Highgate Workshop Reviews

Question: When is a bass clarinet not necessarily a bass clarinet?

Answer: On a music workshops weekend away with Charnwood Symphonic Wind Orchestra.

My bass clarinet is both my pride and joy and my retirement challenge purchased with almost reckless abandon to celebrate my freedom from my full time career. After years of playing clarinet, alto clarinet and tenor saxophone with various bands it had always been my wish to possess and play a bass clarinet. I saw it as expressing who I am; a very amateur musician with a love of its resonance and rich woody tones and music making. So after 18 months of playing with CSWO, including several concerts and an European Tour, I thought I knew what to expect from this weekend away. How wrong could I have been!?

Saturday saw me sitting in Big Band faced with music written for tenor saxophone using alien rhythms and notes so high in the bass register that I thought they would fail to sound. And at first they did. But then I began to relax and enjoy the novel demands and began to see that this lovely instrument could rise to this challenge and so, with hesitation, could I.

Sunday morning posed a different set of challenges. A morning of light music saw me playing parts arranged for second trombone. By this time I had relaxed into being faced with the unexpected and felt so much more confident. Then, after a coffee break, I retired, with a group of other clarinettists, to play ensemble music. This was amazing. We tackled a range of music from Mozart and Bach and Handel to Sondheim and jazzy style pieces for clarinets. I loved every moment.

So in one short weekend I have learned the versatility of the bass clarinet and reinforced my love of music making among friends. I’ve also learned to drop my shoulders and just play.

However I’ve returned home with a resolve to avoid scales. Not the sort that you play but definitely the sort you stand on – for a month – minimum!