Posted tagged ‘Soulsby’

Bassoon crook gadget

February 16, 2008

bassoonboost.jpgMy friend Geoff has a section on his website devoted to his Latest Bit of Kit (LBoK).  One of these is the BASSOON BOOST – an apparently very simple idea:  you remove the cork from the end of your crook (= bocal, for readers in the US) where it fits into the top of the bassoon, and replace it with a tight-fitting bit of plastic.

My first reaction was sceptical – it seemed like re-inventing the wheel, or rather re-inventing waxed string, which was what provided an airtight joint in the old days (and was on my old lamented Heckel crook when I first got it).

My pro and semi-pro bassoonist friends were similarly unconvinced, and also expressed an understandable unwillingness to start taking a knife to the cork on their prized crooks!

However, Geoff plucked up his courage and took the plunge, Stanley knife in hand.  His comments are very interesting:

As far as the bassoon boost goes, yes, I have tried it. I’ve attached them to two of my crooks and they make a definite improvement. It’s quite hard to describe, but the “feel” of the notes is more solid. My first bassoon teacher used to describe how you might “aim” at a note and quite often the arrow goes in at the top or the bottom of an imaginary target circle, just squeezing into the gold, but actually you want it to hit dead centre. With the boost on, hitting the dead centre appears easier. Plus, no more cork or cotton to worry about!

As the cork on my favourite Soulsby F6 No. 2 is in need of attention (having somewhat overdone the ‘dampen and heat with a match’ trick to try and expand the cork a bit, it now has a black hole in it! – oops) – so I might just try the Boost and see what happens.

I’ll let you know…

On another tack, have a look at Geoff’s other amazing new toy – the Akai wind synth.

[I can’t seem to persuade WordPress to upload the YouTube video of it, but it’s here…]


picture from – thanks!

London Festival of Chamber Music

October 6, 2007

To my shame, I had never heard of the London Festival of Chamber Music, and this is their 13th year.  Thanks to a tip-off (thanks, Tony and Rosie) I found myself trundling off to deepest North Dulwich last night (05 Oct) – and what a treat it was.

I was expecting the usual draughty church hall in the back of beyond, but St Faith’s Community Hall, SE24, turns out to be a handsome brick and wood building (I would guess Edwardian), broad, squat, not large, but with a high wooden barn roof and balconies, giving it the feel of a tiny Snape Maltings.  Not a big audience, but packed and very enthusiastic.  Atmosphere and acoustic bright, warm and very welcoming.

The core of the Festival is the English String Quartet, leader Diana Cummings (behind whom it has been my pleasure and privilege to sit in various orchestras).  Their usual viola, Luciano Iorio, was unable to play because of a shoulder injury, but his ‘sub’ was the excellent Stephen Tees, and Mr Iorio instead made a charming and genial host, introducing players and works.

The evening kicked off with Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet;  Andrew Sparling has a charming manner, always with a shy smile even seemingly when he plays, and he is exceptional in that he is happy to get right out of the way when the clarinet part is only an accompaniment.  The performance radiated a tremendous love of the music, charmingly involved yet restrained.  Maybe the ritenuto upbeat to the Menuetto – every time! – was a bit overdone, but I won’t complain.

Then the Divertissement for Bassoon and String Quintet by Jean Françaix (good heavens, another bassoon solo!), in which the Quartet was joined by Stacey Watton on double bass, who was enjoying himself hugely – a terrifically musical player with a great sense of drama and fun, but very discreet with it.  Bassoonist was Daniel Jemison, who has already figured in these pages.  French music for bassoon is notoriously very difficult, tending to the very fast, very quiet and very high:  to perform it on a German bassoon sometimes feels a bit like the legendary dog walking on its hind legs.  That was slightly my reaction to the only other time I have heard this piece – in a broadcast of a recording by Robin O’Neill, only a few weeks ago – but Daniel Jemison banished such thoughts with his effortless, witty, dazzlingly accurate and warmly communicative performance.  He has a particularly winning vibrato, I thought, sparingly applied.  The secret of his lovely tone was revealed when he told me he plays on a Soulsby… ha!  Our exclusive club grows ever more distinguished.

After the interval, (more…)