Tag Archives: bassoon

Bassoonian Rhapsody

This past weekend was the annual Double Reed Day at UW-Madison. DRD involves two concerts, masterclasses, and a huge double reed ensemble. Our guests this year were Nancy Ambrose King (professor of oboe at the University of Michigan) and Alain de Gourdon (the head of Lorée). As usual, the whole event was a lot of fun.

We grad bassoonists were asked to assemble a quartet to play on the evening concert. As it turned out, only 3 of us (out of 5) were going to be around the week before DRD, so we asked our prof., Marc Vallon, to join us. For the occasion, Brian and I spent a few afternoons creating a bassoon quartet arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Our performance was very well received, and a number of audience members approached us later to say, “that should be on YouTube!” We liked that idea, and so here it is:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/oSxBnN1KJ-A&w=600]

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Reed Cases

Recently I’ve been making more reeds than usual, largely because I’m trying to figure out how to make reeds for three 19th-century bassoons that I’m learning to play for an upcoming lecture recital. I quickly became tired of storing active reeds on a drying rack, and decided that I needed an additional reed case. At about the same time, I realized that although I’ve played contrabassoon for about ten years, I’ve never actually owned a proper contra reed case. I’ve kept my two oldest reeds (bought my freshman year of college, and still working reasonably well) in an old pen case, and the four reeds I’ve made myself (at least one of which is still a blank) have lived in an Altoids tin.

In my search for reed cases from various double reed suppliers, I came across the web site of Roger Garrett, who is professor of both clarinet and instrumental conducting at Illinois Wesleyan University. On the side, Garrett is a skilled woodwright. He makes reed cases, batons, baton cases, pens, and a variety of other items. On his site, he provides a wealth of information about his reed cases – standard sizes and configurations, examples of bespoke cases he’s made, and photos of cases in a variety of common and exotic woods.

I corresponded with Garrett a bit before placing an order, asking about the prices of different woods and the possibilities of modifying his standard bassoon reed case design. His basic case has a foam strip that holds six bassoon reeds, but I have a similarly sized case that holds nine. I ended up having him send along one of his oboe reed strips, which with a little modification allowed me to fit eight bassoon reeds instead of six. He happened to have a curly maple contrabassoon case and a quilted maple bassoon case ready to go, so I bought them:

Bassoon and Contrabassoon Reed Cases

The Cases Opened

The prices were very reasonable (the same or less than I would’ve paid for less interesting cases from a double reed supplier), and as you can see, the cases are gorgeous. Someday when I’m rich and famous, I’ll order some African blackwood or cocobolo cases with a matching fountain pen.

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Flute and Harpsichord Sonatas?

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up this album. Can you spot what’s wrong with the cover?

Bonus points if you can find the second thing wrong with the picture. Westminster Gold strikes again…

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Front Page News

The UW Little Big Band had our first concert of the semester last night. Apparently there was a photographer there from The Daily Cardinal (one of our two student papers), because we made the front page today:

The photo was even taken during one of my solos! There wasn’t a story attached, and the pic doesn’t seem to be online anywhere. But, The Cardinal publishes a PDF version of their paper. I grabbed today’s copy (since there doesn’t seem to be an archive) – you can find it here.

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Double Reed Day

Giant Double Reed Ensemble, Viewed From the Contrabassoon Chair

This past Saturday was UW-Madison’s annual Double Reed Day. We had two guest artists: Carol Cope Lowe (bassoon) and Anna Hendrickson (oboe), who in addition to currently teaching at SUNY-Potsdam are both UW-Madison alumnae. Most members of the UW double reed studios were there, and we had another 25 or so middle school, high, school, and community players as well. I arrived a little early so I could play some of the bassoons and bocals that Midwest Musical Imports had sent along. One instrument they sent was the twin of my Püchner 5000C. I was happy to find that it was both my favorite instrument out of the bunch, and roughly equivalent to my own. Also, its price tag was substantially higher than what I paid two years ago – woohoo!

The day officially started with a concert – all we UW students played an ensemble piece, then each professor (the two visitors, plus our own Marc Vallon and Marc Fink) performed a solo work. Following the concert, we split off into oboe and bassoon masterclasses. We all came back together for a big double reed ensemble (pictured above) to play Marc Vallon’s arrangements of “The Washington Post,” Hungarian Dance No. 5, and “Sabre Dance,” as well as the first movement of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks.

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