We now have in stock a new line of Denis Wick mouthpieces called the Heritage Series. These have the same model numbers and inside dimensions as the current line, but they feature a new outer shape. The shape goes back to the end of the 19th century, and features a thin rim profile, a 1mm wall thickness just under the rim, and extra weight at the bottom of the cup. The weight of these mouthpieces is the same as the traditional shape, but distributed differently. Samples were shown at the 2006 ITF in Birmingham, UK, and were a hit. Production Heritage mouthpieces have gold plate on the rim and inside the cup.
The Heritage style mouthpiece is designed by combining thin upper walls and a lighter top with more mass at the center. The thin walls and lighter top enable faster articulation response, better control over softer dynamics, and increased response in the upper registers. The heavy center mass helps to stabilize the sound, maintains good projection, and adds clarity to the tone.
That brings me to the first story. Do you know where the outer shape on Denis Wick mouthpieces came from? Three incidents combined to create that shape. First, Renold Schilke once said that the outer shape of a mouthpiece was not important. (We now know that's not true. Perhaps he was leading others off the path?) Then Mr. Wick's machinist thought that if he made a smaller outer mouthpiece shape, he would end up with more brass shavings leftover, which could be resold as scrap for a higher profit. Lastly, these lighter mouthpieces worked very well in the old Besson trombones, which were considered to be a bit dull sounding.
Did you know that Mr. Wick introduced the Conn trombone sound to the UK? After World War II, there was an embargo in the UK, to keep out foreign competition, in order to help the UK industries rebuild. That embargo also included US-made musical instruments. Never mind that Mr. Jeffrey Hawkes (of Boosey & Hawkes) was a member of the UK Board of Trade. In 1951, the New York Philharmonic came to Edinburgh and played a concert using Conn trombones. Mr. Wick wasn't able to obtain one for himself until 1958, when he traveled to Brussels for the World's Fair. He ordered a Conn 8H trombone to be delivered to a Brussels music store, then bought it and smuggled it back into the UK wrapped in brown paper, where he paid a customs fee of $5. Then when the London Symphony would travel to the US for a summer concert series in Florida, he would bring back a few Conn trombones for colleagues and students. And that is why they play Conn trombones in the UK.