27. August 2007 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

Okay … here we go again! Someone landed here doing a search on “swab stuck in oboe.” So let me repeat my suggestions. I’m assuming the stuck swab is one of those silk swabs, or else it’s one of those not-so-soft cloth swabs that should be trashed anyway.

Here are some bits of advice:

  • Always check the swab for knots—check both the string and the cloth.
  • If you are using a silk swab, drop the swab down the bell and when the weight comes through the top, turn the oboe right side up before pulling it through. This way you might avoid any knotting.
  • The minute you feel any tugging, stop what you are doing and try pulling (somewhat gently) the swab out the other way.
  • If it’s stuck don’t continue to pull it through. Nothing is going to change, other than getting it stuck even tighter.
  • DON’T use a drill to try to remove it. (Yes, some have tried.) You’ll ruin the bore.
  • Take it to a repair person who knows what to do. (Some don’t!)
  • If you are using a silk swab consider switching to a soft cotton swab that doesn’t pull all the way through. Yes, you have to take the oboe apart to swab, but it will not get stuck!
  • If you insist on using silk, purchase a swab remover. I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t gotten a silk swab stuck now and then.


27. August 2007 · Comments Off on New Site, New Info · Categories: Ramble

I guess some folks didn’t care for the look of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra I blogged about earlier. I can’t remember where I read the critiques, so no links for the moment. But I did just land on a new site (to me) called Intermezzo and if you read about the concert, the students didn’t don their colorful clothes until the end of the performance. In case anyone cares.

Me? I wasn’t bothered. I was just happy to hear and see some fine musicians playing well and having fun.

I was in England and Scotland back in 1974. I was attending the International Festival of Youth Orchestras or some such thing. (Anyone know what it really was? I wish I’d saved programs.) We played in our own orchestras (we were primarily in Aberdeen, actually) and later we had auditions for the combined orchestra. (No, I didn’t get in. The oboist who was auditioning us clearly didn’t like my sound at ALL. He was British and I could swear it was Leon Goosens, but maybe I’m making that up.) I went to the combined concert, and I could swear it was one of the Prom concerts. (If that’s how one refers to those.) Then again, maybe I’m making this whole darn thing up! (I do that. Easily. I think something is a fact when it isn’t. How about that?)

Oh … and there’s this: I was with a member of PACO and, as we were representing the United States, we were supposed to choose some sort of costume. Well, what can one choose from the US? We opted for jeans (which meant I was allowed my FIRST pair of jeans, believe it or not—this was back in 1974) and jeans jackets. Other countries, of course, had real costumes.

Ah … memories!

Update: Woo hoo! I just checked, and it appears (if one can believe the Wikipedia entry) I was right about the festival and the Proms!

… this is the first full dress rehearsal for Capriccio, the rarely performed Strauss opera which will receive its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival.

I’m confused, which I realize is my usual state of mind: if this is “rarely performed” how can it also be a “world premiere”? I keep reading the sentence thinking I’ll finally understand. Hmm. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to not figuring this out. (And not having read the whole article yet; maybe it will clarify this.)

[insert little pause while I finish the article]

Okay. Maybe what the writer means is that this is the world premiere of this production? That’s all I can guess.

And then someone might be trying to bomb the Gothenburg Opera? Bizarre.

I found an audition article to have an excellent suggestion: Those auditioning should bring their instruments and the music they want to play. Whoa. Who’d a thunk it? Bring your instrument? And music? Golly!

The Tallahassee Symphony article says nothing about bringing an instrument or music. Guess those musicians are going to be out of luck, eh?

“I took the place of [bassist] Henri Girard, and I met him when I got there. He had played in the first performance of “Rite of Spring” in Paris with Stravinsky. He told me, “You know the riot, it wasn’t that bad.”

The above is from an article about two musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra who will soon retire. Nice little read.

And, finally (for now) “Think opera camp for grownups!” Or so they say.

27. August 2007 · Comments Off on I Don’t Think So · Categories: Ramble, You Gotta Be Kidding

I just read that Sir ALW’s Phantom of the Opera has been called “God’s gift to the musical theatre.”

Is that ridiculous? I sure think so.

I’ve never understood why folks get so enamored with that musical. Sure, it’s quite the spectacle, but musically it’s “meh” and there’s no character development as far as I can see. To me it is one of the HollowMusicals™. Of all ALW’s works, I suppose I like Evita the best. Maybe just because I find it the most fun to play. But I wouldn’t call any of his stuff a gift from God.

According to the link above, Portland Opera is presenting this musical. Sigh. I can imagine an opera company bringing in Sondheim or Bernstein. But PotO? All I can say is, “Oh dear….” I guess they aren’t thinking, though, of quality, but merely of big hits. I’d prefer an opera company to be a bit pickier. I’m silly that way.

27. August 2007 · Comments Off on A Little Inside Scoop · Categories: Ramble

Charles Noble, over at daily observations gives readers a little info on things like overscale. Overscale is no surprise to me, although I’ve been told—or is it that I’ve foolishly assumed?—we don’t have that going on in Symphony Silicon Valley.

I did get overscale in San Jose Symphony (RIP). And I didn’t feel guilty about it either; I was the English hornist, and according to our contract I received base pay. The English horn has solos any time it is used. I felt a wee bit of overscale (not as much as the principal winds were getting … not even close!) was justified. (If I’m remembering correctly, I received $13.10 extra per service. Bizarre amount, I know.) But I do understand Mr. Noble’s point. Overscale really causes rifts between orchestra members. Shoot, even being paid the same amount (as I am now) as the string players ticks some of them off. They, after all, have to play more notes, and rarely, if ever, get a piece off. (I can’t tell you how many times a particular player from a particular not-to-be-named-section has said, “Well, you’re finally earning your money!” when I have a solo. But then I also can’t tell you how many times people in that same section turn around to look at me when they don’t care for how I’m playing. What is it with that particular, unnamed section. And they must all have sore necks by now!)

Ramble ramble … moving on …

No seat in the orchestra is easy. If one takes the job seriously. (I do know of a few players who just phone it in, but that’s not all that common.) Some positions are, I believe, scarier than other seats, but I nearly had my head chopped off by a string player when I said something like that. She said my position was MUCH easier than hers; she sat in the middle of a section. I was the only English horn player. I should know how much more difficult it was for someone to sit in a section. I only thought to myself (I finally caught on that arguing was foolish), “Yeah, but if you blow it will your name be in the review?” Heh.

There’s always something, you know?

And maybe we are all so insecure and want to feel like we matter. What is is about us?

But really, going back to overscale, it sure does split an orchestra up. Still, the concertmaster does deserve a good amount more (and receives it in the orchestras I play in). And the principal oboist, principal trumpet and horn all play such important roles, I think they should be paid something more than the typical 25% more that our principal players all get. (And no, I’m not principal oboe in Symphony Silicon Valley; I play principal in Opera San José.)

27. August 2007 · Comments Off on MQOD · Categories: Ramble

I started playing the cello because I needed a reason to stop playing the violin.

-Johannes Moser