Helen Hall has recently retired from General Practice, having been a partner in
the Alderley Edge Practice for 26 years. She has played clarinet in the
Alderley Edge Orchestra for a similar period of time, and has been Principal
Clarinet since 1997.
Helen enjoys a wide range of classical music whilst expressing particular
fondness for the chamber music repertoire and the Romantics. As well as playing
clarinet, Helen also sings in the Barnby Choir which regularly gives concerts
in the Wilmslow area.
She lives in Alderley Edge with her husband and dog and when not playing music
enjoys reading, yoga, cycling and walking.
Principal clarinet: Helen Hall
The CLARINET is a relative newcomer on the orchestral scene. Unlike most
'traditional' oerchestral instruments which developed progressively over a long
period of time, the invention of the clarinet was a more sudden event which is
generally attributed to Johann Christopher Denner of Nuremberg during the
period 1690-1700. More and more keys were added in the years that followed, and
by 1842 when the great clarinettist Hyacinth Eleanore Klose developed the Boehm
fingering system, the clarinet had virtually completed its development into the
instrument we know today.
The first mention of a clarinet in an orchestral score was in 1720, though this
was an isolated instance. As late as 1778, the young Mozart was lamenting the
lack of clarinets in the Mannheim Orchestra, though later the same year he was
at last able to use clarinets in his 'Paris' Symphony (No. 31 in D, K297).
Haydn experienced similar frustration: only a handful of his later symphonies
are scored for the clarinet.
To refer to 'the' clarinet is to some extent a misnomer as the instrument exists
in a number of forms. The two workhorses of the orchestra are the so-called 'B
flat' and 'A' clarinets; the former produces a note a tone below the note
written in the part (so that a written 'C' becomes a 'B flat') and the latter
producing a note a minor third below that written (so that a 'C' becomes an
'A'). In general, B flat instruments are used for music in flat keys
(effectively subtracting two flats from the key signature) and A clarinets are
used for sharp keys (subtracting three sharps from the key signature). It's all
terribly logical to clarinettists and other players of transposing instruments
such as the horn and the trumpet. Lesser mortals such as string players,
oboists and flautists can only listen and marvel.
But all is not plain sailing for the clarinettist. Their instrument suffers from
a design weakness known as the 'break': this is a phenomenon around the middle
of its range (between A flat and B) where the tone tends to be weak, watery and
sharp in pitch. It is also hard to alternate notes rapidly on either side of
The repertoire abounds with excellent music for the clarinet. Mozart's Clarinet
Concerto of 1791 is hugely popular, as are Weber's two concertos. The same
composer's Clarinet Quintet and Grand Duo Concertant (the greatest showpiece in
the whole clarinet repertory) also demonstrate the potential of the instrument
in a very convincing manner. A particular speciality of the clarinet, the
glissando, is spectacularly demonstrated in the opening bars of Gershwin's
Rhapsody in Blue.
The Alderley Edge Orchestra