About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Sunday, September 27, 2015

IHS LA - The Search for a New Horn Case

One of my goals during this year's International Horn Symposium was to choose a new horn case. When I bought my Jerry Lechniuk horn a couple of years ago, the previous owner threw in an old Marcus Bonna case with it. It was a usable case, but the straps were held together with added clips, the handles started wearing out, the backpack straps were uncomfortable, and the lining began ripping in places. It was time to replace it.

Original horn case

One of the pleasures of attending a conference is visiting the exhibitors and, usually, buying stuff. There were many top-notch exhibitors at IHS LA. I planned to begin my search by looking at the very popular Marcus Bonna cases, but his booth was unmanned when I first visited, so I ended up looking at the Wiseman cases.

The Wiseman cases aren't like any other horn case. The opera case looks like a large briefcase. It opens from the top and you slide your bell and corpus into the slots made for them. It is called the opera case because it was made for working in tight performing areas, like the pit at an opera house. All Wiseman cases with zippers come with detachable zippers for easy replacement if the zipper breaks. You can just pull the whole zipper off as it is attached with super strong velcro. So practical.

It's an impressive design, but the newest case is even more impressive. It's made of carbon fiber, so it's almost indestructible, and it very compact, though unusual looking. I was really impressed with the design - The interior is structured to fit everything safely in the least amount of space.

Wiseman carbon fibre horn case

The story behind the company is quite interesting. Howard Wiseman made his first case, a bassoon case, for himself as a teenager who had to walk two miles and then catch a train to school and was concerned about the weight, awkwardness and size of his bassoon case. His teacher then wanted one, too. By the time Mr. Wiseman was 17, bassoonists throughout Europe had ordered cases from him.

I really liked the Wiseman case, however they are the most expensive cases I looked at. They do have a lifetime guarantee and would be ideal for an instrumentalist who travels a lot. I generally put my horn in the backseat  of my car and drive to rehearsals, so I couldn't justify spending that much on a case. At the IHS Symposium the one pictured here was available for $1,800.

I went back to Marcus Bonna, who was very helpful and happy to spend time talking with me. His company is located in Brazil and he makes a wide variety of horn cases, which are very popular. His newest cases include "baby" versions of larger cases and wheeled cases! I learned from him that my horn has unusually large corpus and would not fit in his compact cases. (The corpus is the body of the horn, minus the bell. These cases are all for horns with detachable bells.) Mr. Bonna had not brought his whole line of cases with him, so he suggested I go visit the booth of Siegfried's Call, a horn shop in Beacon, New York.

At the Siegfried's Call booth I met Scott Bacon, owner of the shop. He also had only a few cases with him. (It's expensive to bring  large items and then you have to take them home if you don't sell them.) He offered free shipping on a case from his shop in New York. By now I was somewhat confused by the Marcus Bonna model numbers, and I did not want to accidentally buy a case that my horn wouldn't fit in. Scott sent me back to Marcus to find out exactly which model numbers would work. Back to Marcus Bonna, who suggested that the M5 or M7 were my best options. Back to Scott, who chatted with my daughter and I about why he doesn't stock the MB7, my daughter's case. The design has the bell, in it's soft slip case, sitting atop the leadpipe, because the corpus rest below the bell. Scott said the leadpipe can cause tiny dents in the bell when it presses down on the leadpipe.

Marcus Bonna MB5

Marcus Bonna MB5 interior

Marcus Bonna MB7
Both Marcus and Scott suggested I visit another vendor at the Symposium, so my next stop was a room filled with cases. A friendly young man helped me try both of the models. He did not feel that the MB5 was a good fit for my horn. Again, the large diameter of the corpus was the issue. It fit, but the horn pressed up against the sides of the case, which could mean potential damage. He suggested the MB7 was the best choice.

Back to Scott to see if he would order it. He again expressed and clarified his reservations about the MB7. Then he showed me yet another case! This one was a Cardo case. This had dense foam instead of soft padding. This was a case you could even check when you flew, it was so protective. It was harder to pack up the horn because the foam fit so snugly around it. It was more expensive than the Marcus Bonnas but less than the Wiseman case. I went off to think.

Cardo case

All of the cases I looked at are designed for cut-bell horns, and all come with backpack straps as well as shoulder straps and handles.

Just as I had when I was looking at the Wiseman cases, I came back to the idea that I don't travel much with my horn. In fact, this trip from Chicago to LA was the first flight I had taken with my horn. I don't need the extra protection of the Cardo case. I don't want to inadvertently damage my bell, so the MB7 was out. The MB5, the case that so many of my horn player friends have, was the one. I went back to Scott, ordered the case, and it arrived at our house in Illinois a few days later, before we did! I started my search for a case on Monday of the conference and placed my order on Thursday. It was time well spent and boy, did I learn a lot about horn cases.

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