A Clarinetist in Paris

Montmartre and Museums

This week has been an absolute blur of sightseeing and practicing! I’ve established my routine (at least until classes start) of practicing as soon as I wake up so I can spend the day wandering and sightseeing guilt-free. I don’t know about anyone else, but it stresses me out to have practice lingering at the back of my mind all day, and it’s SO easy to come up with excuses later in the day – I need to make dinner, I’m right here at the Eiffel Tower (or insert other inconvenient location to access clarinet), I would love to take a nap, I’m tired, etc etc.  It’s also great to practice first thing so if you are really motivated, you can practice AGAIN at night, like I’ve been doing.


I inadvertently became a character in a Stephen King novel/movie this past week when I got locked in the Montmartre Cemetery.  I decided to visit last Monday to find the graves of Berlioz, Sax, Boulanger, Nijinsky, and several other famous musicians/composers when it started to lightly rain. Not to be deterred, I trekked on over the cobblestoned path, nearly to Nijinsky’s grave……when the torrential rain came out of nowhere! (Ok, it had been drizzling off and on all day, so maybe it wasn’t the best idea to visit a cemetery without an umbrella.)  Guards came around ringing bells to alert cemetery visitors to leave, as the storm could cause overhanging branches to fall. I awkwardly stumbled/tried to run on the cobblestones back to the entrance, dodging local cemetery cats taking shelter in mausoleums, getting soaked in the process. When I made it back to the entrance gates, the doors were closed and locked, and not a guard was to be found. No bells ringing nearby….I was alone in a cemetery. If it was dark out, it would have been the cliche beginnings of any horror movie ever (except I’ve seen enough scary movies to know that I would NOT be the one to investigate mysterious noises/beings/etc).  If this became a scary movie I would probably hear Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold” and see the ghosts of Nijinsky and Boulanger dancing while the cats made it Pet Sematary-esque.  Anyways, the rain got heavier as I waited for about half an hour until a guard FINALLY came around and let me out, by which point I was drenched, but at least I got an interesting story out of it.

Jenny56RueLepic (2)

Another highlight of my week was visiting 56 Rue Lepic, aka Vandoren. For those of you who are not enlightened, Vandoren makes the BEST clarinet reeds, mouthpieces, ligatures, and clarinet accessories (in my humble opinion). **And for anyone wondering, I’ve included my clarinet equipment setup below, since I am frequently asked what I use.**  I was invited by my friends at Vandoren, who gave me a plethora of clarinet articles, information, and knowledge.  Besides spending time and learning from a walking clarinet/music/Paris encyclopedia, I had a great time browsing the music collection and touring 56 Rue Lepic, which is central to Vandoren’s history. For any classical musician visiting Paris, a stroll up Rue Lepic is a must – not only does it house Vandoren, but also Van Gogh’s old studio and Adolphe Sax’s workshop, not to mention it is in the heart of Montmartre.


On another rainy day in Paris, I toured the Le musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris (not to be confused with Le musée national d’art moderne in the Pompidou Centre), where I saw several works by Picasso, Matisse, and several other artists, including Sturtevant’s “The House of Horrors” exhibit, which was basically a haunted house ride with creepy soundtrack and spooky details enhancing her works. I wasn’t sure how scary it would be, so I decided to take the train with two girls from Denmark (it wasn’t that scary after all). It still amazes me how cosmopolitan Paris is-I’ve seen and heard people from all parts of the world, and it’s amazing how art (or in this case, art in the form of terror) can bring people together. Just like music, art knows no boundaries-it’s a universal language.


I decided to give the Montmartre Cemetery another go today, when it wasn’t raining. I must admit, it’s a lot more pleasant when it’s bright and sunny….and unlocked. I visited several other graves of musicians I didn’t see last time (Klose, Jolivet, Offenbach), but the highlight of this trip were the famous Montmartre Cemetery cats. I put my cat-whispering skills to work and it wasn’t long before I befriended a few cats (the pieces of baguette I offered them helped).  If you’re looking for cats here, you have to leave the main streets and walk between graves-most of the cats I saw were lounging on top of graves, in mausoleums, or in urns. I saw a lady with about ten cans of cat food who was much more popular with the cats than I was-she had about fifteen cats crowded around her, but they ran when I came by. Saturday is Caturday, even in Paris!

It’s been an adventure-packed week, and I’m excited to see what next week has in store for me! Hope everyone is having a great weekend!


*My clarinet setup: Buffet Crampon R13 nickel plated clarinet; Vandoren M13 mouthpiece; Vandoren Optimum ligature (with the four dot plate); Vandoren V21 reeds, strength 3.5+; Moennig barrel


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