Alderley Edge Symphony Orchestra
Principal clarinet: Helen Hall
HelenHall new.jpg
The CLARINET is a relative newcomer on the orchestral scene. Unlike most 'traditional' oerchestral instruments which developed progressively over a long period of time, the invention of the clarinet was a more sudden event which is generally attributed to Johann Christopher Denner of Nuremberg during the period 1690-1700. More and more keys were added in the years that followed, and by 1842 when the great clarinettist Hyacinth Eleanore Klose developed the Boehm fingering system, the clarinet had virtually completed its development into the instrument we know today.
The first mention of a clarinet in an orchestral score was in 1720, though this was an isolated instance. As late as 1778, the young Mozart was lamenting the lack of clarinets in the Mannheim Orchestra, though later the same year he was at last able to use clarinets in his 'Paris' Symphony (No. 31 in D, K297). Haydn experienced similar frustration: only a handful of his later symphonies are scored for the clarinet.
To refer to 'the' clarinet is to some extent a misnomer as the instrument exists in a number of forms. The two workhorses of the orchestra are the so-called 'B flat' and 'A' clarinets; the former produces a note a tone below the note written in the part (so that a written 'C' becomes a 'B flat') and the latter producing a note a minor third below that written (so that a 'C' becomes an 'A'). In general, B flat instruments are used for music in flat keys (effectively subtracting two flats from the key signature) and A clarinets are used for sharp keys (subtracting three sharps from the key signature). It's all terribly logical to clarinettists and other players of transposing instruments such as the horn and the trumpet. Lesser mortals such as string players, oboists and flautists can only listen and marvel.
But all is not plain sailing for the clarinettist. Their instrument suffers from a design weakness known as the 'break': this is a phenomenon around the middle of its range (between A flat and B) where the tone tends to be weak, watery and sharp in pitch. It is also hard to alternate notes rapidly on either side of the break.
The repertoire abounds with excellent music for the clarinet. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto of 1791 is hugely popular, as are Weber's two concertos. The same composer's Clarinet Quintet and Grand Duo Concertant (the greatest showpiece in the whole clarinet repertory) also demonstrate the potential of the instrument in a very convincing manner. A particular speciality of the clarinet, the glissando, is spectacularly demonstrated in the opening bars of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
Helen Hall has now retired from General Practice, having been a partner in the Alderley Edge Practice for 26 years. She has played clarinet in the Alderley Edge Orchestra for a similar period of time, and has been Principal Clarinet since 1997.
Helen enjoys a wide range of classical music whilst expressing particular fondness for the chamber music repertoire and the Romantics. As well as playing clarinet, Helen also sings in the Barnby Choir which regularly gives concerts in the Wilmslow area.

She lives in Alderley Edge with her husband and dog and when not playing music enjoys reading, yoga, cycling and walking.
The Alderley Edge Symphony Orchestra
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