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 Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: CocoboloKid 
Date:   2015-02-04 11:15

I recall reading in a thread about Charles Neidich (which inevitably turned to discussion of his boxwood Schwenk & Seggelke) that Mr. McColl had a custom-built Buffet R13 in boxwood, but a poster said they'd never heard of a recording made with it.

Well, I've just found several, and they're VIDEOS! :) There is a Youtube channel that features the Soni Ventorum quintet, and there are some lovely close-up features on the clarinet where you can clearly see the Buffet stamps.

I find it to be a very sweet sounding instrument, and absolutely perfect for the quintet medium. (And it fits nicely with Felix Skowronek's cocuswood Rudall Carte flute/Alexander Eppler headjoint!)

There are quite a few more on the channel as well. Just thought I'd isn't every day one sees a boxwood Buffet!

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2015-02-04 14:07

Shame it didn't have artificial ivory rings on the barrel like it has on the bell.

I saw somewhere a Rigoutat oboe specially made in boxwood with artificial ivory rings which is something you don't see everyday. Dupin also make boxwood oboes but as for clarinets the only new boxwood ones I've seen with modern keywork were possibly made by Schwenk&Seggelke.


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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2015-02-04 15:18

Here they are:


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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2015-02-04 18:42

Boxwood warps quickly and continuously. (I've seen a photo of a recorder warped 45 degrees.) This is OK for keyless instruments and (marginally) for 5-key clarinets, but not for more complex keywork, particularly with long vertically-oriented keys or posts. For a while, I owned a Fox 5-key Bb, but it required frequent oiling and even then became unplayable. I eventually sold it back to him.

In particular, I've been told that Bill McColl's boxwood R13 needs adjustment every few hours and that he no longer uses it, for that reason.

Kal Opperman made me a boxwood barrel, which plays great but warps so quickly that it needs re-reaming every month.

The only boxwood instruments I have are recorders and a 1-key flute, all of which are lined with epoxy. Even then, they've warped a bit.

Too bad Tony Pay is gone. He's performed on many boxwood instruments.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2015-02-04 18:58

I regularly use a mid 1800s boxwood Hawkes & Riviere Bb flute (1 key) and while it's banana shaped, it's a lovely instrument to play and definitely carries well. I surprised myself how loud it was while marching and playing it through a large gym where it could easily be heard over the rope tension snare drum (natural skins with a gut snare).

I haven't yet seen an antique boxwood instrument that isn't banana shaped to some degree or other.


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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: CocoboloKid 
Date:   2015-02-05 03:06

S&S have some sort of proprietary wood treatment that lessens the warping situation with boxwood, I believe...they've made around 100 of them so far (in both Boehm and German systems, and some bassets as well), and while I know a few have cracked, it's no worse than anything we've seen with cocobolo and grenadilla. Untreated, though, I would imagine it's a nightmare.

I just posted it for novelty value, really. :) It's fun to see and hear it in the quintet context! (I don't imagine it'd be the ideal orchestral clarinet, but I find it charming in a chamber ensemble.)

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2015-02-05 05:40

Bill McColl was very much his own man--an independent thinker. He may have been the first American clarinetist to use a Zinner mouthpiece on his Boehm clarinet. I remember him sending me one to try long before I or anyone I knew had even heard of them.

I seem to recall that McColl studied in Vienna with Leopold Wlach. He mentioned that Wlach had used a Koktan mouthpiece on his Koktan German system clarinet. He was as curious to transfer some of the qualities of the Viennese Koktan to the Boehm instrument as Francois Benda is today.

That sweet boxwood clarinet tone matches the tone of the wooden flute very well. I wonder if the flute is also boxwood? The sound of the boxwood Buffet is expecially mellow in the altissimo--substantially different from its grenadilla counterpart, and the tuning seems exceptionally good.

Post Edited (2015-02-05 05:52)

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2015-02-05 11:36

One thing is sure, it is impossible to conclude anything about boxwood as a material for clarinets from those videos.

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: WeberBrahms 
Date:   2015-02-06 23:14

I got to hear McColl play the boxwood a couple of times when I was living on the west side of the state. Glorious tone.

Speaking of McColl, when I was 17 and playing with our community symphony, he came and performed the Copland clarinet concerto with us. It was my first time hearing a clarinet soloist live...a transformative experience for me, really. He talked to me about coming to UW, actually, but I was an idiot flunkie back then in everything except music at school, so there was just now way.

Anyway, it wasn't until later that I heard him play classical chamber stuff. He was so great at all of it. Love the quality of his tonguing in particular.

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: CocoboloKid 
Date:   2015-02-07 12:41

Seabreeze, Felix is playing a cocuswood Rudall Carte flute with a cocuswood Alexander Eppler headjoint :)

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2015-02-07 18:17

Thanks, Cocobolo Kid, for the flute id. I miss the sound of the wooden flute which seems to have all but disappeared from the orchestral scene in favor of the metal ones. Always loved the playing of Gareth Morris in the Philharmonia--Edward Walker too. What shimmering elegance!

You have quite an eye for recognizing musical gear. Any idea what ligature McColl might be playing in the video?

Post Edited (2015-02-07 18:22)

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2015-02-08 01:42

You'll find more and more orchestral flautists are using wooden flutes nowadays.


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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: donald 
Date:   2015-02-08 13:29

My friend Maurice Reviol made a number of wooden headjoints for use with modern silver flutes, and a couple of NZ/German flute players use them (Alisa Heutmann used to have a clip of her playing with one, but that seems to have gone from youtube)
The NZSO flute section use wooden flutes for some repertoire (this is 2nd hand information so may be inaccurate or out of date)

Post Edited (2015-02-08 14:44)

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: BarryTones 
Date:   2021-04-29 20:50

I'm slightly surprised not to see Thomas Carroll on this BBoard.
Out of the USA, he plays quite well for a youngster and also has a sideline building his own clarinets and chalumeaux from boxwood and other woods.

Here is a link to his media page on his site with a couple of embedded youtube clips

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Clarimellonet 
Date:   2021-04-30 04:24

Thanks for the mention, BarryTones!

I'm on here, occasionally, though not a frequent poster.

I've met Bill a few times and we've talked quite a bit about our respective paths through the period instrument world, building our own instruments, etc. The period clarinet replicas he built back in the 80s and 90s are all gorgeous; I've play tested couple of them over the years (his Lotz/Griesbacher Basset horn with the extra chromatic keys for Eb and C#, and his adapted Lotz Bb and extrapolated C clarinet) and they all feel and sound great.

The video recordings with his boxwood Buffet are great. I think there's a certain amount of fluidity and delicate attack that comes with using boxwood (there are quite a few surviving boxwood Buffets from the very first production runs in the 1840s) though of course the internal bore design, mouthpiece, and reed interact to produce an overall playing experience. I certainly understand the desire to move away from boxwood as more keys were added, since the wood isn't quite as stable as grenadilla or ebony, but I do think there is such a thing as sacrificing quality of sound and ease of playability for projection and material stability. Of course in the 21st century almost 200 years removed from the invention of the Boehm-System, our own preconceptions of what sounds "good" have no doubt changed, so it's all subjective anyways.

I've actually been talking on and off with a couple people at various modern firms about the possibility of adapting a set of modern instruments to boxwood with appropriate modifications to ensure as much stability as possible. After years of playing primarily on historical clarinets, I definitely feel less "at home" on my modern instruments (either Boehm or Oehler) when I have to play on them simply because the material doesn't respond in the same manner. I wish I were set up in my workshop to just build myself a set of modern instruments to my own specifications, but my tooling and skill with key making stops around 1840 or so, and I don't have quite enough space to set aside an area for casting.

If you click through the links on my media page to my actual YouTube page, there are quite a few more performance videos, the ones on my website are all from a couple years ago.


Thomas Carroll
Historical Clarinets and Chalumeaux

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: JasonR 
Date:   2021-05-11 07:42

If you want to see more of the Buffet Boxwood clarinet, check out Nicolas Baldeyrou on youtube!

He also loaning a Buffet Mopani Legende Prototype which looks and sounds wonderful!

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 Re: Bill McColl's Boxwood Buffet!
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-05-11 08:25

Some on this Board get particularly offended by clarinet players that move around a lot when they play. For me, the trigger is the "gimmicky" multi tracked, multi video-ed presentations .............yuck!


I came around listening to the Baldeyrou versions of Chopin and Rachmaninoff. These presentations sound so amazing I almost forgot I was being offended.

Lest we forget, we owe a debt of gratitude to Les Paul for making this all possible

I can forgive him

........................Paul Aviles

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