“It’s a very inexact science,” says Cleveland Pops conductor Carl Topilow about how he chooses which of his colorful clarinets he’ll play at a concert. Topilow was on tour in Munich in 1998 and spotted a music store with red and green clarinets in the window. They soon became a signature part of his Pops concerts. “They are just plastic student models,” he says. “But if you use your own mouthpiece and reed, you can make it sound pretty good.” The busy conductor is back at Severance Hall tonight to lead the Pops in When Swing Was King, a salute to Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and other big-band icons. And in a nod to the classics, the program even swings a Paul Ferguson arrangement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. “‘Stardust’ doesn’t work with green or red, so I’ll probably play the blue [clarinet] on that,” he says. “‘Sing, Sing, Sing” is a very hot number, so red would be good with that.” The show features Jack Schantz on trumpet, Ferguson on trombone, George Judy on drums and vocalist Barbara Knight. Showtime is 8 p.m. at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216.231.1111). Tickets: $19-$58. — Michael Gill
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