Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It was a dark and rainy afternoon...

The shop was small and cluttered, in an out-of-the-way corner of suburbia, the ugly part near the airport. But it was the only place I'd been able to find to do the job.

"What do we have here...ah, a sweet little Buffet R-13," said the repairman, peering into the case. Even back in the day when I spent a lot of time with it, I couldn't have told you it was an R-13, so I took this as an indication that the guy knew his stuff. He examined the barrel, and closed one eye to carefully look down the bore. "How old is it?"

"About 25 years. It's been sitting there untouched for the last 10, though. I assume it can be put back into service?"

"I have one myself that's 21 years old. Great era for Buffets," he said, continuing his examination of the various moving parts. "Yeah, this little beauty will clean up just fine. It needs a complete overhaul, but 25 years is nothing for this quality of workmanship." He looked up at me. "You said it's been 10 years? But you must have been pretty serious, in your day, to have invested in a nice piece like this."

"Yeah, I was. I thought I wanted to make a living at it, even. But I changed my mind when I got to college, and somewhere along the line I just stopped. And then recently I had the urge to pick it up again, so here I am."

He beamed with obvious pleasure the imminent return to the fold of a lost tribe member. "Will you look for a group to play with?"

"Nope. The first goal that I've set myself is the Messiah." He raised an eyebrow. "My church has a sing-along and even the orchestra is all volunteer. The clarinet part is only about five pages, so I figure that would be a nice easy goal to start out with. And I can still sing alto for the rest of it."

"Ah, the Mozart bit."

I was confused. Didn't Handel write the Messiah, I asked?

"Yes, but Mozart was the one who adapted the clarinet part, later."

"Oh, really? Well no wonder, that makes sense - I thought Handel would be too early, but then it was only five pages." It figures that Mozart, the first real advocate of the newfangled clarinet, would be the one to weave it into other composers' masterpieces. This guy really did know his stuff.

"Well, normally we're running a week out for overhauls, but next week I'm out of town for Thanksgiving. So it'll be another ten days, unfortunately."

"That's all right. It's been sitting 10 years, another 10 days won't matter much."

And so we concluded our business. But the very next day, he called me back. "I had a window of opportunity, so I did the overhaul on your horn. It sounds fabulous, you're going to love it. Come get it any time." I imagined that he just couldn't resist it, my sweet little R-13, neglected for so long and awaiting new life.

And so, as soon as I can get down there, and new reeds arrive in the mail, I'm back in business. After the Messiah is done, I'm looking for a clarinet transcription of Dave Brubeck's Take Five, if anybody has one.

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