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Finest clarinetists to sound off at annual conference

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Hundreds of clarinetists will be converging on Salt Lake City next week to take part in ClarinetFest 2003. The International Clarinet Association's annual conference, which will feature clarinetists and clarinet ensembles from 17 countries, comes to Utah this year for the first time.

Beginning Wednesday and running until July 13, the conference offers master classes, recitals, lectures and concerts, all of which are open to the public. "This isn't just for members of ICA," said conference organizer Kathy Pope. "Everyone is invited to come. We're going to have some of the finest clarinetists from around the world here."

Pope, who teaches at the University of Utah, said that it was almost accidental that she ended up organizing the conference. "About three or four years ago, Robert Walzel called me up. At the time he was in Texas. He had heard about our new facility (Libby Gardner Concert Hall) and was interested in it. And he had heard that I had two CDs out, and he told me, 'Anyone who can make clarinet CDs can also organize a clarinet conference.' "

In the meantime, Walzel, who is ICA president, left Sam Houston State University in Texas to come to Utah to assume the directorship of the U.'s department of music. "And that pretty much sealed things up," Pope said. However, she added that she was still required to send in an application to ICA, to obtain the organization's formal approval for the Salt Lake City venue.

The conference deals with both jazz and classical music, and coming to Salt Lake City will be some of the most famous names among today's clarinetists, including Eddie Daniels and David Shifrin. The Utah Symphony's three clarinetists — Tad Calcara, Russell Harlow and Lee Livengood — will also be spotlighted during the five-day gathering.

Harlow has just been named an official Yamaha Artist, and his appearance at the conference is sponsored by the instrument manufacturing company. Harlow said that Yamaha recently provided him with a set of custom clarinets, which he helped the company's technicians develop.

His association with Yamaha started when he was trying out different clarinets to replace his worn out, 30-year-old instrument. "I tried all these new clarinets and didn't like any of them," Harlow said. He contacted Yamaha, and was asked what exactly he was looking for in a clarinet. Harlow told them that the sound of new instruments isn't on the same high level as older clarinets, because they're made differently today. "Older clarinets sound better," he said. "Modern ones are heavier and thicker, and their bore is a little bigger, and that changes their sound quality."

After meeting with Harlow, Yamaha agreed to work on restyling its clarinets. When he finally had the opportunity of trying out these instruments, Harlow felt that the company was on the right track. "I told them, 'You're getting close, but you're not quite there yet.' "

Pope said that Yamaha will be one of the 50 exhibitors during the conference. "Clarinet manufacturers, clarinet music and just about everything associated with the clarinet will be on display here (in the U.'s Olpin Student Union Ballroom). This is going to be a great place to try new equipment and instruments and discover new music and CDs."

The conference's official opening Wednesday afternoon will be a recital at noon in Libby Gardner Concert Hall by Philippe Cuper. Currently the principal clarinet of the Paris Opera Orchestra, Cuper is a former first-chair player with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. "He is an absolutely outstanding clarinetist, one of the best," Pope said.

Daniels and Calcara will be spotlighted in two concerts. The first is Wednesday in Kingsbury Hall, with the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra, and will also feature clarinetists Gary Foster and Phil Woods. The other concert, with the Utah Symphony, is presented in conjunction with the conference on Friday in Abravanel Hall.

A highlight of the five-day event will be a concert Thursday evening in Kingsbury Hall by the Opus Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of its music director Douglas Kinney-Frost. Soloists David Shifrin and Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr will play Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and the Double Concerto by Utah composer William Wallace.

Last year, Kinney-Frost announced that Opus had been forced to cancel its 2002-03 season due to financial problems. He was, however, willing to resurrect the orchestra for this event. "We're very lucky to get Opus and Doug," said Pope.

On a lighter side, klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman will be in concert Thursday in Kingsbury Hall.

Sunday, July 13, Larry Combs, principal clarinet of the Chicago Symphony, and a clarinet choir will be the guest artists for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast.

What: ClarinetFest 2003

Where: Various venues

When: Wednesday-

July 13

How much: $10, afternoon recitals and lectures

$14-$34, evening concerts

Phone: 355-2787 or



Evening concerts:

— Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra, and Eddie Daniels and Tad Calcara, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Kingsbury Hall, $15

— Opus Chamber Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Kingsbury Hall, $15

— Giora Feidman, 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Kingsbury Hall, $15

— Utah Symphony concert, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Abravanel Hall, $14-$34 (students, $8)

— Joaquin Valdepenas, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, $10

E-MAIL: ereichel@desnews.com