Is the bassoon bigger than the double bassoon?

Well how silly is that? If you stack one bassoon on top of another, making it a double, it will obviously be taller! I think taller qualifies as bigger … right? ;-)

15. December 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Videos

When I started watching this video I hadn’t noticed that it was a particular group — one I’m very fond of. So I started watching the video and thought … okay … weird … well, I thought that for a few seconds. And then …

Ah, Calefax, you guys are just too darn fun!

15. December 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Bassoon, Videos

Oboe is a very difficult instrument. It is especially difficult to begin. For some, it takes months — or even longer! — to learn how to manipulate that pesky reed, figure out the embouchure, and deal with all the other difficult issues on the wacky instrument.

I have recently read a blog that was about a blogger’s son’s band concert, and the horrendous sounds coming from the oboe section. To her ears, the oboes simply ruined the entire night. Ack! As difficult it was to read the rather harsh words (in upper case, even), it has spurred on this blog entry.

The tough, rough, often awful sounds oboes can produce is a major issue at a certain level, and I think band directors sometimes do something that is really a bad idea: they put beginning oboists, or oboists that aren’t “at level” into the top band because … well … they need an oboe (or oboes) there!

This is unfair to the band. This is unfair to the oboist. This is unfair to the audience. And I would think it is unfair to the band director’s ears as well.

So here are a few bits of advice I have for band directors:

  • Don’t place an oboist in a group if he or she is not playing at the level of the other members.
  • Try as much as possible to get your oboe students to get a private instructor. (I am thankful that some band directors around here insist on that!)
  • Ask the advice of oboists if you have questions: so frequently the fingering charts in the books don’t have a clue about things like left F and often incorrectly use the E flat key on the forked F.
  • Students need reeds. Students never have decent reeds if they don’t have an instructor. If you really can’t get them to take private lessons at least find a source for good reeds.
  • Store bought, machine made reeds, are pretty darn bad.
  • Under no circumstances should oboe students be using plastic reeds. Period.
  • A bad oboe is worse than no oboe at all.
  • Let me repeat: A bad oboe is worse than no oboe at all.

    These are all just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more suggestions. And I’m SURE some readers can add to this list! :-)

I am SO incredibly thankful that reviewers don’t comment on orchestra members’ bodies when we are up there on the stage — or down in the pit (but can they really see us there anyway?) — doing our thing.

Dancers? That’s another story … or at least it was with one reviewer:
Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.

(Read here.)

He was criticized, so he has also defended his position. The woman dancer, Jennifer Ringer, who was accused of having “one sugar plum too many” has responded as well.

And does the “rest of the story” — the fact that Ringer has been open about her eating disorders — make one pause when commenting about things like this, or should the reviewer not concern himself with that?

Me? I have never eaten a sugar plum. Not even one. But you can bet I look as if I’ve eaten far too many. Sigh.

So what think ye? Does a dance reviewer have the “right” to comment on bodies? Hmmm. I wonder if they’ve ever commented on the ones who look like they could drop dead any minute, they are so skinny. (We had one, years ago, who was simply frightening. Turned out the audience agreed: the next day the office received a multitude of calls saying, “Why are you allowing someone like that on stage?” It was fairly clear the woman had an eating disorder and it really was tough to watch her dance. She has since left the company. I hope she is healthier now.)

Dancers are in such a different world than we musicians. I can’t even imagine! I am guessing they are obsessed with body image. They see themselves in the mirror constantly! (I rarely look at myself in a mirror. Really.) They wear clothes that reveal all. (I wear nice, loose fitting black.) And yet when I get to the hall for a ballet performance there so many are (especially the guys), smoking away. Body image and health are two very different things.

I’m thankful to be in black. On stage. Judged by my performance and not my body. Whew!

Side note: when an instrumentalist solos reviewers do on occasion, feel the need to comment on what is worn. Especially if a woman is the soloist. But I’m not a soloist — whew! — and you can pretty much bet I’ll be in black when I am on stage or pit.

15. December 2010 · Comments Off · Categories: Advent

J. S. Bach: Jesus bleibet meine Freude
Nikolaus Harnoncourt