Thursday, October 6, 2016

Never Trust an Oboe

So this happened.  We were playing a quintet concert in a library the other day, and I didn't quite like the way my oboe was aligned.  Some of the keys on the lower joint affect vents and pads on the upper joint, and the instrument wasn't responding quite right, and I knew exactly the microscopic adjustment I needed to make in the way those two joints had twisted together.  This happens frequently, and I was ready to fix it and move on.

So I twisted the joints. I over-corrected a little. Tried to go back - and the oboe was stuck. Untwistable. I tried wiggling it, twisting the other way, clockwise, counterclockwise - nothing.  And what had been a slightly inconvenient little technical glitch was suddenly an unplayable oboe, and my colleague was just about to finish his speech and introduce the next piece.

But I already know that the oboe is not my friend, and I nearly always carry a spare instrument, and I was able to pull it out, slap the reed on, and be ready to play without delaying the concert.  At the end of the show, my oboe was still stuck - hard - and to get it back into its case I had to ask a colleague to twist it apart with his strong manly hands, which was a blow to my own ego.

The first lesson here, for me and for everyone, is NEVER to trust an oboe. See HERE, and HERE, and HERE. I down-sized and carried only one instrument to many of my summer concerts - out of laziness, and out of desire to keep them climate controlled when possible, and really mostly laziness - but it's awfully smart to have an easy back-up with you.

I do have an explanation for this incident, which provides our second lesson.  It was one of those days - Steve had an out of town gig, I had a 2:00 quintet concert barely two miles from my home, and Zoe gets in from school at 2:30.  I expected the show to end by about 2:45, and gave Zoe her instructions - she was to come straight home, text to let me know she was in, and then just have a snack and stay inside until I arrived at 3.

The concert went a little longer, because the audience was so receptive and friendly, and because it was our first gig back and we got a little long-winded with our speeches.  And Zoe forgot to text me, so by the time I was packing up at 3 I was a little anxious.  I threw the oboe into the case UNSWABBED and dashed out into the unseasonably humid day.

I picked Zoe up and headed to her choir rehearsal, and she surprised me by asking me to come in and listen. I had planned to use the time to write and work on the cover for my CD, but she was sweet about it so I came in, leaving my oboe locked inside the car.  Listened for a while, came out and dashed off to a coffee shop to salvage some work time, dashed to pick up dinner for her, picked her up, and dashed to my second quintet show.

Are you seeing it?  Moisture in the bore, moisture on the cork, hot humid conditions - that poor oboe swelled up just like the wooden doors in your lake house in the summer.  It was completely my fault, I know better on all counts. Always swab your oboe, always keep it with you, never ever leave it in a hot or cold car, or unattended - I KNOW.  But sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions.

What I lack in being a bad oboe mommy, though, I make up for in preparation.  This time, anyway, we managed to scrape through the situation.

Never trust an oboe.
Take care of your instruments so they'll take care of you.
Be prepared.

Good luck, Everybody!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Upcoming Concert, and Conductor Number ONE

The South Bend Symphony has its opening concert this weekend, and its first Music Director candidate.

This entire year is devoted to our Music Director search.  I've been on the search committee ever since the process started, and it's wildly exciting to finally get to meet these people and to play for them and to make music together.  Our five masterworks concerts each feature a different candidate.

I play with a lot of different ensembles, and I've been through an MD search before.  Even jaded old me is thrilled to see what changes these conductors will bring. One of my favorite aspects of this search is how much our management is trying to involve EVERYONE.  The candidate's week will consist of multiple meetings - with board, staff, musicians, university music departments, community leaders, YOUNG community leaders - and everyone who crosses paths with the candidate will get a survey to fill out.  The audience will vote.  The musicians will vote. The whole town is participating in this.

Our previous Music Director served for twenty-eight years.  You heard that right. There are people in my orchestra and in our community who truly have never known anything different. Besides the occasional guest conductor or odd outside gig, the South Bend Symphony's artistic leadership has been constant and unchanging for nearly three decades.  Our executive leadership turned over completely last year, we have a new young board president, and everything seems to be coming up SBSO right now.  It's a very exciting time.

So please come out and join us this Saturday night!  We are playing Dvorak's New World Symphony - an oldie but a goodie - and bringing in Chicago Symphony Concertmaster Robert Chen to do the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. (It will be the first time I've sat in the orchestra for this piece since performing my transcription two years ago, and I JUST recorded it for my new CD, so I'm delighted to re-encounter it from the other side!)  The opening work is an orchestral showpiece by Carter Pann called Slalom - all flying arpeggios and swooshing scales, as befits a piece about skiing.  And the first conductor candidate is Alastair Willis.

Details HERE.