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of a Piccolo Player

Illustrations by Ann-Sofie Verhoyen


The piccolo made its mildly startling entrance into an orchestra around about the early 1700’s. Some sources say 1711, with Handel’s opera Rinaldo. Possibly. 

Other Important Things happened in 1711. 

The Tuscarora War begins. Part of a Scottish cathedral collapses. A ship holding a mass of coins leaves the Netherlands and sinks. A wolf kills two shepherds in Italy. And there was a total lunar eclipse. So not a great year. 

On the plus side, the tuning fork was invented. And the piccolo joined the orchestra.

Three centuries later and the Piccolo Player is a solid, real-life person, who sits on a solid, real-life seat in the orchestra. Sometimes the seat even has a cushion. 

There are so many incredible orchestral pieces now that display the piccolo in all its glory. Beethoven’s Ninth, Scheherazade, Shostakovich’s everything, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Rossini’s operas, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth, Mahler’s Second, the list is endless. 

Well no, the list does end. But it shouldn’t. Composers, we need new piccolo-passionate pieces. Please.

Many people (flute players, I'm looking at you) struggle with the piccolo's existence. Admittedly, it does have some small potential to shriek when backed into a corner, trapped, fighting for its life. 

But I challenge you to listen to one of these lovely orchestral pieces that feature the smallest instrument. I dare you. It can add icing sugar to a chord, dance in a comedic opera, create a woody, hollow sound that weeps; it can hit you over the head with a storm, or draw you in with its vulnerability. 

So, there's my thought for the day. Maybe not a bad addition to the orchestra. Jury is still out on this one.

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