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 Once Upon A Mattress/ Bass clarinet
Author: FrankM 
Date:   2006-11-17 12:37

I’m doing the bass clarinet part on “Once Upon A Mattress”…opening night was last night. I’m in no position to try and guess what an arranger was thinking, but the bass clarinet book ( no doubles) looks to me like a regular clarinet book that was mislabeled. By that I mean the range is that which I would not normally associate with the bass. I’ve played bass on most common musicals, and the parts are almost always written for the bottom end of the instrument…what my buddy describes as the sound you feel as much as you hear. The Bb clarinet player looked at my book and said that it “looks” like a soprano clarinet part…..much of it written above the range either of us would normally associate with a bass clarinet in a musical. Maybe the arranger just wanted to give me a work out !

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 Re: Once Upon A Mattress/ Bass clarinet
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-18 02:44

Well, I've got a little insight on this one, courtesy of my piano player. He taught theory to the composer of the music of the piece, and he reports that the musical was written as a project more than anything else. From my two recent production of this "masterpiece", I got the same general feeling.

From the way that several of the numbers were set, you got the feeling that she didn't have too good of an idea as to what "worked" well on a bass clarinet. The salient examples are Spanish Panic and the long group numbers at the end of each "scene" (even though there are just acts, no scenes, in the piece).

The Spanish Panic can be just that if your horn is not in 100%, A-1 condition. Line the neck up a bit wrong so that the double register key system doesn't work just so, and it's Squeaksville from the get-go.

While the choral numbers aren't done at as snappy a tempo, they do have huge arching half and whole note figures that sound weak and vapid compared to the same notes when played on a soprano clarinet.

WHen teaching a youngster at one school production that I did, I finally gave up on getting him to play the Spanish Panic on the bass, and suggested that he essay it on the soprano at the correct octave, which he did with little problem.

Story-wise, it ranks right up there with Carousel in my distaste pantheon. Well, maybe not quite bad, but still pretty bad. It takes a broad female comedic talent to make it "funny", and college and high school productions usually don't have that sort of person to hand.

It could be worse. Floyd Collins is lurking out there in the MTI catalog...

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra

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 Re: Once Upon A Mattress/ Bass clarinet
Author: FrankM 
Date:   2006-11-20 12:43

Terry, thanks for the info....I'm glad it wasn't just me ! And you were not kidding on Spanish Panic ! By the way, I did Mattress in the late 1970s and I could swear I played sax( there were none in the book I played this week). Is this book a new revision of the original?

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 Re: Once Upon A Mattress/ Bass clarinet
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2006-11-24 03:51

I don't know, and my piano player (Al Levy) is down in Houston sick right now, so I can't ask him.

From the lay of the numbers in the version that I played (both were identical) it didn't seem like anything would have "sat right" if it was done on the saxophone.

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra

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 Re: Once Upon A Mattress/ Bass clarinet
Author: Gandalfe 
Date:   2006-11-27 20:35

Terry, I always enjoy your insights. I am playing reed book four for the Anything Goes ('76?) revival and the conductor wouldn't let me use the bass clarinet because we ran out of room for instruments. So I am using the tenor and bari sax and I get to do the sop sax solo from reed book two for 'Easy to Love' (which almost sounds like an oboe on the CD).

Anyhoo, I copied the bass clarinet parts up an octave for the tenor and had to learn to play the lowest notes on the tenor softly so that the singers could be heard. Yes, this is a small town theater situation. But after my initial struggle and trips to the repair guy (for the price of a pair of comp'd tickets) the tenor is as tight as it has ever been and music is fun.

If a musician rewrites a part to take advantage of his/her strengths and no one notices, is that a crime? I love belting out the bari lines during the hoofing parts. And we added 'Heaven Hop' and 'Ain't Misbehaving' so there is a lot of jazziness in this rendition. Maybe Frank can drop the Bass Clarinet part an octave and still have the music work.


Jim and Suzy

Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns
Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra
Seattle, Washington

Post Edited (2006-11-27 20:36)

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