Introducing our Howarth Single Reed Team, Clarinet Manager/Marketing & Social Media Katie, Saxophone and Flute Specialist Gavin, Saxophone Specialist Ciaran, Single Reed Specialist Manon, Clarinet Specialist Grace and Single Reed Specialist Aidan.
Our single reed team are based in our London Showrooms on Chiltern Street and are our specialists for all your clarinet, saxophone and flute enquires.
Our dynamic team of old and new faces bring an unrivalled breadth of experience to our single reed department, meeting the needs of our wide customer base.
Learn more about the instruments they play, their first experiences with music and their favourite pieces of music.
How long have you been working at Howarth?
Katie: 4 years
Gavin: Four months
Ciaran: Five months
Manon: Since March
Grace: Since March
Aidan: Since March
What instrument do you play, and why?
Gavin: Yamaha Atelier 82Z Custom tenor sax, Selmer MKVI alto sax, Mike Allen flute, Hammig alto flute and Boosey & Hawkes 1010 Bb clarinet.
C: YAS, YTS & YSS 475 & LeBlanc ‘Bliss’ Clarinet. The clarinet was my first love, and I upgraded from a Yamaha 255 (or whatever it was at the time) to the Bliss. It was practically love at first sight! The general aesthetic of this clarinet, as well as the sound matching everything I envisaged for my instrument. With saxophones, I started on the YAS 275 and since the 475 is the natural upgrade, I thought it best to stick with the devil I knew when I upgraded my Alto, as well as making the step into Tenors and Sopranos.
M: On saxophone I play on a Yamaha YAS-62 alto (though I am looking at changing this to a Selmer Series II or reference 54) and a 992 Yanagisawa soprano which I love. (I use the curved neck and the bronze body gives a warmth to the sound that) and I have a pair of R13 Buffet clarinets.
Grace: I play the Selmer Signature because, I feel I can get a very rich tone on it which I enjoy and also the variation of sound that can be achieved. As well as this, I like the heavier and more raised keys on the instrument which I feel add a sense of stability.
A: I play soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and flute.
On Soprano, I play a stunning 1976 Selmer MKVI. I chose it as an upgrade from my previous soprano because the instrument just suited me. Primarily, it has a great sound that’s full bodied and warm. And despite vintage sopranos being infamous for their challenging intonation, it’s scale seems to suit my playing and plays very in-tune for me.
On Alto, I play a 1978 Buffet S1. It was the first saxophone I bought entirely by myself when I started my first job after finishing secondary school, so it has quite a lot of sentimental value. It’s a wonderful horn to play.
K: I play Buffet Festival Clarinets. I have always played on Buffet, moving from a B12, to E13 and then to Festival. Whilst I have tried lots of clarinets a long the way (and many more since working at Howarth), I found the Buffet most suited me. I choose the Festival as it had a nice balance and rich tonal quality.
How did you start playing or begin with music?
M: There was a lot of singing around the house when I was little and I started with theory and the recorder. I chose to play the saxophone when I saw a teacher demonstration at an open day where they played a short piece in every style and I fell in love with the sound. I picked up the clarinet not too long after so that I could play more chamber music and in orchestras.
Grace: I began playing music, as many others did, with the recorder. Then, when walking through a clarinet quintet rehearsal, I was completely taken by the look and sound of both the clarinet and bass clarinet. My, Great Aunt then found her old clarinet in the loft which she kindly gifted to me. I began to learn the clarinet then, and I credit a lot of my musical success to her because of the gift.
A: Despite not coming from a musical family, I started music at the age of 8 as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. As a chorister I had to learn piano and an orchestral instrument. I chose clarinet but, in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy it one bit. When I was 12, I dropped music almost entirely until I was 14 and decided to try alto saxophone so I could join my school’s big band. From then on, I never looked back, adding more instruments to my arsenal; including picking up clarinet again two years ago which has been a delight to play this time around!
K: Like many others I first started with the piano and recorder, beginning at 6 years old. Having enjoyed playing recorder, a year later I applied to learn either flute or clarinet. Clarinet became available first so that was it. I was too small for the standard Bb and so for the first year I played the Lyon C clarinet. After moving on to the Bb clarinet I was able to join the junior band with the local music service and continued on from there. Years later I picked up the saxophone as well.
Gavin: A series of unfortunate events…
C: My first study was actually piano, when I was about 7. I was always fascinated by music, and it was something that my siblings and I were all interested in getting into. As I started the piano, my older brother was also getting started on the violin. A few years later I picked up the clarinet, something I wanted to do so that I could get involved in orchestras and bands at school. I loved the Piano to pieces but didn’t enjoy the fact that I wasn’t able to play it with other people very easily. Finally, having gotten a few grades under my belt on the clarinet, I decided that I wanted to play the sax! I was also old enough to handle the weight of the instrument. I got a YAS 275 and taught myself on it before having lessons on it at Grade 6 standard.
What have you learnt from working at Howarth or interesting thing you have seen whilst working here?
Grace: It is really interesting to learn about the different mouthpieces being created since the stopping of production of Hans Zinner Mouthpieces.
K: I have learnt so much more about the intricacies of the clarinet, learning how the keywork has changed over time is particularly interesting, with new modifications being made even now in order to improve mechanisms and increase the reliability of the instrument. I have also learnt far more about the oboe than I ever expected I would!
C: What I’ve found the most interesting so far, in my quite short-lived time at Howarth must be the depth to which customisation can go for reeds and mouthpieces, as well as instruments and how technical things can get! Learning about all this has been totally amazing for me along with getting to try out the mouthpieces for myself! All the little things that go into each piece, each reed, each sax, or even each crook that can take your set up in a plethora of different ways amazes me every day.
M: The first few weeks here have greatly increased the breadth and depth of my clarinet knowledge.
Where did you study? What did you enjoy most about studying there?
C: I studied at Wells Cathedral School and then Bath Spa University. Both were absolutely sublime in their own little ways! Wells was fabulous because of firstly how beautiful the city and the buildings in the school are, but I also really enjoyed being at a school that was immersed in the city, so that I could sneak off to town for a burger every now and then! Bath Spa is also beautiful. The campus itself being set upon the grounds of a former Gothic manor makes it the perfect space to study literature, particularly the Gothic! And studying in Bath itself was a wonderful experience, notwithstanding the discounts at the Roman Baths in the city centre!
Favourite Piece of Music?
M: It’s hard to say what my favourite piece is but at the moment I’m really enjoying discovering and arranging music by Ravel for the saxophone.
A: This is a tricky one to answer, so I have two answers.
My favourite piece to play is probably Carmen Fantasy by Bizet/Francois Borne on alto saxophone. It’s a bit crazy but has some beautiful lyrical sections in it. The buzz (and exhaustion) when you get to the end is something else!
It’s going to be impossible to pin down my favourite music to listen to, but if I were to recommend two albums, they would be The Inevitable End by Royksopp and Music for People in Trouble by Susanne Sundfor. Both incredible albums that transport me to different worlds.
K: So difficult to pick a favourite, I do love a film soundtrack. How to Train Your Dragon would have to be my favourite score; it is a regular listen in the Clarinet Shop! I did a whole presentation on the use of music and sound in the film whilst at university.
Grace: Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov
Most memorable concert or gig you’ve attended?
Grace: The BBC Proms to watch Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. This really inspired me to continue on my musical journey.
M: Second row Karl Kriikku performing Magnus Lindberg’s clarinet concerto at the Usher Hall
16th World Sax Congress in St Andrews for me, especially a performance of Arno Bornkamp’s quartet with 4 baritone saxes.
A: Right now; the Gypsy Jazz go at the Artillery Arms last night. it was so nice to see a bustling pub filled with friends, both in the audience and onstage. There was some stonking clarinet playing.
K: It is so hard to choose one, I love musical theatre and enjoy pretty much anything. My top two are Les Misérables and West Side Story. I often listen to musical soundtracks on my commute and have recently been listening to Come From Away, Heathers and Hamilton on repeat.
M: Sweeney Todd which I can probably recite word for word, otherwise Oklahoma
C: My favourite musical is Oliver! Especially the 1968 film. I just love the way that regardless of where his search for a sense of belonging in life takes him, he always chooses to be a good person, I think that’s a really important message that deserves to last a long time.
Favourite venue you have played in?
Gavin: Many favourites but Ronnie Scott’s is the top of the list.
K: The Royal Albert Hall! It was my dream since starting the clarinet to play there as there were pictures of performances there in the waiting room at the music centre I attended.
Grace: Roast Dinner
A: You can’t beat a good curry!
M: French pastries
C: I make an excellent burger (with meat or vegan patties) as well as French toast sandwiches, but my favourite food has to be a Pork Kiev wrapped in bacon! I only ever found these at one of the butchers in Wells but my goodness are they delicious, served with some roasties and an assortment of veg and you’ve got yourself a treat!
C: I’m a massive football fan. I like to pay attention to as many teams and leagues as possible, however the team that I support the most (for better or for worse) is Tottenham Hotspur! I’ve also always enjoyed playing football, whether its with 5-a-side tournaments or full 11-a-side games.
Grace: I love to draw and paint. I find it so relaxing in my spare time.
K: I enjoy baking!
Best thing about living/working in London?
Grace: The best thing is definitely the access to musicals, shows and concerts. If there is anything you are interested in seeing, it will most likely be somewhere in London.
A: Two things; you’re never at a loss for what to do as there will always be a gig, concert, restaurant, pub or club you can go to if you have an empty evening. I also love the hustle and bustle, the sense that everyone has somewhere to be. I’m sure the constant rushing around will grow tiresome eventually, but I’ve been here three years now and whenever I leave London, I always miss the fast pace of life in the city.
Recommendation to do/see/eat in London
A: I believe going to one of the many curry houses on Brick Lane is a rite of passage for any Londoner, especially if you’re living east. Don’t book a table in advance, walk down the street, speak to a few different restaurants and negotiate the best deal with the front of house staff before committing!
Gavin: Highgate cemetery
Grace: The Camden Cheese Bar is a fantastic place to eat if you are a lover of cheese and as it is in the centre of Camden market, there is a great opportunity to explore the stalls and shops there too.
M: If you like Agatha Christie, Eltham Palace is one of the best days out I’ve had in London. It’s a Tudor hall with an art deco extension, gardens and moat and everything is kept as it was when its eccentric owners lived there in the 30s.