Grampa's no-name French HP

Renata gave me the privilege of reviewing this cool instrument. It was her grandfather's.

Because it has pins instead of screws with threads, it is earlier. I would think that it was made around 1870-1880.

It appears to have been a high pitch instrument, and would have been 23 inches long. But now it is 22.25 inches long. The left hand joint and the barrel have both been shortened. With the shortening, it might pass for a C clarinet if played with a very flat village piano. My Ridenour C clarinet is 20 3/8 inches. (Both measurements without the mouthpiece.)

My other mouthpieces would not fit on this without modification. The wooden mouthpiece is very nice!

There is a special key to probably be played by the ring finger. Not the key for Bb positioned on top, but the key behind that runs north-south. This seems to be to make the B/F# in tune. Without that key, those two notes are too flat. The advantage for a flat B natural is that the 1+3 forked fingering works well for Bb.

Renata gives this charming story: “My Opa (grandfather), Jannis Cappon, was a teacher, and later a school principal, in the The Netherlands in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Every morning the students sang hymns to start the day, and because my Opa felt that he couldn't carry a tune, he looked for an instrument that he could use to lead the singing. He bought the clarinet second hand (it was actually made before he was born - his year of birth was 1896) from a local group of musicians, who were changing their ensemble to accommodate the new low pitch Bb clarinets. My mother has good memories of my grandfather playing the clarinet at school. The clarinet was later passed down to one of his sons, Jacob Cappon, who played it for a while in a church community praise band, in Toronto. My uncle kindly gave the clarinet to me, since I'm the only one of the grandchildren that plays clarinet, with the understanding that I will keep it in the family (my son plays clarinet also, so that will be easy to do). I value the clarinet, simply because it was Opa's and I know he had a lot of pleasure in playing it.”

More: I was thinking about my Opa's story. So here is a piece of family history, just if you are interested. My Opa always said he couldn't carry a tune. Interestingly, my Oma (his wife, Elizabeth) was very musical. She sang in numerous choirs (like me) and played the harmonium (pump organ). There is an interesting story about her parents (this will all make sense in a bit). My Oma's father (my great-grandfather) was a farm laborer in the Netherlands who fell in love with the wealthy only daughter of the owner of the farm, and she with him. His boss, the farm owner, refused to let them marry, and sent the laborer to the United States where he worked in a fish market near New York. While he was in the US, the daughter pined away for him and became thin and pale. Finally her father relented and wrote to the laborer to come back and marry his daughter. The laborer (my great-grandfather) eventually inherited the farm. The interesting thing is that he was also very musical. He conducted the town band and played the organ in the church. He also insisted that each of his 10 children be given a musical instrument - some were wind and brass instruments and some keyboard, which is how my Oma ended up playing the harmonium. I wonder how my Opa, who claimed he couldn't sing, felt when he met my Oma and her musical father and siblings? Perhaps some one in the family helped him learn how to play the clarinet? I do have the original Dutch fingering chart for an Albert system clarinet which my Opa gave to my uncle along with the clarinet. The clarinet on the chart has a few more rings and keys then my Opa's clarinet, but it is very similar. If I'm able I'll see if I can upload it, along with a photo of my Oma and Opa, to the site.

The clarinet suffers from being shortened and does not play very well in tune with the piano. But it is fairly well in tune with itself and it certainly is charming!

Scan0004.jpg (below): Elizabeth and Jannis Cappon

Scan0005.jpg (below): klepverdeeling van de clarinet (fingering chart, Albert system)