Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Gloves for playing outside

Last night was the first performance of The threepenny Opera at Norwich Playhouse and, having been engaged as a clarinettist (and later, “by the way, could you bring your tenor along too?”) I’m playing tenor sax and flute in the pit band. The show, with music by Kurt Weill and words by Bertolt Brecht, is immensely enjoyable. The only downside was freezing half to death in the dress rehearsal on Monday night. ‘It will be warmer tomorrow evening with an audience’ I thought. But when Tuesday arrived I regretted my optimism. Although plenty of people came along to watch, the temperature seemed to drop steadily over the course of the evening. I shall wrap up warm tonight.

As I sat in the kitchen this morning, mending the leather gloves that make cycling a viable means of transport in the Norfolk winter, I remembered that the clarinettist/alto saxophonist to my left had put on a pair of fingerless gloves during the interval but confided that she had never tried to play in them before. As a veteran of playing outdoors I suggested that the problem of playing in fingerless gloves is this: when you make the hand shape required to play, the material at the palm of the glove bunches up and collides with the keys. For string players the problem is similar, the only difference being that the gloves tend to deaden the strings. With a larger saxophone performance is possible but a little clumsy. Playing klezmer clarinet in the things is a non-starter.

The solution came when my daughter, who is handy with a pair of knitting needles, decided to make herself a pair of hand-warmers. When I saw them I immediately put in a request for a pair in my size. I was sent off to the market for wool and the appropriate needles and then waited (and waited and waited). Finally the moment came and I've never looked back. No more the Hobson's choice between rapidly stiffening fingers and the unintentional pressing of the wrong keys at outdoor gigs. The gloves are basically a sleeve of wool with a hole for the thumb at one end. They keep the wrists and the backs of the hands warm without creating awkward folds of material in the palm area. They work a treat and I'll be taking them to the show tonight (along with my thermals). For a show based on The Beggar's Opera they are just the thing.

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