American Mavericks

What the BBb is THAT?

As the Orchestra performs its last weekend of American Mavericks Festival concerts here in San Francisco and prepares to go on tour to Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York, we’ve been seeing a lot of odd and unusual things lying around backstage.  Yesterday morning, I came upon this case, which at about five feet long, is almost as tall as I am:

Luckily, SFS bass clarinetist Steve Sánchez was on hand to let me look at what was inside:

It’s a contrabass clarinet! The largest member in the clarinet family, contrabass clarinet plays a full octave lower than bass clarinet and two full octaves lower than standard clarinets.  This particular member of the clarinet family is a very important part of Meredith Monk’s Realm Variations, because of its unique tone color and extensive low range. Realm Variations will be premiered this Sunday at 2 pm, on March 25 in Ann Arbor, and on March 30 in New York City. Steve let me listen to him warm up for rehearsal to hear what this beast of an instrument sounds like:

Disclaimer: I play the clarinet. Two other members of my department, our former intern, two of the SFS librarians, the chorus librarian, and a member of our development department are also current or former clarinetists.  Sometimes on the weekends we all get together and play polkas.  Just kidding! Or am I….