Replica of Soprano Ophicleide in Eb
Those that are not very familiar with the ophicleide might assume that this was the smallest member of this long obsolete "family". In truth, there may have never been any of this smallest size made in the 19th century and this is the invention of Hudson Graham, who it was made for. Adolphe Sax had made sopranos in C and I had previously made a replica of an original that resides in the National Music Museum for Phil Palmer. Hudson now owns that instrument as well. This Eb soprano is the same size as the Eb keyed bugles that I have made for many years, although the fingerings are that of the ophicleide. The over all length is 17 1/2" and the bell rim diameter is 4 1/2". Bass ophicleides in C and Bb range in length from about 40 to 48". It is made of nickel silver and engraved in the style of presentation instruments from the mid-19th century. There are not many engravers today that can do this work to such a high level of art. This was done by James McKenzie of Lawrence Kansas, who has engraved several other projects for me, including the double echo cornet and modern corno da caccia. The biggest challenges in making this instrument were in fabricating the bottom curve and designing the ergonomics of the keywork. Miniaturizing keys from a full size ophicleide just wouldn't work for relatively large human hands. The serpent or rattlesnake hand rest has appeared on all but the first ophicleide that I have made. This detail was inspired by the serpent hand rest on the Sax soprano original and hints of the serpent lineage from which ophicleides grew.
One last photo below shows Hudson Graham's "family" of ophicleides, including this soprano in Eb, the replica Sax soprano in C, an original alto in Eb (sometimes called a quinticlave, this is a very early example by the inventor of the ophicleide, Halary), bass ophicleide in C and the replica contrabass in Eb.