Most clarinet teachers will probably be aware that the clarinet was invented by one, Johann Christian Denner, in or about the year 1700, Denner having got the idea from examining examples of a simple single-reed instrument called a chalumeau. What they may not know is that there is an English company, based in Yorkshire, manufacturing a chalumeau today.
Hanson Music are manufacturing their chalumeau expressly for the Wider Opportunities scheme, through which whole classes are introduced to instrumental music-making. The Hanson Chalumeau project aims to:
1.Promote music making at an early stage and to equip pupils with sound foundations for future music making.
2.Provide an instrument which sounds good, is easy to play, is affordable and kid proof!
The chalumeau on which Denner started work was a single-reed instrument with a compass of nine notes, from the F below Middle C to the G above. It is believed , though, that these simple instruments were available in several keys. The Hanson Chalumeau has a similar range. but in the key of C. There are no keys to press and the fingering is simple, so pupils can focus on learning the basics and making a beautiful sound, on an instrument that has a long tradition.
Being in the key of C, the Chalumeau combines easily with other instruments in the junior classroom: there are none of the complications of providing for a transposing instrument. It’s a great way to get a true clarinet sound in the junior ensemble without the ‘aggro’ – no broken springs, bent keys, sore thumbs or transposition perplexities! It may also prove attractive to disabled musicians unable to cope with the weight or complexity of the modern clarinet.