Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Office Visit

Monday was the day. I left work shortly after 3 PM to take my clarinet to the repair shop. The shortest road to Gorham from work is the road that goes right by the office - Congress Street. I quickly got on to road and came up to the stop sign. And sat. Through one red light and nothing was moving anywhere! Craning my neck I could see a sign that said, "Construction Ahead - Expect Delays." Right. So I could see. The traffic coming off the Maine Turnpike couldn't get onto the road because...the road was already full of cars waiting their turn to move inch or so.

I quickly wheeled into the turning lane, hopped onto the Maine Turnpike, went up one exit and caught the Westbrook Arterial into Gorham and was on site and only a minute or so late.

I took my clarinet to the repair man - Bill Street - who looked at it, tried putting the pieces together, sealed the end and blew in them, and held the barrels up to the light and said words to strike fear to any performer's heart, "What do you have for a warranty?"

None, that I was aware of at least. Why? I wondered.

He had me look into the barrel of the top joint and it was ROUGH! Very rough. Like it had never been polished, he said. He sees that fairly often and it takes him about 1/2 - 1 hour to polish it. Otherwise, if I didn't want him to do it the instrument should be returned and replaced with one that was polished and finished. Oh, and he found the spot that was binding.

I put in a call to Lisa who answered right away and spoke with Bill (they knew each other) and then she called her "set up" man who agreed it was about 1/2 - 1 hour maximum to fix. She agreed to pay up to 1 hour at her guy's rate toward having Bill do the work, which seemed reasonable, though Bill has a higher rate than her guy. I figure it will take less time for him to work on it than to FedEx it back to Illinois.

When will I get it back? I don't know. I guess I'll call on Tuesday and see if I can pick it up after work or if I'll be without it another week. He seemed pretty busy.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

We Buried A Friend

Yesterday was the funeral of a friend. A 58 year old friend who had been my dentist for a few years. He had attended Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in the 1970s. Last fall he started having problems with weakness and weight loss and was diagnosed 3 weeks before his death with ALS aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. His wife is a dear friend of mine from my first year in boarding academy. At least one or two of his children were friends with our children in their school years. It puts a whole new perspective on life when your 58 year old dentist is gone. The Brunswick SDA Church was packed to capacity with 40 - 50 people standing in the foyer during the entire service which lasted over an hour. The children, with spouses for those who are married, stood on either side of the coffin in front and greeted people coming up from each side. The line in the middle funneled to Cherry who stood in the center aisle talking with and hugging every one that came.

I have offered to help his wife thread the maze of legal and financial things that have to be done as most of her children are either away in college or married and living elsewhere in the country. I have compiled all of my financial health articles which were written for the Brunswick SDA Church Communique into a book so that she can read through the articles that might be most helpful for her. R. Wayne Clapp's Obituary

It got me thinking yesterday afternoon and evening. So I sat down last night and typed up a page of funeral preparation thoughts: favorite Bible texts, favorite hymns, favorite color (no surprise there, I suspect), favorite memories, etc. Things that I hope will smooth the way for any survivors when my time comes. It is the front page in my red trust book on the top shelf in my office. Jean suggested I just post it here on my blog but I'm not sure I ready for that!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I Need A Doctor

No, not me personally. My new R-13 Buffet clarinet. This is my first brand new clarinet ever. The woman that I bought it from knew that I had played on old clarinets all my life:

1. I started on a nickel clarinet that was made during one of the World Wars (I'm not sure whether it was WW I or WW II actually) and the whole clarinet is made out of nickel and sounds a little "metallic"

2. My first wood clarinet is one that I paid $50 and my parents "matched" when I was in my senior year in academy with a "Hallmark" label

3. My 3rd (and current) clarinet is a Buffet R-13 made in 1937 and played for about 50 years by a jazz musician here in southern Maine - he was mostly a sax player but occasionally played clarinet. He was a smoker and never oiled the barrel so that clarinet was heavily damaged. It was very difficult to blow and the upper two registers were nearly unplayable, so I played 3rd clarinet because it has a marvelous lower register up through the throat Bb. I have played it for about 15 years.

Lisa knew what I was playing. She never told me that I was not supposed to play a new clarinet for longer than 30 minutes per day for the first few weeks.

Well, I played it for up to 1 - 2 hours at a time. I noticed that the tuning barrel was tight. VERY tight. After band practice last week I had a very hard time taking the clarinet apart.

The next night we got an email from Lisa with a Word document attached telling me how to "break in" the instrument and it I had difficulty taking the instrument apart to take it to a repair man for a simple adjustment.

Fortunately when we bought my daughter's 1995 R-13 clarinet from Tom Parchman, the 1st clarinetist for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, I had requested and gotten by email the name of who he recommended for working on professional level Buffet clarinets.

I made a call Thursday (8/25/05 - the 3 months anniversary of full time insurance work) and have an appointment with the man for 3:30 PM Monday afternoon to have the instrument looked at. "And don't play it until I see it," were his parting words.

Awck! I had agreed to play my clarinet for special music for Sabbath School at about 9:45 AM on Sabbath 8/27/05! Now I would not be able to play it. I tried practicing on my 1937 R-13 but I ended up borrowing my daughter's 1995 R-13 and played a duet with Jean (312 in the Church Hymnal - Near The Cross) and we had the Sabbath School members pretend that we were singing around the piano in our living room: we had them join in and sing the last verse with us!

I LOVE MUSIC! It has been so long since I have taken the time to play. And I have never had an instrument to play that was of this quality. Allison's clarinet and mine are very, very much alike and playing one is very much like playing the other. We look forward to music as a family - various duets and trios - in the future!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

My New Love(s)

The News

No, you are not seeing double. That truly is two Buffet clarinets that I have on trial. One of the things that I had hoped to do more now that I am out of the ER and no longer doing night work is music. I have been added to our church's "arts team" which includes music for the services. For several years now I have put together song services and led them for Sabbath School. Rarely have I been invited to be part of the music program for the church service itself.

The Background

Before our Niagara vacation Jean and I played our instruments (flute and clarinet, respectively) for offeratory one week and we enjoyed it quite a bit even if we did feel like we were shaking in our boots because we simply haven't done it before.

Today I was asked to provide a special music for church. I thought that Allison and I could play our clarinets together: both are Buffet R-13 models - hers is vintage ~1995 and mine is vintage ~1937 and quite worn out with notes that hardly speak without a second or two delay and very difficult to blow.

However Deb is still home from college for another week so Allison thought that we could do a vocal number with her playing the piano. We selected "How Long Has It Been" which is a M. Lister song from the mid-1950s and got it ready to perform. Deb and I also led the congregational singing as well. Mid-week I was invited to lead Sabbath School song service as well.

Then the new clarinets that I had requested to try out arrived yesterday.

The Clarinet Story

When I resigned from the hospital there was no fanfare. I just left. The medical staff and the administration wanted to do something, so they asked Jean what I would like. She had heard me mention getting a telescope a few times over the years so she mentioned that was an interest of mine. True enough. But there is quite a bit of light pollution where we live (in town) so replacing my clarinet seemed like a much better use of the money that they gave me some weeks after I resigned as a "farewell gift."

I spoke with Lisa of Lisa's Clarinet Shop and she selected two new clarinets for me to try out: an R-13 and a Festival. The Festival is supposed to have a sweeter sound and be easier to play. I hurried home from work early last night as Beth came up with my Mom for the weekend AND the clarinets had come. I played the clarinets for over 1 1/2 hours. Then we went up to the church to practice our vocal number for church and Allison tried the two clarinets briefly and we played together for a few minutes. She came home with us, had supper with us (including fresh corn on the cob and blueberries that Mom and Beth brought from NH) and then we played some more for nearly 2 more hours!

So when we went to church we offered to do a clarinet duet if there was a place in the service where it would fit. The organist, who was organizing the music today, volunteered that she was having a hard time finding an offeratory so we could do that! So our family did a lot of music today! After church our whole family stayed for potluck dinner.

The Dilemma

I don't want to send either one of them back! I love them both!

The R-13 (the top clarinet) has a "big voice" with an edgy sound that Allison says has a saxophone-like sound to it at times. It does not have any "bad notes" anywhere up to about 3 ledger lines above the staff. Both Allison and I have made it squeak a time or two and I feel that I have to work to control it - like riding a high spirited horse, but the sound is well worth the effort!

The Festival (the bottom clarinet) has a softer, sweeter sound but doesn't have the "big sound" that the R-13 has. The transitions are very smooth (hence, no squeaks) and it too has a beautiful sound through it's whole range, IMO, though Lisa says it's best in the center of it's range. It has an extra key to provide alternate fingering which isn't present on the R-13 and has a 2nd tuning barrel that makes the tone even softer, slight less bright - almost darker - and silky smooth! I thought that the throat A was a bit weaker than the other notes on the instrument initially, but I can't reproduce that sensation since then.

These two clarinets complement each other perfectly and one would use them in different situations. Allison shares my love affair with these two instruments. I don't want to send either one of them back!


This evening I played both clarinets some more and concentrated on the upper register: the R-13 wins as it not only has a better sounding throat A, but also has a better sounding upper register. All the other benefits of the Festival I will have to pass up: the extra key, the metal bands on the ends of the joints to prevent splitting, the second tuning barrel, for example.