Monday, March 14, 2016

Reeds reeds reeds

I have been very lucky to have a LOT going on the past few months, but of course that means I'm going through reeds faster. I would guess most oboists have tried "saving" a reed - playing the dreadful reeds hoping the "good" one will still be good when you need it! But in my experience reeds don't wait for the big performance...there are so many factors involved that your perfect reed on Monday may be just awful on Friday. So I don't tend to save my best ones, I just play on whatever is working at the time. I have been thinking about reeds more and more, partly because I have been asked to teach at a reed making camp this summer! This is not something I have done in the past, although of course I have taught my students to make reeds (to varying degrees of success). So I've been pondering what exactly makes a reed good, and how to explain that to someone else, and how to consistently make good reeds - which is what we ALWAYS want to do but at least in my case, I just don't! So I'm trying some new things. First I'm naming all my reeds. Boy names. Alphabetical. Has been fun to think of names but also I notice that I can remember George and how he behaved easier than R24, or the varigated blue with a streak on the bark. Secondly, I'm counting my knife strokes. Seriously. I figure why not. So 20 strokes on each quarter before I cut the tip. Then depending on the hardness of the cane, about 100 strokes on each tip quarter, and maybe 40 on the sides of the heart. I use a dial micrometer so I have a number I'm aiming for, but counting seems to work pretty well. Thirdly I'm keeping a journal of every reed - which type of cane and what shape, date, where I tied it on, thread color and maybe if it had anything weird, like soft cane, or really narrow opening or anything. That is something I have tried to do in the past but haven't been very successful at continuing. Seems to help that I'm naming them, maybe I feel more of a commitment. So I'm off to make some more reeds. William and probably Xavier - I mean, what else can you do with X?

Friday, January 8, 2016


I am finding myself in a conundrum. Sometimes my big mouth gets me into more troubling spots!

One of the chamber groups I play with meets at a local church, where they allow us to keep instruments and rehearse for free. We have played for their service, and recently I noticed the choir director passing out parts to the Vivaldi Gloria when we were rehearsing. Thinking I could help this little church choir out with my fabulous playing skills, I offered to play the oboe part with them. I assumed this would be for their church service and that they would probably have someone playing the organ and the church choir. 

It came to light that I was unable to attend rehearsal since I have orchestra the same night as the church choir rehearsals. The director seemed OK with this, and since I have played it before I wasn't too worried about it. Since there is an obbligato part, he mentioned the soprano might give me a call so we can go over that movement before the performance. When I didn't hear from her, I called the director as time is getting short and found that in fact this was not for church service, but for an afternoon concert. He had forgotten to tell me that they had agreed we would just run through the movement right before the concert at two. Still not a big deal, I figured it was just a special after-Christmas event for the church.

Yesterday I went to my chamber music rehearsal, and I noticed a large number of chairs set up in front of risers--as though for a small orchestra and a large choir. I saw some names on stands which made me realize all the A-Team players from the big orchestra in town would be playing for this ensemble. The soloist is apparently not a little old church lady, but the fairly well known opera singer. And instead of offering my services for free to help the little church choir, I am involved in this rather big event with all the musical hoi polloi in town! 

It is possible I could've been asked to play this gig, although I would guess they would've asked a few other people first given the other names in the orchestra. I think I can still do a pretty good job, but I am feeling very insecure about the whole thing, since I had such a wildly different perception of what I was doing! Not really sure why I am dwelling so much on this event. Hoping things go well on Sunday, but I will think twice before blindly offering to help out the next time!