February 27, 2015
How impoverished life would be without music! Last Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent, pastor Joe encouraged us to do more than just give up chocolate or sweets or in my case, coffee for Lent, suggesting that we forego our regular radio listening and listen only to Christian programming as a means of focusing our minds and hearts on the Gospel. Unfortunately for me, I rarely listen to any radio, and when I do, my first choice is classical. I love modern Christian music, but the constant boom-boom of the bass that I love in live performance drives me nuts when listening on the radio. I much prefer the classical riffs of Handel, Mozart, and Bach to anything being played by popular Christian bands today, with the possible exception of Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. Did I mention that my other favorite music is the Big Bands of the '30s, '40s, and '50s? The lush arrangements of Paul Muriat, Les Brown, Henry Mancini, and the individually unique sounds of Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Mantovani, and others soothes my soul. Sorry, Joe.
A couple years ago, I joined the New Horizons Band, an area concert band based at SUNY at Fredonia comprised of AARP-qualified people. Yeah, we're a bunch of geezers, but we have fun! Anyone who knows my quirks and generalized weirdness wouldn't be surprised to know that my instrument of choice is the bassoon, which is sort of the ugly duckling of the orchestra. If a composer were looking for a sound resembling the mating call of a moose, the bassoon would be his instrument of choice. I find it interesting that it is used quite frequently in British mystery movies wherever the plot darkens. That's the bassoon--dark and foreboding. Unfortunately, they are also hideously expensive. A top of the line Heckel can go for upwards of $35-40,000. A good student model of any bassoon worth playing will start at $6-8,000. The used instrument I had been playing was made around the turn of the last century, and was pretty well worn out when I got it. I made it work, but always wondered if my difficulties with it were the instrument or me.
When I sent it off for a rebuild, the expert called me up and told me it wasn't worth spending the money it would take to make it reasonably serviceable. His recommendation was that I look for a good used instrument. Unfortunately, they aren't just laying all over the place like guitars, waiting for someone with a few bucks to lay down. If one wants anything worth buying, you could buy two or three really good guitars for what a decent used bassoon costs. People aren't beating down your doors trying to sell you bassoons.
I finally found one at a reasonable price, on Ebay, of all places. Usually, one steers clear of Ebay for bassoons, because they are such finicky instruments, and you never know for sure what you're getting till it's in your hands. However, I found a music store in Florida that had a Fox bassoon, which is US manufactured, and makes professional quality instruments. This one is more of a student model, had been reconditioned by the store, and was returnable; a huge plus. Linda gave me some of the money from her mother's estate (Bless you, Ginner!), to which I added about a year's worth of savings, and a week and a half ago, it was delivered to our door.
Today, I rejoined the band, and it was glorious! No, I'm not suddenly that good a bassoonist. A good instrument unfortunately, didn't make me a virtuoso as I had hoped. But it did make it easier for me to play with my usual moderate mediocrity. I must have looked like a one man band when I arrived, with bass guitar slung over my shoulder, and amplifier and bassoon, one in each hand. First stop was jazz band with the bass, then on to concert band with bassoon. However good or ill it sounded, it was music to my soul, I am back in the groove, and very thankful tonight.