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Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 21:16:20 EST
Subject: Re: [CB] BBb Contra Bass Clarinet

If you have an instrument that you like and you think plays well, I agree
with the previous post, KEEP THE INSTRUMENT>

From: (Louis Rugani)
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 23:13:48 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [CB] Helicon

I played a sweet Eb helicon in the Kenosha CYO Band in the mid-'50s. It
came there from the Kenosha Boy Scout Band of the '30s, and still
exists, in Mike Bjorn's Clothing and Museum in the 5600 block of Sixth
Avenue, Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ =96=3D[=95]=3D=96 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.
       - Robert Anthony


Date: Sat, 06 Jan 2001 15:46:27 +0000
From: Terje Lerstad
Subject: Re: [CB] Octocontrabass clarinet

Internet started as a scientific communication net, and it now seems to be mainly meant
for chatting, sex and commercials.  Most people don't reed messages of more than five
lines (that's maybe the reason why people write 450 character lines in the contrabass-l

Timothy Tikker was one of the few reacting to my writing about the crisis with Leblanc
contras,  and maybe because it was so short and spectacular, mearly 40 answers has
come to his mail since 25th december, with a lot of good ideas.

Finally something is happening!  (Or is it just "chatting").

The problem with the octocontrabass clarinet is you cannot just order it, because they
will not make it.  The situation now is that nobody can  make it, and there are not
even poeple who can make contraalto and contrabass, because they have not  trained
any new people, and the 3 poeple who can make them are either pensioned or lives
outside France.  There is even difficult to get alto and bass clarinets, because the
keys are made in America, so maybe the final plan is that we should only have
Vito instruments available.

In 1981, after I had the whole range of instruments from Ab to contrabass (11 clarinets),
I asked for the price of an octocontrabass clarinet.  The answer was: Nous ne fabriqons
ou envisageons de fabriquer pas de clarinette octo contra basse  (We dont't make and
have no plans for making the octocontrabass clarinet).  So I didn't get any further
with that, but I started composing for the instrument, mainly in clarinet choir, but also
solo and in the orchestra.

I tried out both the octocontraalto and the octocontrabass clarinets in Paris in 1979, and
they where fantastic instruments, not just experiments.  Houvenagel was the
constructor, and he also made an alto saxophone which could be tuned from Eb to
D just by the use of one key (!), and an alto clarinet descending to low g (i.e. with the
same range downwards as a bass clarinet to low C), and all these instruments were playable. The
octocontrabass clarinet was in quite bad condition, but with the help of
Mr. G.Leblanc and a secretary I was able to play the low (written) C. It had a real sound
of this low tone, not just a rumbling. By the way, Guinness' Book of Records is
wrong: The lowest tone is not 64 '  C, but a Bb one tone lower.

One octocontrabass and 3 octocontraaltos is said to be made by Leblanc, one of the
octocontraaltos could be viewed at
with a picture of Léon Leblanc playing.

Also there should be made one american octocontraalto (not by Leblanc) for Lalo
Shifrin's "Mission Impossible", which should be in Philadelphia.  The original
information of this comes from Tom Izzo, who writes regularly in this group, so
has he seen the instrument, or does anybody else know more about it ?

There has been some people trying to do something with this, at least restoring
the existing instruments to playing condition.  We know that they are useful,
playable instruments, and that music has been written for them.  Maybe as a group
we can do something.

Terje Lerstad

PS. The new address for my page is

PS.  Why do somebody call the instruments LeBlanc, when the name is G. Leblanc ?


From: Opusnandy
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2001 13:35:26 EST
Subject: Re: [CB] Octocontrabass clarinet

In a message dated 1/6/01 8:09:57 AM, tlerstad writes:

<<The situation now is that nobody can make it, and there are not
even people who can make contraalto and contrabass, because they have not trained
any new people, and the 3 people who can make them are either pensioned or lives
outside France.>>

I spoke with a representative from Leblanc at the Mid-West Band and Orchestra
Clinic in Chicago a couple of weeks ago about the contra situation.  He said
that Leblanc is still making the contraalto and contrabasses in Paris
(however the keywork is now made in Kenosha, Wisconsin).  Indeed all four
styles of contra's were in their most current catalog.  Are reports of the
contras' death greatly exaggerated, or was the Leblanc rep referring to
Vito's? (The picture's in the catalog were of the metal, paperclip style
contras that Leblanc has always made.)

Jon Carreira
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