Re: used helicons

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Posted by Paul R. Ogushwitz on May 27, 2000 at 05:27:43:

In Reply to: used helicons posted by Kevin Eckelkamp on May 26, 2000 at 23:34:23:

Hi Kevin. Good question!

I played a 4-valve BBb Conn helicon (vintage 1915) in parades etc for many years. Also owned a 1920's Eb Conn helicon that was played occasionally in parades and concerts. The helicon is an attention-getter. The state of music education being what it is, most people in the crowd can't tell a sousaphone from a vacuum cleaner. So mostly you will get attention from other musicians. You'll especially attract other helicon players and the occasional raincatcher-carrier, and you will find yourself discussing the following points.

The helicon bell sticks out (waaaaay out) to the left. This causes the instrument to be unbalanced -- it wants to rotate (clockwise, to someone facing the player). You have to put energy into resisting the rotation.

The bell is left-facing. If you are marching on the left side of the band, the bell is a traveling trash receptacle. After parades, I've emptied candy, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, little American flags on sticks, parking tickets, condoms (still in the original wrapper, thank goodness), and I can't remember what else. On the other hand, if you are marching in the ranks or on the right side, then your bell interferes with the player on your left whenever the band closes up.

According to Clifford Bevan (somebody check me on this?), the helicon was invented circa 1835 by the Cerveny people as a way for military bandsmen to conveniently carry large instruments on horseback. I have never had the pleasure (?) of playing an instrument on horseback. Imagine simultaneously balancing oneself on the horse, balancing an inherently unbalanced instrument on one's shoulder, keeping the music from falling out of the lyre, steering the horse, etc. One happy thought: on horseback, the bell would be elevated significantly, perhaps enough to cut down on the amount of trash that was thrown into the instrument -- except maybe for basketballs.

These are my "positive experiences with these vintage horns". I loved every minute of it.

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