Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Trunk-Maker in the Upper Gallery

My final recital at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis will take place on May 27th. As we're about eight weeks away from it, I'm required to submit a number of documents to the secretaries including some detailed program notes. My program is based around John Ernest Galliard, known best today for his bassoon sonatas. He was, however, an important figure in London's musical circles and his writings (or what we believe to be his writings) give us a great deal of information on the first years of opera in London.

The interior of the Queen's Theatre in the
Haymarket. This was probably not the
theatre described in The Spectator, but
you get a good idea of what the inside of an
 18th century playhouse would look like.
 Engraving by Claude-RenĂ©-Gabriel
 Poulleau from G.-P.-M. Dumont’s
‘Parallèle de plans de plus belles
 salles de spectacles d’Italie et de
France’ (Paris, 1764).
During my research, I came across an hilarious letter in The Spectator, a daily publication founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele which was in circulation in 1711 and 1712. I've copied the entire story below, which has been republished by Project Gutenberg.

If concert halls today had their own "Trunk-Maker", it might make for a much more interesting experience!

No. 235
Thursday, November 29, 1711

There is nothing which lies more within the Province of a Spectator than publick Shows and Diversions; and as among these there are none which can pretend to vie with those elegant Entertainments that are exhibited in our Theatres, I think it particularly incumbent on me to take Notice of every thing that is remarkable in such numerous and refined Assemblies.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reappropriating J.E. Galliard's Music 1, A Short Biography

Every bassoonist has played a sonata by John Ernest Galliard at least once in their career. Many have been exposed to the International Edition of his bassoon sonatas of 1733, and they are commonly heard at a beginner bassoon recital. Though I encourage the use of this material as a teaching aid, I am disappointed to find that few see these works as appropriate artistic material for a mature performer. If seen through the lens of a modern bassoonist, the Galliard sonatas are easy pieces, if a bit quirky. If one were to contextualize them, however, they would see that they were a product of an important theatrical composer in early 18th Century London. In the next posts on the subject, let us reappropriate the Galliard sonatas.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Brief Overview of the Bassoon

Two videos have recently been put up by bassoonist Eryn Oft, highlighting the recent masterclass Keith Collins gave for the bassoonists at Jacksonville State University. If you read this blog, you will likely be familiar with the material Keith covers, but I find his explanations to be, both in style and content, a very good introduction for those bassoonists who know relatively little about the instrument's history. In fact, Keith was the first baroque bassoonist I ever met. For two weeks I took masterclasses with him at TBSI in 2009.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Extending the Life of Your Bassoon Reeds

For years I have had issues with my reeds drying out to the point of the wires moving around. If you're a bassoonist, you know what I mean. Though submerging the reed in water gets the wire tension back, I often have to re-tighten. No matter the solution, once the wires come loose the reed's characteristics will never be the same.

For years I tackled this problem with the RICO humidity packs. With my main box of reeds I would use the 73% packs but I found there was not enough airflow to prevent mould. Whenever I tried using the 50% pack I would find the entire box of reeds had gone mouldy within a week. 

Eventually I gave up on the RICO system and began soaking my reeds once every 12 hours, allowing time to dry before putting them back in the box. Unfortunately, there were always lapses in the routine, and sometimes I didn't have time to let the reeds dry enough causing mould to set in, After doing this process with many generations of reeds, I wondered if their overall lifetime was reduced from the constant soaking.

How, I asked myself, was I going to keep my reeds humidified without mold setting in? I gleaned my next move from an advertisement for some 'sterile' reed box system. They recommended to soak a small sponge with the original formula Listerine once a day and put it in the box. Since September I've been maintaining my reeds using this technique and have found a dramatic increase in performance life. Though the reeds still need to be soaked before use, I've not seen a loose wire in months.

It's a technique I highly encourage all bassoonists to try.

One of my reed boxes: you can see the
sponge in yellow. 

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