What is a Single Reed Choir?


At first reading the title ‘choir’ may confuse those who naturally associate the word with the joyous harmony of the choral tradition, be it church choirs or large choirs which might fill the Albert Hall. However, it is also the term used to describe an ensemble of wood wind instruments, either all of one type or in this case a combination of single reed instruments - the clarinet and saxophone.

‘Ah, single reed?’ I hear you ask. Well, to produce the sound in the first place it is necessary to strap a small sliver of cane to the mouthpiece and use breath to start it vibrating against the mouthpiece. This creates the basic sound of the instrument with the actual notes being produced by various combinations of fingering.

Though not the first composer to write for the clarinet, Mozart fell in love with the sound of the clarinet when aged seven, on a visit to Manheim, he wrote to his father, "If only we too had clarinets! You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets!" His fascination with the clarinet’s mellow sonority and wide range stayed with him throughout his life.

That fascination with the sound of the clarinet has served the instrument well as many composers have written the most wonderful works for it and it has featured in all styles of music from folk to classical and jazz.

Its partner in the single reed choir is the saxophone, patented by Adolph Sax in 1846 for use in orchestras and concert bands. It was highly praised by the composer Hector Berlioz although its use in orchestras has taken a long while to become regular and there are still a limited number of works for it in the orchestral repertoire. However, its use in concert bands was successful very quickly and of course it is fundamental in jazz.

The saxophone was designed as a family of instruments. Sax patented seven from the tiny Sopranino to the mighty Contra-Bass. During our concerts concert you will see the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone and Bass. The Clarinet family, although not designed as such from the outset, also has a wide range of instruments from the tiny Eb to the deep Contra Bass.

So to the music. The sound of the instruments combined is unique and very special. The repertoire you will hear covers a wide range of styles and is sure to charm and interest alike. How to describe the sound? Well perhaps the word mellifluous would sum up an evening of sweet sounding music.

We look forward to seeing you at our concerts.

EASRC 2016