THE MEREWETHER SYSTEM

Richard (Dick) Merewether

Richard (Dick) Merewether grew up in Australia and studied horn at the Sydney Conservatoire, going on to play 2nd horn with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, where he knew Barry Tuckwell who became the orchestra’s 5th horn.

In 1950, the opportunity to travel to London arose and Dick took the chance, soon picking up playing work and eventually becoming Principal Horn at the Royal Opera House.

Bob Paxman and Dick Merewether

Dick was at this time playing a horn that Alexander had built for him to one of his own designs. In 1959 he took it to Paxman for modifications and discussions about various design possibilities were initiated. Subsequently, Dick and Bob Paxman started working together and formed one of the most successful partnerships in horn building history. In the early years, the first single f-alto horns were produced, quickly followed by the first double Bb/f-altos, Bb sopranos and triple horns. Many other models were developed along with other design changes and innovations, including hollow rotors and new bell and mouthpipe tapers.

Merewether System Drawing

The fundamental feature that Dick introduced and that for which he is best known, concerns the direction of airflow through the valve block. The principle behind this Merewether System is that the air should travel in the same direction through the valve block on all sides of the horn, allowing for smoother slurring and transition over the whole range. Therefore, when switching between any two sides of a horn (F to Bb, Bb to f-alto etc), the direction of airflow remains constant, rather than suddenly reversing on itself. In addition, the rotors always turn in sympathy with the airflow, rather than against it. This minimises disruption, allowing the player to concentrate on making the most beautiful sound, rather than fighting turbulence within this most sensitive part of the instrument. This principle applies to all Paxman designs including descants and triples, which is why Paxman horns are still marked Merewether System.

Horn Reverse

Dick was a rare combination of remarkable player, designer and visionary. His Merewether System, together with the unique tapers of the various bells, branches and mouthpipes, is what gives Paxman instruments their signature sound and response, making them one of the most recognisable makes of horn available today.

 

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