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Boosey and Hawkes, probably the world’s most famous manufacturer of wind
instruments are moving as we write from the Edgware factory that they have occupied for
the last 77 years to a new warehouse/factory just outside Watford. The new factory will
manufacture intermediate and professional Besson brass instruments; using some parts
manufactured here and some in Germany. Other instruments are now manufactured by other
Boosey & Hawkes owned companies: Buffet in France and Schreiber and Keilwerth in
John Myatt writes here about his enduring relationship with Boosey and Hawkes:
I cannot remember a time when I was unaware of the existence of Boosey and Hawkes, but
when I played on Albert clarinets I probably thought of them more as publishers than
instrument makers. Even as a schoolboy I built up a formidable collection of woodwind
music published by Boosey and Hawkes and its subsidiaries, much of which I still have over
fifty years later.
When I arrived at the Royal College of Music my professor (Ralph Clarke) refused to
teach me on my beautiful Albert clarinets with Barret action, and I remember being sent in
my first week to the Boosey and Hawkes shop at 295 Regent Street. "Ask for Mr Brett
and he will select a good pair of Imperial 926 clarinets for you." These were then
set up by Don Paul and lasted me many years with Don's careful attention always available.
At college I became a close friend of fellow student Geoffrey Acton, who was already
working for Boosey and Hawkes as a clarinet consultant and designer. He introduced me to
his boss, Brian Manton Myatt, who was associated with the development of the 1010
clarinet, and who subsequently it transpired was a distant cousin of mine. Geoffrey took
over Brian's role when he retired, and the last series of 1010 clarinets were Geoffrey's
design and included the Acton vent. We are still close friends and meet regularly at his
home in Framlingham.
When I set up my business in 1978 I started a new relationship with Boosey and Hawkes
and their subsidiary, Rudall Carte. Before I had retail premises the representative of
Boosey and Hawkes refused to open an account for me, but Rudall Carte were less reluctant.
Since many of the items sold by both companies were identical I started by buying them
from Rudall Carte. When I opened my shop in Hitchin, Boosey and Hawkes sent their man to
open an account, but I was told that I had to be a Franchise Agent if I wanted to stock
1010 clarinets, and that would involve buying stock to a very high value including items
such as double basses and drum kits that I did not need. Having signed me up the rep left
the company and his successor told me that I did not have to buy these items at all, and
my initial order was reduced by 80%! I had learnt my first lesson about trusting reps.
Since those early years I dealt with my friends Tony Ward and Derek Winterbourn, who
had been key workers in the woodwind shop at Boosey and Hawkes before setting up their own
business in Mill Hill. They had many stories to tell of the days at Edgware, and I
remember hearing from an old friend of Derek's how he and Geoffrey Hawkes would go to the
London docks to buy the ballast from ships arriving from Africa. This consisted of African
Blackwood, soaked in bilge oil, and sold for next to nothing before being turned into 1010
and 926 clarinets, and oboes and cors anglais.
The account I opened with Buffet Crampon and Schreiber was with a company owned by the
Tolchin insurance group, operating from Pages Walk at the Elephant and Castle. When Boosey
and Hawkes bought this company I little realised that it was the beginning of the end for
1010 clarinets. Some of the last ones made were in fact a combination of the skills of
Schreiber for the bodies and B & H for the keywork. Referring to other articles in
this catalogue we see this trend continuing, with parts being made in many different
factories worldwide and then assembled at yet another site. Does this mean we might one
day see another 1010 clarinet other than the fine reproductions made by Peter Eaton and
My recollections of my relationship with Boosey and Hawkes are vivid and mainly
pleasurable, especially the generosity of the many visits I have made to their factories
in France, Germany, and the former East Germany. Because of those visits the annual
Frankfurt Music Trade Fair feels like a reunion with old friends, and Peter and I always
use the B & H exhibition stand as our main base from which to operate.
B&H MD Peter Ashcroft and John Myatt circa 1980
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John Myatt writes:
John Myatt Woodwind and Brass has always been run by various members of my
family, with me decreasingly in control. I still have a power of veto, but I seldom use
Peter Myatt has been a director of the company Myatt Music Limited since it was formed,
and his brother Paul was also a director at that time. Peter is now Managing Director and
does most of the administrative work, but Paul decided to give up his directorship when he
left to spend a year seeing the world.
He returned a fluent Spanish speaker and settled in northern Spain, so his connection
with the business seemed to have ceased. But this overlooks the fact that Paul always took
responsibility for the printing and design of Myatt publicity (having taken over my hobby
as a letterpress printer). He installed a set of offset litho presses and a plate-making
set-up before moving on to install our first computer, and he announced that he was now
able to take control again through the Internet. He works for us from Spain, designing our
website and constantly updating our systems. He logs in every day and is on call for
trouble shooting whenever needed, but otherwise he is physically in Santander except when
an extreme emergency or family event drags him back.
My other two sons Andrew and Matthew have also worked for the company, Andrew taking
responsibility for the computers while Paul was globe-trotting, and then making the shop's
shelving and display fittings during a complete refit. His skill as both carpenter,
electrician and plumber made it a sad day when he decided to move into the family's little
rented cottage at Walberswick in Suffolk, but he comes back occasionally to check that his
installations are still functioning well enough.
Matthew is now known as Matt Smooth, the famous hip-hop DJ, running his own business
worldwide, but in a message addressed to Daddy Smooth just before we put this edition of
the catalogue to bed he reminded me of his crucial role here in the early days. I bought
two redundant vans, one from Boosey and Hawkes through the good offices of "Diesel
Dick" who assured me it was a winner. It first broke down on my way from Edgware to
Hitchin. The second came from my good friend Bill Lewington, and its first breakdown was
fittingly outside Bill's shop in Shaftesbury Avenue. Matthew drove both of these vans
around, ostensibly on shop business, and helped at the first tiny shop in Bucklersbury,
Hitchin, while I was still playing and teaching to support the setting up of my business.
In the words of Shakespeare, "comparisons are odorous" but I would have to
say the order I have used gives a rough idea of the level of importance of my sons'
contribution to the business. This is not to ignore the fact that having a business in
which they have all been involved has given me great pride and pleasure.
Kay Hollingsworth was our first full time employee, joining us some 18 years
ago; and she rapidly established herself as a most devoted member of staff.
At our tiny shop in Bucklersbury she came to her first job as a school leaver, and we
bought a garden shed for her to use as the packing department. Packing could only be done
during daylight hours and frequent defrosting stops were necessary.
From such a humble beginning Kay grew into her position as stock controller for reeds
and accessories, and our annual visit to the Frankfurt Music Fair was always the highspot
of our year. Our suppliers could not believe the efficiency with which she packed her
diary with appointments and proceeded to give each and every one of them a very hard time
indeed. I particularly remember the joy with which she announced that she had set up a
meeting with none other than Dietmar Heinrich, who had supplied first me and then the
business with bassoon reeds for some thirty years.
Kay made a strong impression on all who worked with and dealt with her - you either
loved her or hated her and could certainly not ignore her! As stock controller she would
not tolerate inefficiency from our suppliers - woe betide any rep who made the mistake of
promising delivery of goods which did not then arrive - the message ‘Kay from
Myatts’ on their mobile phone display instilled terror in many a rep. Customers also
got to know some of Kay’s catchphrases when enquiring after their orders ‘there
are none in the country’ and ‘it’s a horrendous sitiuation’ being two
of the more frequently used.
Kay is a brass bander through and through, being the 4th generation brass player in the
family. She started playing cornet as a six year old and at the age of 11 joined Hitchin
Brass Band playing cornet then flugel horn. It was as principal cornet in Sandy Band that
she met future husband Richard and they moved together to to Godmanchester in
Cambridgeshire - the reason for this move was to make work and band equidistant having
recently both joined the Stamford Band.
Kay and Richard married on June 16th 1990 and are still happily married. The wedding
was a very musical affair with both Richard and Kay joining in at the reception! After
having a great time at Stamford they were offered positions in Cambridge Band where Kay
played flugel horn and Richard played baritone. Four years ago they moved to a sleepy
little village in Northamptonshire and joined the Raunds Temperance Band (we really don't
drink!). The band is forging through the sections and has won 6 out of 7 of it's last
contests and is appearing once again at the 3rd section national finals in Preston.
Richard is now an accomplished euphonium player and is receiving lessons from the
legendary Trevor Groom from the GUS band.
Kay says “as with the rest of my music, I maintain not to only want to play with
championship sections bands but to play for enjoyment of music making and give back some
of the help and fun I have received over the last 29 years!”
“Richard and I live, eat and sleep music. He at least gets a break from it in the
day working in optics, but I have always worked in the music profession and hope things
will not change for several years to come.”
“I joined Myatts in May 1983 (I think!) and spent many happy years working to
evolve both the company and myself. I would like to say that I have worked with and for
many good people over the last 18 years, I have made many friends both in the world of
music with customers and suppliers alike. I would like this opportuninty to say thanks to
everyone I have known over the years who have been so supportive of me, with special
thanks to my Grandfather who taught me; Mum & Dad and Richard".
We would like to thank Kay for her many years hard work, her unstinting loyalty and her
incredible dedication to the job and we wish her all the very best in her new role as
Jupiter Co-ordinator for Korg UK (many thanks to Kay for her help in putting together this
A few changes have taken place in our staff team during the year.
In October we welcomed William Watson as our new brass specialist. William graduated
from the Royal Academy two years ago and has extensive experience as a player and teacher
including gigs with the LSO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Moscow City Ballet, Brunel Ensemble
and the Midland Symphony Orchestra.
Vicky Haynes is our most recent recruit. A clarinettist from Cornwall, Vicky recently
graduated with a BA in Music and joined our sales team at the end of August.
Our accounts department vanished in April: Simon pursuing a career change into the
world of gardening and Helen pursuing a more high powered accounting post. We are
fortunate in having secured the services of two superb replacements in financial
controller and rock guitarist Andy Rodger and credit controller/rental administrator Carol
Marshall, helped out by the return of Wendy Lilley in bought ledger. Many thanks to Helen
and Simon for their help in ensuring a smooth transition and a special thank you to Chris
Gregson, our previous office head, who came back to help us out temporarily.
Kay Hollingsworth left us in February after what seemed a lifetime at JMW; Jo Moore has
stepped into Kay’s shoes and is now responsible for purchasing and stock control.
Channah Jarvis spent 6 months last year as front shop assistant to raise money for a 6
month VSO stint in Kenya: when she arrived we couldn’t find any work for her but by
the time she left she had become indispensable!
When you buy an instrument from us you can be confident that it has been
checked and set up by our specialists and adjusted in our workshops.
Should you have any problems subsequently, our workshop staff are available to remedy
without delay, Please note that ALL REPAIRS SHOULD BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE as our repairers
tend to be very busy.
We recommend bringing your instruments in for a check over before the end of the
guarantee period (12 months for new instruments, 6 months for Myatt owned secondhand
instruments) and subsequently for regular servicing (the frequency required depends on how
much use the instrument gets).
Please note that while our guarantee is comprehensive it does not cover damage caused
by misuse or unusual factors (eg extremely acidic perspiration which can cause problems
with plating) or unusual atmospheric conditions. The guarantee does not cover
deterioration which is the result of normal wear and tear - for example pads, felts corks
etc. The guarantee is invalid if the instrument has been worked on by another repairer
without our prior permission.
Making Music Keeps You Younger!
The beneficial effects of learning music for schoolchildren are already well
improved academic ability, speech fluency, team working and social skills, memorising
capacity, reasoning capacity, time managementt skills, problem solving skills etc (for a
summary of research see the article in our 1988/89 catalogue or contact the MIA - address
at the end of this article).
Recent research now indicates that playing a musical instrument for a few minutes every
day could help older people to live longer and healthier lives; that mature people who
participate in music sessions remain more physically agile and mentally alert than others
who do not!
The Music Therapy Programme at the University of Miami, an eminent team of researchers
made up of doctors, psychologists, aging experts, music therapists and educationalists set
up a joint research effort on the promotion of health in older adults.
Two groups of older people allowed researchers to measure how specially designed group
keyboard lessons taught in a supportive, socially enjoyable setting might enhance both
physical, as well as emotional, wellness in healthy older adults. Both groups were
equivalent in age, gender and ethnic make-up. 45 men and 85 women participated. Slightly
more than half the members of each group were married and the significant difference was
that one group were given lessons, the other not.
Three significant quality of life changes were discovered (from pre to post-test) in
the group who took the special lessons but no changes occurred in the control group, even
accounting for differences in life events and social support:
On the Mental Health Inventory (MHI) Anxiety Scores, anxiety decreased in the learners
group but not in the control group. Decreased anxiety helps improve cognitive performance
and enhances learning, decision-making and general feelings of well-being. On the Profile
of Mood States (POMS) Depression/Dejection scores; depression scores decreased. With
decreased depression, people report a brighter mood and, since depression is a major
problem for older adults, these findings are especially uplifting. On the UCLA Loneliness
Scale, loneliness scores decreased, while scores in the control group stayed the same.
Results indicated that students changed their perception of loneliness, or sense of being
alone, and that this feeling most likely derived from the music lessons. Loneliness, a
major problem among older people, has a profoundly detrimental effect on overall health
Key conclusions of the research were as follows:
- Anxiety decreased in the playing group - but not in the control group.
- Decreased anxiety helps improve cognitive performance and enhances learning,
decision-making and general feelings of well-being.
- Depression scores decreased in the playing group and with decreased depression people
reported being in a brighter mood. This is a significant finding as depression is a major
problem for older adults.
- Loneliness scores in the group of musicians decreased, while scores in the control group
stayed the same. Loneliness is a major problem among older people and has a profoundly
detrimental effect on overall health and confidence.
- Music lessons given to active older people had a significant effect on increasing their
levels of growth hormone (hGH). Human growth hormone positively affects such aging
phenomena as energy levels, wrinkling, osteoporosis, sexual function, muscle mass, and
aches and pains.
- HGH also raised levels of melatonin, a hormone that elevates moods.
Together, these findings are very exciting news for more mature adults. Speaking for
the research team, Dr Tims Professor and Chair of Music Therapy at Michigan State
University said, “We feel very strongly that abundant health benefits can be achieved
by older people learning to play music in a supportive, socially enjoyable setting.”
We are grateful to the Musical Instruments Association for providing details of this
research and sources; most of the above article has been taken from their papers. For more
information about scientific findings about the benefits of music making for children and
adults, please contact the MIA at Wix Hill House, Epsom Road, West Horsley, Sussex KT24
6DZ; email: office@MIA.org.uk or phone 01483 223326
Musicians Union Directory
Have you received yours?
Union members may be surprised to discover that the members directory is now
only distributed if the member specifically requests a copy.
This has been mentioned in the Musician but only one of six members here realised this
was the case so it is safe to assume that there are a large number of other members
unaware of the change. If you did not receive last years directory contact the union on
020 7582 5566 or email them via their web site www.musiciansunion.org.uk
As in so many other areas instrument manufacture is now global which makes a
factory visit a tough job! But Pete Myatt did it...
A Visit to the Korg Factory
Korg (UK) Ltd organised a visit to the factories which manufacture Jupiter wind
instruments in China and Taiwan for their top ten wind dealers in June. We assembled at
Heathrow on 17th June along with Korg MD Rob Castle, Jupiter co-ordinator Kay
Hollingsworth and sales reps Lyndon Chapman and Donald Owen for the nine hour China
Airways flight to Beijing and an eagerly awaited insight into a very different culture and
its music industry. China is home to approximately 1.2 billion people 20% of the worlds
population and we looked forward to adding another 15 for a few days. The modernisation
programmes following the death of Mao Tse Tung in 1976 opened the door to foreign business
with the creation of a market economy alongside state enterprises hence the KHS investment
and our visit.
Beijing was covered in a smog-like haze which we were told was actually sand blown in
from the Gobi Desert - I was not convinced! After checking in to the oddly named Taiwan
Hotel our sightseeing commenced. Tianamen Square was an awe inspiring sight, not so much
because of its recent history but because of the vast scale of the square and the
surrounding official buildings and the peaceful feel to the place - a refuge from the
hustle and bustle of every day Beijing with picnicking, sleeping, meditating and kite
flying all popular pursuits! A reminder of its less peaceful side was the presence of
significant numbers of policemen and strategically placed CCT cameras.
Impressions of Beijing: how hot and humid it was (daytime temperatures in the 30s); how
smelly it was - drains, food and car exhaust combined to produce an interesting mix; the
omnipresence of MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets; the number of bicycles
(9,000,000 for a population of 11,000,000!); and how despite a feeling of busyness it was
noticeable that every bench had someone reading, sleeping or meditating among the bustle a
laid back vibe!
China is desperate to ensure the success of its bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games and
there were hoardings, murals and sculptures in evidence throughout the city centre
supporting their bid. Whether their lack of respect for human rights will foil their bid
we have yet to see: the government permit no dissent and the penal code is one of the the
harshest in the world with at least 4,000 executions a year (probably significantly more)
for a variety of offences; yet our subjective impression was not in any way of a
down-trodden and intimidated population.
Tuesday saw us travelling some 90 miles South East of Beijing to Tianjin, a city of
7,000,000 and home of the China factories of KHS. We were greeted by saluting uniformed
security guards and a rousing wind band made up of factory employees. KHS chairman Wu
Hsieh gave a brief history of the KHS group before we embarked upon the tour. The company
was formed as Wan Wu in 1930, renamed KHS in 1945, harmonica production started in 1956
and band instruments a year later, in 1985 the Musix company was established, in 1990 they
acquired Altus flutes, in 1994 Ross Mallets USA and in 1997 Matt. Hohner, manufacturer of
harmonicas, recorders and guitars and Sonor percussion - clearly a major force in the
musical world. The letters KHS stand for ‘Kung Hsue She’ meaning ‘a company
helping schools and culture’.
The Chinese operation is responsible for the manufacture of band instruments,
percussion, harmonicas, cases and stands while the Taiwan factories look after band
instruments and percussion. 450 staff work at Tianjin and on the wind instrument side are
responsible for the building of the main bodies of almost all Jupiter wind instruments,
parts processing, soldering, buffing and finishing and assembly. Most are then shipped to
Taiwan where the more skilled and hi-tech manufacture and assembly takes place. The 500
series alto and tenor saxophones are completely manufactured in China and the clarinet has
an interesting journey - keywork is made in Taiwan; sent to China where the body, barrel
and bell are made and keywork fitted; the whole instrument is then sent back to Taiwan for
final setting up (clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces however are from Germany!).
As in so many other areas instrument manufacture is now global - the days of the
"made in country x" label are becoming meaningless (Boosey and Hawkes are the
latest to join this trend, their new factory at Croxley Green will be using a number of
components manufactured in Germany as well as the UK). Flutes are assembled here but the
headjoint is manufactured and the final assembly done in Taiwan. Anoraks will be
interested to know that the Jupiter flute is based on the Altus scale and design.
Mr Hsieh said that the main reason for the building in 1996 of the Tianjin plant was
not lower labour costs (administrative costs are three times higher in China), but to gain
access to the potentially/increasingly lucrative Chinese market. Clearly another incentive
is the much lower cost of land. Employees work an eight hour day and seem completely
focused on their work - there was no hint of our presence distracting anyone from the task
in hand. This was all the more surprising as there is no job rotation - if your job is
soldering a stay onto the instrument body that is all you do eight hours a day, five days
a week. There was no hint of employees rushing the work - they appeared very thorough and
quality seemed to be the primary motivation. Each department had players checking the
instruments as they were assembled - we heard a particularly fine recorder player tuning
the Hohner recorders and a competent clarinettist checking instruments. We were interested
to see a plastic German system clarinet coming off the line. Each area had a noticeboard
with colour photographs illustrating good and bad working practices - clean and tidy as
opposed to messy and dirty - I fear that my desk would require a new category far more
extreme than messy!
The factory tour took a whole day and your correspondent found himself increasingly in
need of "the crapper" - unfortunately when located it was of the "hole in
the ground" variety which completely put me off for the remainder of the day. While
indulging in a spot of ethno-centrist cultural imperialism I have to say that the food
throughout (China & Taiwan) was dull and tasteless (particularly to a vegetarian) and
caused most of our party stomach upsets ranging from severe to diabolical. There were a
number of dishes that did not appeal to our western sensibilities - the scene was set
during our first meal with the presentation of plates of broiled chicken feet. The best
meal of the week was surprisingly our lunch in the factory canteen at Tianjin!
At the end of the day the factory manager Jeff Lee, his assistant Peter Huang and their
team offered to take us to Tianjin City’s top sea food restaurant. We were therefore
intrigued when we arrived at what appeared to be a large concrete supermarket called
"Homeland". What we found inside was a supermarket sized hall full of aquariums
of different sizes containing a bewildering variety of creatures - the more exotic
included alligators, scorpions, tortoises, turtles, toads, pigeons, doves, 2ft wide crabs
etc. At the far end of the hall was as you have probably guessed a vast marble counter
behind which machete wielding men were despatching the aforementioned creatures to order!
Upstairs was a similar sized (vast!) restaurant complete with roller skating waiting staff
hurtling in all directions - an altogether disorientating experience.
When our dinner was served it consisted of a large lobster in the centre of the table.
Minutes before being served it had lost its insides which were now on our party’s
plates - raw lobster being a great delicacy. As death had occurred so recently the
creatures nervous system still appeared to be functioning and there were regular twitches
of its legs and eyes - all rather disconcerting. Fortunately Mr Lee & Mr Huang
(nickname Mr Beer!) and the rest of the KHS party were determined to party and our glasses
were filled again and again with a spirit appropriately named "firewater" which
was downed in one accompanied by a shout of "Gambay" before being refilled and
the process repeated - a fine evening was had by all!
Mr Hsieh has business interests galore as well as his interests in KHS he is the Yamaha
motor scooter distributor for Taiwan and co-owns the Yamaha scooter factory in Taiwan. He
also, as we discovered on our journey to Tianjin, is a major property developer. We took a
detour on the way and arrived at the "International-Embassy Villa" development;
a massive luxury development on the banks of the Chaobai River and adjacent to
China’s top golf course. The size and luxury of the houses and their furnishings
would have seemed ostentatious in the UK but in China..... To quote from the luxury
brochure on the development "With expertise of precision instrument manufacture KHS,
the worlds top 13th musical instrument maker leads you to penetrate urban Beijing to
realise the dream of international villa through perfect combination of environmental
protection and nature under the TREE in the year 2001!
The highspot of the week sightseeing-wise was our visit to the Great Wall at Badaling.
Most of the wall was constructed by the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang in the 3rd
century BC and is indeed an impressive sight snaking through dramatic mountainous terrain
for mile after mile. Our party trekked uphill along the wall for an hour, aware of dark
clouds approaching rapidly before the heavens opened soaking us with the largest (and
wettest) raindrops I have ever experienced, which subsequently changed into large hail
stones. Our soaked party was concerned when during our return to Beijing our coach ground
to a halt with a dodgy clutch. Fortunately our driver was adept at mechanics and after ten
minutes work we were on our way again.
We left our hotel at the uncivilised hour of 5.00 am the next morning to get our flight
to Taiwan. This was a complex operation as Taiwan does not allow direct contact with China
and it was therefore necessary to take a flight to Hong Kong and change to another flight
to Taiwan. I had purchased a model tank made of old bullets welded together for my son
while in China and was disconcerted when Chinese officials took me into the luggage area
and with some suspicion pointed at the x ray photos of my bag which clearly showed a stack
of bullets! Fortunately their fears were allayed when I opened the bag; my trepidation
returned when on arrival at Chiang Kai Shek International Airport I read a sign stating
smugglers of armaments were liable to the death penalty - fortunately I got away with it
on this occasion.
Taiwan was named Formosa (beautiful island) by Portugese colonisers and became home to
the exiled nationalists following Mao Tse Tung’s victory over Chiang Kai Shek in
1949. Taiwan’s population is 20 million, the population of Taipei 2.7 million (and
the number of motor scooters in Taipei approximately 1,000,000). We were intrigued to see
numerous glass fronted shops with scantily clad women sitting in the windows on the way
from the airport to Taipei. Our tour guide explained that these shops sold
"beetle-nuts" which were chewed, had mild narcotic properties and if over used
could cause mouth cancer. He explained that as most of the customers were male the sales
persons were female because "men like young women".
Our tour of the Taiwan factory at Knoling was another fascinating day out. Our hosts
were general manager Alex Tsai, his assistant Janson Hsu and their team of specialists.
The factory comprises 100,000 square metres and is responsible for the production of band
instruments and Mapex percussion. A shortage of unskilled labour in Taiwan has led to
workers coming in from Vietnam and Indonesia and the factory complex includes a large
dormitory for the Vietnamese workforce. The factory was much more crowded than the Chinese
facility and it was noticeable that the more advanced and hi-tech machinery was located
here. We were very impressed by the low-tech skills of the woman ensuring that trombone
slides operated freely - she simply used brute force pushing with both hands on the outer
section, trying the slide and repeating the process again and again for at least ten
minutes! The hi tech side was illustrated by the machinery which fitted trumpet valves
into the valve casings each valve being specifically fitted to the individual casing
concerned. We noticed bundles of metal from Japan and pads from Italy re-inforcing the
assertion that only top grade materials are used.
One of the most interesting discoveries was the number of instruments which are made
for other suppliers. In some cases these are stencil lines - identical to existing Jupiter
instruments, in some cases Mr Hsieh said that they were of inferior quality. We saw Buffet
Evette saxophones being manufactured in China and in Taiwan we saw Altus flute and alto
flute bodies, Vito and Keilwerth saxophones, B&S trumpets and Courtois cornets! We
also saw the stencils for other saxophone brands that KHS have manufactured which included
Olds, Blessing, Riley, Mirage and Arbiter Jazz (the last named is no longer manufactured
by KHS). The lesson here is that it is now virtually impossible to know the origins of an
instrument; high quality instruments are manufactured all over the world; and the sooner
we can get rid of the "I always tell my pupils not to buy an instrument made in
China/Taiwan etc." mentality, enabling instruments to be objectively judged on their
own merits, the better!
At the end of our factory visit we had a long session with the various instrument
technicians who listened carefully to our suggestions for improvements to the Jupiter
range, particularly the clarinet. It will be interesting to see if any of our suggestions
materialise in future. New developements to watch for include a bass clarinet later this
year, a piccolo next year, a three-quarter size Bb tuba shortly, a 2 rotor in line bass
trombone and a "C" tuba.
Sightseeing wise Taiwan did not compare to China. The National Palace Museum contained
a massive and fascinating collection of historical artefacts which were removed from
mainland China before Mao’s take-over - artworks from over the past 3,000 years and a
fascinating section on Tibet. The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park gave an insight into how
history can be rewritten (or how the same "facts" can be viewed very
differently) dwelling on the great victory achieved by the nationalists in 1949 a
"victory" which saw their administration and army moving to a tiny island
hundreds of miles from China. We were intrigued to read that England had provided Japan
with military support between 1938 and 1945 to support their battle against China! We did
find a very pleasant bar close to our hotel and the emotional climax of the entire week
was a stirring solo rendition of "Flower of Scotland" delivered at top volume in
the aforementioned bar by Ronnie Tennant - definitely a talent to look out for in the
A fascinating visit to two allied but very different countries. China the young economy
with massive scope for expansion; Taiwan the struggling economy looking jealously at
China. Growth in Taiwan is forecast at 4% this year and since the 80’s Taiwanese have
invested around US$45 billion in China! Initially the move was in the manufacture of cheap
consumer goods but apparently now more and more electronics firms are making the move to
mainland China. One could foresee Taiwan being forced to abandon its 50 year old ban on
direct contact with China with far reaching political implications in order to safeguard
its economic position.
A big thankyou to Korg (UK) for organising our trip and a very big thankyou to all at
KHS in Taiwan and China for their hospitality, for producing top quality student
instruments at competitive prices and for being so receptive to input from their dealer
Outside the Tianjin factory
The factory band welcome us to China
KHS chairman Wu Hsieh
An embryonic saxophone stage 1 stage 2
Is it a Jupiter, Buffet or Vito?
KHS Tianjin plant manager Jeff Lee (left) and his
assistant Peter Huang (Mr Beer)
Pete Myatt and friends at he Great Wall
Hi-tech machine for fitting valve block in valve case
Low-tech machine for freeing-up trombone slides
(using brute force!)
Storm clouds over the Great Wall
In spite of this warning at the national palace museum we
were allowed in
A chart explaining Chinese notation
The Sheng - a Chinese wind instrument
RICHARD WIGGS (1929-2001)
I knew Richard for many years, but my friendship with him became closest when we found
ourselves working together on the Council of what was then the Rural Music Schools
Association. He took a semi-proprietorial role in that body because he rightly felt that,
without his efforts, it would not have survived. As members of the Council and Executive
we worked closely together during the period when RMSA was being re-built painfully and
Richard produced reams of memos which he faxed to me, and we often met before formal
meetings to prepare ourselves for what seemed to be confrontations with factions within
the organisation. With Leonard Hughes we regularly found ourselves questioning decisions
to take Benslow in directions we could not support, and we were inevitably seen as a
reactionary, negative, and backward looking group. We felt we were indeed looking back to
the intentions of Mary Ibberson and trying to uphold her ideals, often without success. I
was able to persuade an aquaintance who was a trustee of the Violin Loan Scheme to
transfer its assets to Benslow, and with Richard's support and that of my dear friend
Norman Hearn insisted its name should be changed to embrace all instruments, hence its
I could not devote as much time to Benslow matters as Richard and Leonard, and
eventually I withdrew from its committees, but continued to support the work of the now
re-named Benslow Music Trust. They both passed documents by me and asked for my support,
not always forthcoming because we often disagreed and argued passionately for opposing
views and solutions to problems. Nevertheless I felt that Richard showed tremendous
loyalty to Benslow over a very long period, and a collection of the documents he prepared
would show that his was the constant voice of sanity among the changing fashions and
buzz-words of the modernisation of the charity. This progress was probably inevitable, but
we must never lose sight of the intentions of Mary and the efforts of Richard to continue
to honour them. John Myatt
A programme of Fauna and Flora International
The objective of SoundWood is to safeguard the future of trees used to make
Ebonies, mahoganies and rosewoods have all been in demand for centuries to make musical
instruments. Their resonance and stability make them especially desirable. But there is a
problem - they are becoming increasingly hard to find. The forests where these trees grow
are in decline and some trees have been so exploited that they are almost extinct.
Soundwood aims to find practical solutions to this problem. It wants to see people who
depend on the forests benifit from the valuable timber they contain, and it wants
musicians and music lovers to be able to ‘continue to enjoy beautiful
instruments’. They aim to acheive this by promotion of sustainable management of
timber sources through field projects in partnership with local people; fostering
co-operation with, and good practice within, the music business; promoting the production
of and creating a market for timbers of instrument quality derived from independently
certified well managed sources; promoting research, including the use of alternative
species and taking action to conserve endangered timber species. Boosey and Hawkes have
pioneered alternatives with their ‘Greenline’ composite of wood dust, resin
& ‘a special poly-carbonated fibre’; but so far there is not evidence of
alternatives being seriously considered by other manufacturers.
For further information (or to send donations) contact:
Great Eastern House,
Cambridge. CB1 2TT
Phone: 01223 571000
Fax: 01223 461481
This is an updated version of our sax specialist Nick Walker’s erudite
thoughts first published in last year's catalogue.
Saxophonists have always been aware of the vast range of sounds and responses made
possible through different mouthpiece and reed combinations from belting R&B to French
conservatoire and all stops inbetween. So after months of trying this and that you finally
arrive at what you consider to be the perfect blend of reed make and strength coupled with
the mouthpiece fashioned from ebonite, metal or even crystal; tip opening to match your
embouchure, and chamber to give you the tone required for your own particular musical
situation. The search is over right.. well maybe , because at your next gig the sax player
next to you says 'that new mouthpiece sounds great, but you know it would sound much
better still with a xxxx ligature'. Is he or she right?
Ligatures can in fact make a tremendous difference to the sound a sax makes, they are
after all, along with the mouthpiece itself , a major point of contact with the reed.
Generally they work on the principle of most contact with the reed , darker sound; less
contact with the reed, lighter sound. Having said this, the material used in contact with
the reed can throw up some suprising results.
The Vandoren Optimum ligature, while not a particularly recent addition is worth
consideration particularly by players of Vandoren’s ebonite mouthpieces. Made to
Vandoren’s usual exacting standards it comes with 3 different pressure plates each
offering a different contact with the reed and therefore at least 3 different sounds from
the same mouthpiece/reed combination.
The Winslow ligature has been a favourite amongst Myatt customers for some time.
Probably the most ‘high-tech’ of all the currently available products, it too
offers the player the opportunity to vary the sound by altering the position and amount of
reed/cushion contact. The immediacy of response is outstanding and can transform even the
most ordinary of mouthpieces into something quite special. As with most makes there is a
specific coded ligature to suit each individual mouthpiece.
The Ligaphone has been around for a little
while but is a relative newcomer to Myatts. It is almost as low tech as you can get - a
metallic band in either gold plate or matt black finish with a fabric strip in contact
with the nylon cord. What is unique about this ligature is that it fits ANY mouthpiece.
Further choice is offered by the Classique or Orchestral versions, the only difference
being the thickness of the fabric strip which is greater on the Classique giving it a
darker sound. I can only say that playing is believing - these are sensational.
The Consoli Ramplig is another new addition to the range stocked at Myatts. Again a
fabric band forms the main body of the ligature (available in a particularly gaudy range
of colours) but the contact with the reed is made by a plastic ramp (as in Rampling) which
once again does dramatic things to the sound and response. Once again specific ligatures
for specific mouthpieces. Definitely worth a try.
Talking of low tech, the James M Pyne ligature resembles a serviette ring made of woven
black string. There is no tightening mechanism, it simply slips over the mouthpiece and
reed until secure. However unlikely this may all seem this product actually works
remarkably well and allows the reed to vibrate with considerable freedom. Don’t ask
me about a cap though!
Over the years, two mouthpieces have proved particularly problematic with regard to Rovner
& BG ligatures fitting correctly. These are Vandoren (presumably because they want you
to buy their own) and Berg Larsen which must have a unique girth. As a generalisation, in
my experience it seems that ebonite mouthpieces of large or small chamber respond more
dramatically to a change in ligature than a high baffle metal mouthpiece.
In compiling this article, I must offer congratulations to people who write brochures to
accompany the products. I have read every conceivable adjective to describe the sounds
that these ligatures enable the player to achieve. Space does not permit me to include any
so that’s it for now!
Colin Bradbury writes:
Building on the success of the First and Second Congresses at the Royal College of
Music in London, the time has come to spread our wings and move around the country. Where
better to begin than Manchester, the heart of the North West, with its three orchestras
and the superb facilities of the Royal Northern College of Music. The date is Sunday,
November 18th 2001, and the day will be packed with events. The appeal of the Congress has
always been the recitals by well known artists, and we have planned the day round the rich
variety of music written for the clarinet - solo, chamber music and ensembles. This year
will be no exception, but the facilities of the Royal Northern allow us to do more,
especially for our younger members.
Young clarinettists want to play, and this time we plan to have events specially for
them in the Lord Rhodes Room. Alan Hacker will direct and lead a "play-in", and
Angela Malsbury will give one of her sparkling master classes. On top of this the clarinet
department of Chethams School of Music will be hosting a special event for the young
player, and their specialist teachers, led by Jo Patten, will lead our younger members in
group rehearsals and performances tailored to suit a whole range of standards.
Meanwhile, among the concerts in the Brown Shipley Concert Hall the three principal
clarinets from the BBC Philharmonic, the Halle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Orchestras will each give a recital. John Bradbury will be marking the Finzi centenary
with a performance of the Five Bagatelles as part of an English programme which will
include the Sonata of Arnold Bax and Bliss's Pastorale. Lynsey Marsh will continue the
English theme with the Sonata of Herbert Howells and the Three Pieces of Lennox Berkeley,
while Nicholas Cox is planning a programme which will possibly include music by Hugh Wood.
Joining them as recitalists will be Angela Malsbury with a Czech programme of Wanhal,
Fibich and Martin(, Simon Butterworth, of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, who will be
playing and talking about the bass clarinet, and Richard West who will play the basset
horn. The evening concert will include items by the British Clarinet Ensemble, and string
players from Chethams School of Music will join this year's CASS Competition winner, Sally
Day, in a performance of a clarinet quartet by Crusell. To end the day Alan Hacker and the
Chethams quartet will play the sublime quintet of Mozart, K 581.
The Royal Northern College is splendidly equipped to accommodate a lavish display of
trade stands in the spacious foyer, and the restaurant and bar are central to the whole
proceedings. For those travelling to Manchester from a distance, we intend to arrange
special terms at a nearby hotel, and to explore the possibility of booking seats for a
concert on the previous evening. A leaflet with the details is enclosed with this
magazine. Whilst the detailed programme must always be subject to change, this is set to
be the busiest and most exciting Congress yet. Do book early.
Further details from Colin Bradbury 0208 997 4300 email@example.com; tickets
from Janet Eggleden 0208 959 5433.
SINGLE REED NEWS
Yanagisawa have introduced the 902 bronze saxophone series which
complements the already available 992 - the 902 is a bronze version of the 901 horn and
the 992 a bronze version of the 991. Awaited with interest are the new Keilwerth
heavyweight nickel silver alto and tenors. The Yamaha 275 alto has proved to be a great
success and we look forward to seeing the 275 tenor which should be available by the time
you read this. Yanagisawa are experimenting with wooden saxophone crooks which may or may
not be available shortly.
The Buffet R13 Vintage clarinet is now available as a
‘Prestige’ model (replacing the discontinued DG Prestige). Selmer have stopped
making the 10G instruments but are making a new intermediate instrument, the
‘Odessy’ which will be priced at around £1250 and should be available before
Christmas. Available from Selmer later next year will be a new professional model - the
‘Axis’ - no further information available at present.
Yamaha sponsored two fascinating workshops which we put on at North
Herts Music School: the first featured some quite superb clarinet playing on the AE Bb by
Nicholas Cox. Nick is principal clarinet with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
and has also worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia and the City of
London Sinfonia among others and was accompanied by pianist Vanessa Latarche. He talked
about the design of the Yamaha professional series which he was involved in. The second
workshop featured some inspired and entertaining playing and talking by saxophonist Simon
Bates and pianist Paul ‘Harry’ Harris;both stars of TV’s ‘The Big
Breakfast’. Simon spoke at length about why he feels Yamaha saxes are the greatest.
- We are hoping to to host another workshop with the world’s greatest baritone
saxophonist Ronnie Cuber at the end of October: Please get in touch for
- The new JM cases are an interesting
development accessory wise; combining low price and weight with high quality and
appearance, these cases are available for Bb, pair and Eb clarinet and all saxophones
except baritone in four different colours. They are supplied with shoulder straps and can
be worn as ruck sack style back packs.
- The revolutionary Ligaphone ligature
(fits all mouthpieces!) has been a great success for both clarinet and saxophonists.
- We now stock Ton Kooiman clarinet thumbrests; these are available in a
basic model and an all singing all dancing deluxe uni-directional model.
Over the last year poor deliveries from suppliers have been the main story of
note; whether it be Schreiber, Yamaha or Fox bassoons or French oboes the story is almost
always the same ‘we have no stock and have numerous back orders’.
Awaited with interest is the new Yamaha professional oboe the YOB 831B
which is expected in stock shortly. On the accessory front the new JM cases are the most
interesting developement combining low price and weight with high quality and appearance,
these cases are available for bassoon and oboe in four different colours. They are
supplied with shoulder straps and can be worn as ruck sack style back packs.
At The Guildhall College the John Myatt bassoon scholarship is proving
a success and our congratulations go to the first two students to be awarded the
scholarship Samuel Dwinell & Carol Goldby.
With Des Taylor
If a week in politics is as long as they say, then a year in the flute world
must equate to a decade. There have been many changes in the last twelve months including
the launch of a whole new range of Yamaha flutes, a new Jupiter alto flute and the long
awaited emergence of the Trevor James Masters series.
The most widespread change has come from Yamaha with almost its entire range being
given the ‘Changing Rooms’ treatment. The first major change was to the 500, 600
and 700 series. Rather than give a ‘lick of paint’ to their existing models,
Yamaha decided to introduce an entirely new range of flutes with changes to the design of
the head and an entirely new scale. Having played them my opinion is largely split on the
success of these modifications.
The new head is really quite good offering a very even tone throughout the range of the
flutes’ compass, with a nice degree of richness and flexibility. It responds very
easily, and is free blowing without the tendency to wimp out if pushed too hard. The scale
on the other hand takes some getting used to as it seems to require none of the pitch
adjustments players have become accustomed to making.
When one has spent years subconsciously making these adjustments it is not easy to get
used to not making them. Sadly, once you do get used to it you may well have to learn to
adjust accordingly for the apparent sharpness in the third octave.
The newest and most radical change has been administered to the ubiquitous YFL 211S II
(now known as the YFL 211UK) and carries through the 200, 300 and 400 series. Whilst
sticking with the same trusted headjoint, they have made several changes to the
construction of the body. These include strengthened pillars, alignment marks for body to
foot fitting and - probably most unexpected of all - they have placed the adjusting screws
on the top side of the flute to give repairers (and inquisitive pupils) easier access.
That may not be unique in itself but the fact that each screw is housed in a nylon bush
that is in turn fitted to the adjustment arm certainly is. So far our repair team foresee
no problem with this ingenious little device, though I’m told others are reserving
There are some cosmetic changes to the overall package too. Gone is the troublesome
handle on the case, now deemed unnecessary since all new models are supplied in a leather
case cover. I have had the chance to play new against old and I have to say that the new
model seems to have a silkier sound than the old which serves to give it a little
character while retaining its ease of playing and even tone. This was an unexpected change
considering the fact that the head has remained unchanged. Luckily I had the opportunity
to speak on the matter with the designer of the flute himself - Mr. Takahashi of Yamaha
Japan who explained that the method and tools used to draw the tone-holes has been changed
to make the tone holes consistently flatter. This has slightly changed the flow of air
through the flute, hence the slight tonal change.
Two companies have brought out student alto flutes that play easily and are
very affordable recently.
The first to arrive on the scene (almost two years ago now - how time flies!) was the Trevor
J James alto. Offering a very free blowing head (designed by Mike Allen) combined
with an excellent key mechanism this alto is very reminiscent of the Sankyo but about a
third of the price. It is exquisitely bold in the lower octaves and beautifully smooth and
clear in the third with a nice degree of flexibility throughout.
For those who like a smoother tone on the alto, Jupiter have just
launched their own student model which has the advantage of being supplied with both
straight and curved heads. As indicated it has a much more understated sound than the
James but lacks the punch of the latter in the lower octave. Both examples seem much
lighter than other older altos, certainly when compared to the old Monnigs and Parrots,
this is largely due to a much more logical construction in both tube and keywork. Both are
very evenly balanced between left and right hand key groups, making fluid playing much
So which is the better of the two? As ever this is very much down to personal
preference, a definite case of horses for courses. There seems to be more and more music
written for alto flutes either solo or within ensembles/orchestral works so let’s
hope that now we can get a good instrument at a reasonable price this trend will continue.
Solid silver head versions are available on both models - appropriately priced of course.
The newest flute to have arrived in the shop is the Trevor J James Masters
It follows closely on the heels of the new 10X series II, which has proved every bit as
popular as its forerunner. Offering the usual range of specifications they are available
in two basic forms. The Masters 1 has a silver head with silver-plated body and keys and
the Masters 2 has a silver tube with silver-plated keys. Both models are semi-handmade and
can boast a hand made head, French style pointed key arms and a considerable amount of
attention to detail regarding finish, key venting and smoothness of action. They have a
very nice sound that maintains the colourful richness that we have come to expect from Mr.
James’s flutes but also have a very keen response with excellent flexibility. The
standard of craftsmanship is superb and compares very favourably with other models in
its’ price range.
The last flute I wish to talk about is the latest model from the Armstrong
Known as the 200 series this is yet another attempt at breaking into the UK student
flute market. I have never been very keen on flutes made in the USA for the American
market. They tend to pay too little attention to the important factors such as accurate
padding, even springing and ease of playability. Having taken much advice from some of our
most knowledgeable sources this is the exception that proves the rule. I have seen many of
their ‘improved’ models but none have impressed me as much as this one.
Made specifically for the European market, it has a very good headjoint (the No. 4 cut
for those that are familiar with it) that offers a very smooth tone production with plenty
of volume. The mechanism is far neater than any I have seen from this manufacturer and the
padding has so far proved to be very accurate. I suspect that all the technicians are
taking extra care to make this new model a success - let’s hope they maintain their
standards for a long time to come.
So, as I said, a very productive time in the world of flutes. Of course there are many
other models of flute ranging from student to professional not mentioned in this article.
Should you wish to discuss the merits of any of our wide selection please give me a ring
at the shop and I will be happy to oblige.
We sponsor an award for woodwind players at the Welsh School of Music and Drama which
was shared this year by two flautists Julie Coyault and Rachael Toolan - congratulations!
Our flute specialist Des Taylor presents James Galway with
flutes for an impoverished music school in Bosnia-Herzegovina
The Mike Allen omni-directional
universal flute head-joint
some technical terms explained !
Des Taylor sets out to explain some of the more common terms surrounding flutes
and flute playing which can mystify someone new to the instrument..
One of the most commonly asked questions, certainly from the parents of young beginners
is ‘What is a split E?’ or ‘What is an E Mechanism?’ and ‘Do I
really need one?’ The answer is relatively simple as they are in fact one and the
The E-Mechanism - often referred to as a split E - is a small piece of keywork that
links the ‘E’ key to the lower of the two "G" keys. It affects only
one note on the flute, specifically E in the third octave (E3). On a flute without this
system E3 can be a difficult note to produce and sustain without a rock steady, very
focussed embouchure and good support from the diaphragm.
This is largely due to changes that have been made to the mechanism since its invention
by Theobold Boehm in the late 19th Century. I won’t bore you with all the
technical/historical details, but suffice to say that the E-Mechanism makes producing and
sustaining E3 a good deal easier which helps to explain why most flute teachers recommend
it for beginners.
There are of course arguments against it. It has been said that it can affect the tone
and pitch of F#3, but this is only possible if the alternative fingering is being used. In
earlier years the old manufacturing techniques and machinery meant that this extra piece
of engineering often made the right hand keys become loose or clumsy and in some cases
caused it to seize up all together. In today’s more technologically advanced world
this is rarely the case. So the answer to the last question - ‘Do I really need
one?’ - is that while not being absolutely essential it does make things somewhat
easier for the beginner. As most student flutes now have this option as standard it is now
as cheap to produce as the old non-E models.
What is an open hole flute? This is simply a flute that has holes through the centre of
the keys that are fingered by the middle and ring fingers of the left hand and the index,
middle and ring finger of the right hand. In the time before Boehm introduced his keyed
system to the flute, most if not all flutes were constructed of wood and were largely what
are now termed as ‘simple system’. This meant that they had either no key at all
or between one and eight keys and were essentially a wooden tube with holes drilled into
When the covered hole system was first introduced it was thought necessary to keep the
holes in the keys to maintain tuning and to give the feel of a traditional keyless flute.
Nowadays it remains a bone of contention among flute teachers and players alike as to
whether there are any advantages to playing an open hole flute. It is true that this set
up will require very accurate hand positioning, and with this comes a more fluid style of
playing. However, in more extreme cases it is unlikely to cure bad hand positioning,
furthermore it is equally likely to become a source of frustration for both player and
teacher. So why buy an open hole flute at all? The better hand positioning will enhance
fluidity of playing, and if you are interested in jazz or contemporary flute music,
especially that requiring the playing of quarter-tones and eighth-tones then it is
essential. There is also the argument that the tone is better because the sound is
bouncing off your finger-ends rather than the metal washers used on closed hole versions.
There is a difference in tonal quality but not enough to warrant buying one purely on the
strength of that alone. If you have reasonable hand positioning and want to improve the
smoothness of your playing, or if you have an interest in extended techniques, then it is
certainly worth pursuing. Otherwise - as my Mum would put it - you may be making a rod for
your own back!
Another question that regularly crops up pertains to the benefits of playing on silver
or gold compared to silver plated nickel-silver. The answer lies in the density of the
In general terms the more dense the material you are blowing into, the warmer and
richer the sound it will produce. Silver therefore - having a higher density than nickel
silver, but less than gold or platinum - gives a nice rich, warm sound without being too
expensive. Another factor is the ease with which it can be played. Silver-plated flutes
have a certain immediacy that is great for the beginner as it allows a reasonable tone to
be produced without much effort or indeed expense to the parent. Once the player has
overcome the initial problems of good tone production, they will need, if not want, to
produce a richer sound, with more control over dynamics and indeed a wider dynamic and
tonal range. This is very difficult to achieve on a silver plated headjoint, as the
hardness of the metal does not allow it to vibrate with the same degree of freedom. Silver
and other denser metals allow the player a much wider dynamic and tonal range, which in
turn helps to give a more expressive performance. As the player matures they will be able
to experiment with different materials at will to find the one that gives them the best
overall sound and response.
Left: Closed hole offset 'G' key with 'E' mechanisim.
Right: Open hole inline 'G' key
Des Taylor writes
June 2001 saw the John Myatt Woodwind and Brass Fantastic Flute Fiesta which
brought some of the country’s leading players into Hitchin to thrill audiences with
their skill, knowledge and sheer musicianship. There was also a chance to attend workshops
dealing with the psychological side of performances.
Jean-Paul Wright started the week with just such a workshop for children, tackling
issues such as pre-performance nerves, expression under stress and post-performance blues.
All the young flautists present were first treated to a series of relaxation techniques,
and after five or ten minutes their natural inhibitions were falling away at a rate of
It was a joy to see the look of amazement on their faces as Jean-Paul applied a few
‘tricks of the trade’ to demonstrate the awesome power of the mind. Having
gained their full attention and trust he continued to guide them through many techniques,
including visualisation, positive thought processing and breathing, to help them cope with
the nervous tension of exams and performances. All of the attendees seemed to enjoy the
experience and plenty of smiles on faces were evident as they all left.
That evening saw a recital/ workshop by the superb Ian Clarke, who was kindly sponsored
by Miyazawa U.K. Ian is a flute player who shows little regard for the constraints of
conventional playing and this became blatantly obvious as he launched into his first piece
‘Zoom Tube’. Composed by Ian this started with him simply blowing directly into
the embouchure hole - creating a sound reminiscent of a jet engine warming up -
progressing into the most fantastic demonstration of what a flute is capable of with a
little (ok- a lot) of application - and a few years practice!
The piece finished and the audience, which consisted mainly of players and teachers,
sat gob-smacked for a few seconds before raising a rapturous, if slightly delayed
applause. Their enthusiasm was dampened briefly as Ian requested that everyone took out
their own flute so that we could try some of the techniques he had used. Phrases like
‘No way’ and ‘You must be joking, I can’t do that!’ were, by now,
rattling around the recital hall. As ever though it took only one or two brave souls to
steel themselves and take the plunge before a large majority of the audience were
experimenting with the harmonic series, polyphonics, note bending and a whole plethora of
other extended techniques.
Ian’s next piece was ‘Train Race’ - to say this was a graphically
descriptive piece would go only part way to doing it justice. It served as a swift lesson
teaching us all that it’s one thing knowing how to do it, but another thing all
together putting it into practice in the context of a performance. Something that Mr.
Clarke does with considerable aplomb. Suffice to say that, once again, we were all
rendered speechless by Ian’s outstanding virtuosity.
Thursday took on a similar complexion to Tuesday afternoon with Jean-Paul Wright giving
his lecture to an adult audience. An adult audience is not always as easy to work with as
the children are, but Jean-Paul remained unfazed. He explained to us how the nervous
system can, if given free range, take hold of the body with often devastating results. He
then went on to give us several examples of ways to help control nerves or even turn them
to our own advantage.
The one thing adults often do better than children is ask relevant questions, and this
was no exception. I would estimate that the last thirty minutes of the session was spent
in a question/answer mode, which was invaluable for those involved.
Paul Edmund-Davies took the stage on Friday evening with a recital that was hugely
enjoyed by all. Paul is the principal flautist with the London Symphony Orchestra and as
such one would expect him to be a good player. He is all that and more besides. Rarely
have I heard such a wonderful sound on the flute. I have been fortunate enough to have
listened to Paul on several occasions yet his lyrical style still amazes me. Being an
endorsee of Yamaha Kemble UK, he played most of his pieces on a Yamaha YFL784 silver flute
with his own Louis Lot headjoint. There were two exceptions however when Paul demonstrated
the latest addition to the Yamaha range - a handmade wooden flute. I was fortunate enough
to have a chance to have a good look at it before the concert and it felt quite light
compared to most wooden flutes that I have come across and seemed to have a nice positive
action. Sadly I couldn’t play it because Paul was still blowing it in and I
didn’t want to be responsible for having it crack! In Paul’s hands this flute
sounded absolutely superb, and when it is available (twelve months is the quoted time from
Yamaha) I shall look forward to actually playing one!
Paul played a varied programme accompanied by the LSO’s principal keyboard player,
John Alley. Paul and John have been playing together for many years and the rapport they
share is obviously very good. They showed a mutual understanding, which served to
compliment each other in a beautifully balanced performance that included pieces ranging
from Bach to Richard Rodney-Bennett.
The week was brought to a close by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s
principal flute player, Neil McClaren. Having started the week with the ultra modern Neil
displayed his predilection for the baroque in a recital that covered pieces from Schubert
and Bach. His opening piece was Schubert’s ‘Gute Nacht’, one of his many
lieder. This was followed by the Bach Sonata in B minor and two further lieder from
Schubert ‘Der Lindenbaum’ and ‘Standchen’. After a short interval he
continued in much the same vein with works including Schubert’s Sonata in A minor
‘Arpeggione’. For the most part Neil aimed at highlighting the difference in
approach between modern pieces and those written in the 15th - 17th centuries. Most of the
audience were keen to question him on the finer points of playing baroque pieces on a
modern flute and the pitfalls thereof, and Neil was only too happy to oblige, proving
himself to be somewhat of an authority on the subject. Neil was sponsored by
Muramatsu’s UK distributor Bill Lewington Ltd to whom we are very grateful.
All in all it was a superb week. For many it was a chance to renew old acquaintances,
for others a chance to make new friends, but without exception it was a chance to see
masters at work. On the whole everybody took something away with them. Whether it was just
the most thrilling, amazing or awe-inspiring concert they had attended recently or a bag
full of new tricks to try out. I must give out a huge thank you to each and everyone that
attended the events and to those who provided the artists.
Boosey & Hawkes have introduced the first instrument seen in the
UK from their factory in India - it is a high spec student trumpet which will sell at
£199 in either lacquer or silver plate, with top centre sprung stainless steel valves and
1st valve slide thumb shunt and finger ring with slide stopper.
French Besson are making a new series of instruments, the 160/162
trumpets and flugels manufactured with input from Marvin Stamm and the Classic trumpets
with input from Dennis Najoom. Not wishing to be left out Selmer Paris
have come up with the large bore Concept trumpet which we sell for only £1195!
Yamaha have also introduced a new range of trumpets, the
‘Xeno’ series described by Yamaha as ‘for those who want power and
projection as well as a big warm sound’: the prototypes seem excellent and we look
forward to having these in stock.
The new Besson Prestige cornet is another instrument awaited with
interest: to quote Roger Webster of Black Dyke Mills “the idea of a free blowing
cornet coupled with the much sought after Besson sound was to many a dream. The sound is
even richer than before aiding those with less traditional 'deep cup' mouthpieces to
acheive a full melliflous tone. A new tuning trigger (on the main tuner) will aid the
performer in coping with any tuning or intonation discrepancies... especially those linked
to muting and fatigue. A must have item for any cornetist!”.
The Yamaha YSL350C compact trombone is an interesting animal: a Bb/C
trombone, the valve enables small hands/arms to reach all notes without having to stretch
to 6th position. Our price is a mere £720.
The Besson BE980 EEb Tuba designed in conjunction with James Gourlay
is to quote the Boosey & Hawkes press release "an exceptional professional
instrument". It has the same layout as the 981/ 982 tuba but with a 17" bell.
The playing characteristics are more in line with the front valved 983 tuba. The sound is
very well centred and focused, clear and direct. This tuba is a very good choice for the
soloist who prefers the brass band style valve layout.’ The Besson 995 CC tuba is a
front action 5 valve full size C tuba. Tuba maestro Pat Sheridan writes, “This
instrument is surprisingly lightweight but produces a rich, colourful, clear and deep
sound. A highly efficient instrument with a wide dynamic range and a powerful low
register, this tuba provides maximum sound output with less effort than other makes of CC
The new JM cases are an interesting
development accessory wise; combining low price and weight with high quality and
appearance, these cases are available for trumpet (various combinations), trombones and
cornet in four different colours. They are supplied with shoulder straps and can be worn
as rucksack style back packs.