel to and from is the thin sharp g,to the throat Bb. Easy enough to approach ,like holding a chicken wing with the left hand. Easy to make, but comes out sounding like a chicken wing , or even worse. First, it is by its very nature a bad thin and sharp note and not even the correct fingering, but an incorrect fingering. It uses the register key which makes for the tuning, and so, depending upon our ability to hear, or perhaps our talent, we learn to negotiate that very difficult incorrect fingering. And the first giant problem with which you are confronted is moving from the throat Bb to the clarion C on the third space. Easy enough to finger, but going back and forth is almost impossible. Unless, of course, you try a gimmick or two or three, like holding all of your fingers down as you move from the Bb to the C. It seems to work or to make it easier, but it makes it impossible, because the tuning of the Bb is changed as you hold everything down  in trying to make actual legato. What you are doing by holding extra fingers down Becomes your undoing, and most,or many do it. (which makes their Debussy clumsy sounding).

We spend so much of our time looking at every instrument made, any way of moving the toungue or the fingers faster, choosing ligatures and barrels and all matter of ways to achieve  an imagined technic, always having to do with speed, that we neglect the basic reason for the clarinet, a single line instrument which emulates the voice. We see our teachers moving back and forth during lessons, always encouraging the students to “sing”, to bring something special to the music, to make it sing means to achieve a quality of sensitivity in our playing.

And the word that helps to define this sensitivity is seldom found. It is most difficult to achieve, and there are no words to sing. We have to play a melody seamlessly, smoothly, with understanding and direction. Legato is the most important way in which we express the intent of the music. Much of legato is written into the music: forte, piano, pianissimo , sforzando, and all combinations thereof.

Getting back to the Rhapsody, how do we learn to play those three initial notes? We make a musical context by making the three notes blend with one another: the g must be in perfect context with the Bb, and the next clarion c is the most difficult note. Not to just play, but to play so that the three sound totally connected, exact same timbre, quality and dynamic. In listening to the many fine players who have recorded the work, few do it with absolute seamlessness. Perhaps they may have been nervous, spending more time encountering the actual difficulties which abound in this little 9 minute work, but they seem distracted enough to almost ignore this first measure, which actually sets the context for the entire work. Legato is its secret, stage presence is also part of the mix and control of these difficult moving notes. To take the audience with you as you open the piece becomes the whole work. And so, while not being g, Bb, and c, it is the way we from one note to the next: the same sound as we move from and to each note.
There are a myriad of ways to achieve a seamless and beautiful legato, including by rote, actually copying what you hear , or are made aware of, listening to those around you, but copying is what should come naturally, though not completely.

You must choose the note on the clarinet that gives you most pleasure to simply play and hear. Perhaps it may be f on the 5th line of the staff, Is it your best quality of sound? Your very best. Play it, listen to it and enjoy the pleasure it gives you. When you know f is the note, carefully go up one half step to f#. Carefully duplicate the same quality of sound. It must be perfectly the same, save for the pitch. Then, connect the two notes noticing no difference whatever in the quality of the two. If you use the fork f#, there may be a slightly more brilliant quality. Try to make the sound, the timbre, exactly the same, even. Here is where you begin to strengthen your embouchure, your actual perception of the sound you are making. Now, for this apparently simple process, much time may be needed, listening, before you begin to notice the results. No movement of your mouth should be seen. (yes, keep a mirror on the stand). While any music book can help, the Gaston Hamelin Study of Scales can be one of the better. Somehow I feel that the French legato is more preferable.Or perhaps it is Hamelin nimself, who is considered to be the father of the so-called American School. This is the same Hamelin who was Principal Clarinet of the Boston Symphony, who happened to play a Selmer clarinet made of metal, a full-boehm instrument. His contract was not renewed by Serge Koussevitsky. conductor of the BSO, so, he returned to France, and happened to take a few students with him, among whom was Ralph McClane, who became Principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra. That was the beginning of the so-caled american tradition of clarinet playing. *(the story goes that there was a standing ovation given the BSO, and when Hamelin stood, he waved his clarinet, and when Koussy saw the photo, he took offense)
Back to “getting even”. this comparing of each note as you slowly go up and down in half steps is part of the process of developing a perfectly even legato. This becomes more difficult when encountering notes that are more difficult to connect smoothly.
It may be news to some, but pianists have the very same problem, as the keys can be terribly uneven as played. Many concertizing pianists have their own piano, which they simply play at every concert. Horowitz was one, who also would only play at 4:00 PM on a Sunday. Perhaps that can be called an eccentricity, however here was aplayer who still dominates the world of piano, even though he has been gone for several years.
Most other pianists simply have to deal with different actions with totally different timbres.
As the sound of a soprano has to have an even sounding range, so too, does the clarinet/It is one of the facets we look for when acquiring a new instrument.
This kind of evenness throughout the clarinet is the thing for which we strive.
Getting even, is developing a totally smooth production of sound. HAMELINS scales can help, though your ear is the final judge before you audition.

stay well,
sherman


Clarinet Connect/ Debussy Rhapsody , Petite Piece, Garde Republicain Band

December 17, 2014

But, wait a minute! In order to set the story correctly,let me tell you about my early years as a young student who fell in love with the clarinet. I had a really great teacher who knew the value of playing and not just practicing. On day, he told me about the New England Conservatory band. I thought, well, a band is a band is a band. After all there was the high school band , but this band was no high school band, It was a band shaped along the style of the famous Garde Republicain of Paris. Total different instrumentation than that of our high school band.Actually, it was more like an orchestra, with large sections of first clarinets and seconds, roughly that of an orchestra, with clarinets instead of strings. Now, the conductor of this conservatory band, meeting on Saturday mornings was Georges Moleux. He was at that time principal bass volin of the Boston Symphony.Actually, he had been a first prize winner at the Paris Conservatory in both double bass and clarinet. For me, that meant everything, as I thought nothing further could be achieved. This was my beginning of learning of the great growth of the clarinet in FRance, due to the grandeur of the Napoleonic WARS, THE TRIUMPHANT BANDS THAT WERE A PART OF THE NAPOLEONIC TRADITION . It is one thing to mention the Dixieland tradition, but quite another to realize the immense growth of he clarinet in France as a direct result of the napoleaonic war tradition.

Debussy: Première Rhapsodie, Petite Pièce

The breakthrough as a composer came for Claude Debussy (1862-1918) around 1909. The premiere of his opera “Pelléas and Mélisande”(Score of which is at the New England Conservatory)in 1902 received a rather cool response from the public and press, but the performance in London’s Covent Garden on 21st May 1909, was received triumphantly. The performances of “La mer” and “Prélude à L’après-midi d’une faune”, the previous year had been a great success.

Now his music began to find recognition in Paris and as a result Gabriel Fauré who had been director of the Paris Conservatory since 1905, nominated Debussy into the “Conseil Supérieur” (Board of Directors) of the institution.

One of his first tasks was to compose two mandatory pieces for the conservatory’s clarinet competition. In December 1909, Debussy began writing a rhapsody for clarinet and piano which he finished a month later. On 14th July 1910 the jury, which included Debussy, judged the performance of eleven candidates and the following day he wrote to his editor, Jacques Durand:

“The clarinet competition went extremely well and, to judge by the expressions on the faces of my collegues, the rhapsody was a success. […] One of the candidates, Vandercruyssen, played it by heart and very musically. The rest were straightforward and nondescript.”

The official premiere of the Rhapsodie was on 16th January 1911 in the Salle Gaveau in Paris with Prosper Mimart as solo clarinetist and it was to him that the piece had been dedicated. Debussy was so enthralled by his interpretation and commented quite spontaneously that this was one of the most pleasing pieces he had ever written. This enthusiasm would have encouraged him to adapt the work for clarinet and orchestra in the same year and it is this piece which is well known today.

It was published as “Première Rhapsodie”, but a second rhapsody for saxophone and orchestra was never finished.(But, it was finished and has been recorded with my dear departed friend, Felix Viscuglia, Erich Leinsdorf and the Boson Symphony)

The second mandatory piece was “Petite Pièce”, a work of only 36 bars and lasting just under two minutes. For the Rhapsodie the candidates had several months preparation time, but this piece was to be played “prima vista”, that is, by sight. The technical difficulties, therefore, are not so great, but the jury would surely have expected correctness in the execution of the punctuated rhythms which run throughout the entire piece. As a composition that was intended “only” for an exam, the “Petite Pièce” is a wonderful and charming little work, not to be taken too lightly.

The Republican Guard is the heir of the various bodies that preceded it in the course of French history whose task was to honor and protect the high authorities of the State and City of Paris : Gardes Françaises of the Kings, Consular and Imperial guard of Napoleon, etc.. Its name derives from the Municipal Guard of Paris, established on 12 Vendémiaire XI (October 4, 1802) by Napoleon Bonaparte. It distinguished itself in battles of historical significance, including Danzig and Friedland in 1807, Alcolea in 1808 and Burgos in 1812. (yes, there was a battle Friedland, and there is a street with that name running from L’arch du Triumph ((I was a bit too young))
In 1813 it was dissolved following the attempted coup of General Malet and replaced by the Imperial Gendarmerie of Paris and then, under the Restoration, the Royal Guard of Paris and the Royal Mounted Police of Paris. In 1830, it was recreated, and again removed after the Revolution of 1848 in favor of the Civic Guard (which proved to be a transient institution).
June 1848 saw the creation of the Republican Guard of Paris, including an infantry regiment and a regiment of cavalry. It received its insignia July 14, 1880. It took part in the First World War and saw its flag and banner decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Legion of Honour. During the Second World War, it reported to the police headquarters and took the name of Guard of Paris. Part of its staff rallied to General de Gaulle and the Guard was involved in the fighting alongside the FFI at the liberation of Paris.
In 1952, the guard was renamed the Legion of the Republican Guard of Paris and took part in the Indochina War, which earned it the Croix de Guerre.

At one period during its growth, there were no less than 126 clarinetists studying in Paris at the conservatory. Many of our predecessors were among them. including Georges Moleux, Alexander and Henri Selmer and many more. During my years in Paris I was taken to lunch several times by the Selmers, riding out to Mantes in their big Peugeot with the air suspension.

happy Holidays  keep practicing

sherman