Today we had only one Nutcracker, and tomorrow is a day off. (So what am I doing tomorrow? Teaching five students. Go figure!) This was the fourth Nutcracker in three days. That’s really not a huge deal … in past years we’ve had doubles on both Saturday and Sunday. I do enjoy having my Sunday evening off (although the Sunday afternoon performance meant I skipped church yet again. Sigh.). As you might recall, I blogged about neglectin my “idiot check” on Friday night. Rest assured that both Saturdays performances and today’s had my More Favored Reeds. (But — ACK! — I do believe the More Favored Reeds are dying quick deaths. Figures.)

Today was a different issue.

We got to “Big Number 5” (if you have the same parts we have) and this is my first low D# to low B back to low D#. So before starting, I do the nose grease on the pinkie thing (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you probably aren’t an oboist and you probably don’t really need to know!). I slid several times from the D# key to the B before I started to play, just to make sure the finger slid easily. But wait! I get to that moment and my brains says, “Patty, you have absolutely no clue how to finger this!” Really. It didn’t say it out loud, but it said it loud and clear for my brain to deal with. So what did I do? Well, I used the banana key! (Again, if you aren’t an oboist or English hornist this is sort of meaningless to you.) Now the banana key DOES work, but I never use it, and it’s not as reliable as a nice clean slide. So the low B wasn’t as responsive and clear as I’d like.

Never a dull moment.

There was another moment I wasn’t thrilled with. But we’ll leave that alone for now. Mostly I was just shocked by the brain freeze. (I know some of you call these something else, but I do prefer brain freeze, as it really does feel as if my brain is suddenly frozen or locked up.)

And now I’m home, and watching San Francisco Symphony and MTT doing Ives’ “New English Holidays”. Crazy Ives! When I first started playing English horn in San Jose Symphony (RIP) we did an Ives that, at one point, has the orchestra blasting away playing a number of different things (I think it’s a parade of sorts? … it’s been a LONG time! Maybe a reader will fill me in?). All of the sudden everyone stops and there is a lone English horn (me) playing a long held note. I was, at that point, not as tuned in to the EH and the key of F, and I was always surprised by the note that was sounding as I expected the pitch you’d hear on a C instrument. I’m sure I’d be missing that surprise now, and I’m sort of sorry; that was always a fun little moment.

This is part of San Francisco Symphony series called Keeping Score. It’s a series I highly recommend.

There are six more Nutcracker performances left, of which I play four; originally I had thought we’d be out of town for the final two so I submitted my absence request. This didn’t turn out to be the case, but I had to turn my notice in early enough that I didn’t know plans would be different. So oh well! I’ll be done early, and a sub will get some extra work. So … well … “it’s all good.” (I’ve decided “it’s all good” means “nothin’ to be done!”)

And … WOW … just at the part of the Ives with choir. Incredible! I’d love to do this work! And now I suppose I should get the DVD because this is really amazing!


  1. Could the Ives piece you’re thinking of be his 4th Symphony? I can’t recall off the top of my head any long, lonely English Horn notes, but the second movement does have some parade-like passages. In typical Ives fashion, there are even spots where multiple parades are going on at once, each to the rhythm of its own drum corp.

    I love Ives’ music. It may get very complex at times, but half the fun is spotting all the familiar tunes half-buried in the texture.

  2. I’ll have to listen to the fourth to see if that’s it. I suspect you are correct. Thanks!

  3. I had thought he had done one that was intended to depict a parade with different ensembles playing different tunes at the same time (based on a childhood parade experience)? Does that sound familiar?

  4. My understanding, Tim, was that that was how it worked. I think he intended it to sound as if the groups were passing by the stand or some such thing. & I DO believe that was the symphony that had the EH solo note in it. I probably did this in the 1975/76 bicentennial season. My very first year of San Jose Symphony!