Have bass clarinet, will travel, with some extra planning..

So, I have just returned from the massive International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest (I think that’s supposed to have a “registered trademark” thing there, but hey) in Assisi, Italy. My husband warned me that, not only would it not be raining anytime that week in Umbria, but that it would be around 100°F most of the time.  I was worried about having to check my bass clarinet on the plane, since I’d committed to playing in the 30-piece American Professors Clarinet Choir at the end of the festival, and therefore had to choose between lugging my very-heavy-but-reliable-for-airlines case or the new, fancy lightweight BAM case. Went with heavy case. Very sorry. (No, no, the instrument is fine, but I had to carry the thing around a festival built into a hill, with stairways to all venues. Stairs like this:


The cool thing is that I was far from alone in this undertaking. There were lots of bass clarinet players, all happily carting their instruments around just for the chance to play.


True, many of them did have the ultralight cases, and/or had somehow talked their airlines into not checking their low-C-extension instruments, but more power to them. In my informal survey, I got to see lots of options for transporting these things. Plus, heard much awesome bass clarinet playing, in particular from multiphonic expert Sarah Watts and Barbara Haney.

Of course, at a festival like this with 6 events going on simultaneously every hour, the choices you make from the program to tend to influence your general takeway from the whole week. Since I’m me, and choose to go to many events with electronic components and/or longer clarinets, I had a specific sense of “wow, there’s lots of people that play bass clarinet regularly now.” At least, compared to what I’ve seen at more regional events in my northern New England driving. Which may not be the best comparison to an international festival, granted.

And it’s also possible that those that choose a different path through the festival offerings would have a different impression – maybe that clarinet quartets are suddenly a big deal (I did hear some of the quartets, and was impressed by those as well – and, coincidentally, you do need a good bass player to get one of these quartets working well.)

It was pretty fun to play in the clarinet choir at the end of the week, especially to sit next to 6 other bass clarinets all playing together. Although it was 103° at the concert. This was taken at the dress rehearsal, before we were desperate for air conditioning.

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Now, I get to practice for the SCI/Parma Festival in Portsmouth, NH, where I’ll play a new-to-me bass clarinet and tape piece (by Martin Gendelman – my own piece on the festival doesn’t have clarinet in it this time..) in two weeks. Got to make the slap tonguing slappier.

Author: beth wiemann

Beth teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine in Orono, ME. She also spends time in Massachusetts with her husband, David Rakowski, and in her Subaru going back and forth on Routes 95 and 93.

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