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Lesson from famous clarinetist pure Bliss

My clarinet lesson from the world-famous musician Julian Bliss.

During our midterm school break last week I went with my music teacher Dr Tully to a workshop put on by Mr Julian Bliss, the world-famous clarinetist who is here in Bermuda for the Bermuda Festival.

The workshop took place in the amphitheatre of the Fairmont Southampton, which holds hundreds of people, but because of the midterm break, there were not many students there.

Mr Bliss told us about how he performed as a five-year-old for Prince Phillip, and when he was 12 he performed for Her Majesty the Queen during her Golden Jubilee Year.

He gave us a fascinating workshop, telling us about some important techniques such as “circular breathing” — used by wind instrument players to produce a continuous tone without interruption.

It is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks.

Mr Bliss said that the famous Kenny G is a real “master” at this technique!

He also showed us “flutter tonguing” as he performed the famous George Gershwin piece called Rhapsody in Blue. We watched in amazement as his fingers flew over the keys of his clarinet and listened as the notes of the melody moved from low to high, seamlessly and effortlessly.

When he played Flight of the Bumble Bee we could almost feel the buzzing of the bees in the amphitheatre!

He told us that we should always practice slowly at first to make sure that we have the notes “secure” before we build up speed in the pieces we play, making sure that we work on a difficult phrase for a while then leave it, and come back to the same phrase again later.

One tip he gave us made everyone laugh.

He said that his teacher, a clarinetist in the famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, advised him to lie on his back with a heavy book across his stomach and practice his clarinet that way so that the stomach muscles worked hard to push the air up into the lungs and into the mouthpiece of the clarinet.

I felt very privileged being in the workshop with Mr Bliss, who is only 27 years old.

I was able to speak to him on a one-to-one basis and ask him questions about the reed for my clarinet and how far it should be in the mouth to get the best quality of sound and tone.

It was truly an honour to be in the presence of, and be taught by, one of the most famous musicians in the world.

Tips from the expert: Mr Julian Bliss, centre, with Sierra to his left together with other students in the workshop

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Published February 18, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2016 at 7:50 am)

Lesson from famous clarinetist pure Bliss

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