Gail Warnaar Remembers Jack Spratt

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Home Forums Announcements Double Reeds in the News Gail Warnaar Remembers Jack Spratt

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    Delmar Williams

    Jack Spratt died peacefully in the early morning hours of July 12, Thursday. At 91 and a half years, with a still sharp mind but a worn out body he has left many of us with many unique and special memories.

    Simple services will be at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 99 Pierce Street, in East Greenwich RI, at eleven a.m. on Saturday the 21st of July. It is just off I-95.

    His youngest son and daughter-in-law reside at: Steve & Christine Spratt, 1317 Electric Court, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.

    For all double reed players of my generation Jack’s passing marks the end of an era. Many of us reminisced in Ithaca of buying reeds, our first reed making knife, oboe tubes and mandrels, or cane in any state of preparation from Jack Spratt Woodwind Shop. Spratt was THE FIRST such shop in the U.S., to be followed within ten years by Edmund Nielsen, R.D. Gilbert, and on and on until it is today we have a myrid of options to purchase reeds, cane, and tools.

    Jack, as he was called from the time he headed a band in high school, was christened Edward N. Spratt. He remembered the auspicious day he had to tell his father that his band was advertised as the ‘Jack Spratt Orchestra’. Son John is also known as Jack, as is son Steven who upon beginning his Maritime Academy schooling was told there are four Stevens in this class. You will be Jack. We will see what history does to grandson Logan. The girls, daughter Jeannina and granddaughter Nora will no doubt retain their given identities.

    The Spratt Woodwind Shop really began as Spratt Music Publishing Company.

    With a copy of the Mozart Second Bassoon Concerto in hand Jack visited an engraver / printer and asked how much to print up a few copies of this. Well then, how much to print up a dozen copies, 30 copies, 100 copies? In those days of painstaking type setting it really cost only pennies more to print the next hundred copies, so as an astute young businessman, why get only a few copies when you can easily have several boxes printed. Traveling at the time with a Marine Band he visited the local music store of every town they played in and sold them a few copies of Mozart and a box of his hand made bassoon reeds. This all helped to feed a young family at home as well as seed a business that for nearly 70 years has sold Mozart and reeds and a whole lot more.

    The business became a full line music store in Stamford CT. The publishing grew into a catalog of several hundred titles, most of which were written to make young players sound good as they learned their skills and began the school music programs of the U.S. There were no previously published solos and teaching materials for a youngster to purchase. Likewise for school and church choirs. As his friends wrote music for the new 20th Century market of school string, wind and choral music, Jack published it, and sold it.

    The Spratt Woodwind Shop and the Publishing Company eventually moved to Old Greenwich CT where we all ordered our reeds, cane, and tools for many years. If a bassoonist wanted a widget in Bb and Jack did not have it he would find it or make it for you. If the instrument did not play properly he would fix it for you. If you wanted to play a certain piece he would publish it for you. Thus the standards for today’s double reed business market were established.

    Jack was also a sailor, a good one! The HOPE participated in many of the East Coast’s Tall Ship Regattas. She was a 54-foot oyster sloop, the last of the sailing ships of its kind on the Atlantic coast. It had an engine that only ran on his constant tender loving care and expertise. It also had a gaff rigged main sail of over 1,000 square feet of canvas, a deck to accommodate a whole crew’s chaise lounge chairs, a keel and hull weighing 26 ton, and a stylish capt’n complete with pipe and cap and dress whites. Some of us also remember the dark red Cadillac with the ‘Capt’n’ plates. I will never forget sailing in to Newport RI in gale force winds with everything flying and the ‘Hope’ cooking. We were headed for the Classic Yacht Regatta, and every other boat was coming in with sails reefed and storm jibs up. What a day!

    Jack lived modestly while pretending to be a rich man. It was not how much money one had to spend; it was the quality of life’s experiences and relationships that counted in life. He enjoyed life, and people. He loved to see new places and experience new things. He could tell a great story, and an equally good joke. If Jack Spratt had not been where he was at the time he began the first woodwind shop the country knew I’m sure someone else would have filled this need, but it would have lacked the panache, the creativity, and the business sense that drove it for seventy years.

    The Publishing Company will continue to furnish music to young students who will sound good with Spratt Publications. This is to be the Spratt legacy for many generations yet to come.

    The memories I personally will forever cherish are the reeds and tools which came from Old Greenwich CT, the bassoonists and musical colleagues he gathered around him, both in person and in photos on the walls of his Greenwich Shop, the years at Wildacres with the Popkin / Glickman Camp, his late wife Georgia’s artistic skills so gracious generosity which were shared so freely, the generosity of spirit and character, a mind that could remember anybody from any place and always a good story, and of course the Capt’n of the ‘HOPE’ bringing that regal ship into Newport under full sail, the envy of everyone on the water.

    I will miss him as deaply as I miss my own Father.

    In loving memory,

    Gail Warnaar

    Charles McCracken

    Thank you Gail, for that kind rememberance of Jack. Indeed, I bought some of my first reed making tools and music from Jack as a high school student in the early 70’s and even made a trip from home in Northern New Jersey to Old Greenwich once to get cane and a mandrel from him. He was quite a character, gruff but friendly to this aspiring bassoonst back then. He also had one of the most eclectic catalogues of any double-reed supplier that I can recall. He was one of a kind and will surely be missed.
    Charles McCracken

    David J. Bell

    Thank you, Gail, for you observations/memento of Jack Spratt. I still use a reed drying rack, bright yellow fuzzy tool wrap up, and play his Almenraeder Duets that I purchased as a high school student in the early 1960’s. Back then, he was the place to go for “stuff”… certainly the end of an era.

    David Bell
    Alexandria, VA

    Marsha Burkett

    Truman Bullard, Bassoonist in Carlisle, PA. – asked me to post the following to the Forum:
    Marsha Burkett

    Gail Warnaar’s beautifully written and deeply felt tribute to Jack
    Spratt was a privilege to read. Thank you – and bravo! – to Gail.

    While “the moment” is Jack’s these days, he will always be remembered
    as the equal partner of an extraordinary marriage and creative duo.
    Georgia Spratt’s talents in visual arts, crafts, and in staging
    musicals from both a scenic and musical point of view were remarkable.
    Seeing them every summer at the Glickman/Popkin Bassoon Camp was
    something to be anticipated eagerly, and I’ll always be grateful that
    when I sat down to play jazz piano at the GPBC parties both G and J
    knew and relished the words to every, every, every tune! I am in
    Rochester at the moment teaching a seminar at Eastman, and will very
    regretfully miss the funeral. But I will be there in spirit, and can
    only hope that someone, at some point, will remember to play “Georgia
    on my Mind.” That would most certainly be Jack’s wish.

    Truman Bullard

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