This week I move from pit to stage, from principal to second oboe and from opera to symphony. This is always an interesting change. Reeds I loved for the principal oboe opera chair will, most likely, not be what I choose for second oboe symphony. The stage is different than the pit. Reed response can feel different. Timbre can differ as well. It’s amazing what a few feet (okay, maybe more than a few!) can do. Sometimes I get on stage and think, “How did I ever think this was a decent reed?” Truth is, it probably would be just fine if I could climb back into the pit. We also have to think differently about how we approach our playing. With opera, the singers are the main thing, obviously, and while there are solos that allow me to play out a bit more, much of the time I’m thinking about balance with them. Of course I also think about balance with my instrumentalist colleagues, but it’s the singers who get center stage. Now that we instrumentalists are on stage we get the limelight, but being second oboist means I have to be more sensitive to what the principal is doing. (I once played with a principal oboist who told me, “If you can hear yourself you are too loud!” That freaked me out horribly, and it was a most unpleasant experience. I do have to hear myself, after all. Side note: That oboist’s career was very short-lived and I often wonder where he is now. I believe he went into the wine and cheese business, but I don’t know for certain.)
I have two days before I hit the stage. It’s now time to line up what I think will be good stage reeds. Time will tell if I guess right: reeds that work in my little studio often prefer to stay in the studio and rebel against any stage work. Go figure.