I ordered wrist warmers from Janet Lanier, and they arrived today. I cannot tell you how much better one feels when wearing these in a cold house! It’s fantastic. Somehow having warm wrists makes my whole body feel better! So thank you very much, Janet. I encourage anyone who has cold hands to order these from her. (Of course I don’t know if she can handle a ton of orders, but when I like something I do like to promote it!)

25. January 2008 · Comments Off on Evelyn Rothwell · Categories: Losses

Lady Barbirolli

Last Updated: 2:04am GMT 26/01/2008

Lady Barbirolli, who died on January 25 aged 97, was an oboist of the highest distinction and the widow of the great conductor Sir John Barbirolli; she was also a woman of incandescent charm and strength of character, with a gift for friendship which amounted to genius.

She rose to fame in her profession under her maiden name Evelyn Rothwell in an era when there were many fewer women in orchestras than there are today (and they were usually harpists). Yet she came to the oboe comparatively late (at the age of 17) and only by chance or coercion – “I didn’t take up the oboe, it took me up” was how she described it.


I was trying to practice my Rigoletto part today. But, well, something smelled funny in the house. Suddenly I burst into “Tiny Bubbles” and I couldn’t stop playing it. I put the oboe down and left the room. A little later I went back, knowing things would be better. This time it was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. A little more appropriate, considering our weather today, but still … how much worse was this gonna get?! I was going nuts! So I left the studio and figured I’d go work on taxes some more. After all, what can be more mindless than taxes.

Oh. Right.

Forget the taxes. (When you are a musician taxes are pretty difficult to figure out!)

So lunch break. Back to the studio. I was ready this time. Really.

WHAT?! “Copacabana”? How can this be happening? “Don’t Cry Daddy”? “In the Ghetto”?

OH MY! It’s the fumes, I tell ya. It’s the fumes.

Okay. I’m lying. There were no fumes. I haven’t even pulled out my oboe yet. I’ve not stepped foot in my studio. But IF there were fumes here I’m sure I could blame it on them if I started to play that sort of stuff. Don’t you think?

Hmm. Maybe not. I’m just putting together what I just read in the news about a writer and what might happen to yours truly.

If you mix fumes and writers you get thrillers, it seems. She won her lawsuit, and it does sound as if the fumes caused a lot of damage. When they finally did some sort of a test, “the equipment registered a reading so high it was off the scale.” Whoa. Scary.

Me? I’d get the heck out of there if I stuck a pin in my leg and didn’t feel it and knew it was a result of the fumes. Call me wimpy.

And now, having attempted to do taxes for a while (sigh … what a pain. I think … well … I think they are causing me great grief and I think I should sue the IRS), listened to The Cunning Little Vixen (I want to play that opera!), Strauss’s suite from Der Rosenkavalier (on the next SSV set), and a lot of Ives songs (A Song – For Anything: Songs by Charles Ives), I think I’ll mosey on over to my studio and practice. I think I’ve run out of excuses not to.

So, I think “Gabriel’s Oboe” should be played on oboe (call me silly), but this video of a flutist playing the solo, just hurts. It’s not because of the flutist (I didn’t get very far into the work). Just listen to the fourth quarter note of the second bar. OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH.

Need I say more?

Oh maybe.


25. January 2008 · Comments Off on Explain, Please · Categories: Links, Ramble

The Orchestra horn section will also have a chance to present its talents when flutist Maria Tamburino and oboist Laura Griffiths combine to play instrumental duets from a 1792 edition of operatic arias taken from The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro. Some of the duets for flute and violin from this edition have been performed at a previous benefit and although the words are missing the emotions and personalities of the characters in the operas are perfectly transposed into their wood and metal alter egos.

(read here)

Um … horn section?!flute and oboe? Very bizarre, if you ask me. Sure, I might sometimes flippantly call my oboe a horn, but not very often. I’ve never heard a flute called a horn before.

Do you suppose the writer meant to write wind in the place of horn?

Ah well. Sounds like a great concert, though. I have fond memories of all that fabulous music back in my own Midsummer Mozart days. (Yes, I played in the group; I was there from nearly the beginning until about 1989 or so.)

25. January 2008 · Comments Off on Yeah. I plug my nose too. · Categories: Quotes, Ramble

“If they get the oboe they plug their nose and make a ‘wah wah wah’ sound.”

Okay … I do understand that it’s to get that wonderful nasal sound we make (sort of), and not because we stink (I hope!), but that quote just cracked me up. I’m silly that way. 😉


25. January 2008 · Comments Off on A Reminder · Categories: Links, Ramble

… and this won’t be the last one!

There are thousands of “road warrior” classical musicians across America, as French horn player Meredith Brown points out. She plays for eight different orchestras in Northern California, logging more than 35,000 miles annually in her car. She and the others tell tales of occasional weekends in which the players drive 90 miles for a Saturday morning rehearsal, drive another 90 for a 2 p.m. matinee performance, then another 90 for an 8 p.m. evening concert, and do it all over again the next day.

(I read it here.)

This is about the KQED special on the Freeway Philharmonic players. Don’t forget: Sunday. 6:00. KQED. Channel 9. (At least for me … I don’t know how station #s work any more. Is it different for some?)

25. January 2008 · Comments Off on MQOD & Short Ramble · Categories: Quotes, Ramble

Weill’s most ingenious move was to score his breakthrough theater piece not for a symphony orchestra but for a sleek, mutable band of seven musicians, who were asked to play no fewer than twenty-three different instruments. (The drummer, for example, plays second trumpet for a couple of numbers, and the banjo player at one point picks up the cello.) And, by asking his performers to take on so many roles, Weill guarantees that the playing will have, in place of soulless professional expertise, a scrappy, seat-of-the-pants energy.

-Alex Ross (read in The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century)

I play with soul. Really I do! I’m not sure expertise denies soul. (And maybe Alex Ross didn’t mean it in quite the way this insecure musician has decided to take it. But maybe he did …?) Or maybe I’m just not an expert. Oh. There’s that.

I do wonder if Weill wrote for the peculiar doubles/triples/etc. because he had particular players in mind. I know that happens with musical theatre sometimes, and when the work then goes out to the rest of the world doubles are changed because, for instance, not all oboe/English horn players play harmonica (check out the current musical, Mary Poppins).

25. January 2008 · Comments Off on MQOD · Categories: Quotes

I think our culture has always been steeped in classical music. Beethoven still sells millions of records. Minimalist music lurks in the background of dance tracks. Go see a sci-fi, horror or action movie at the cineplex — there’s no way film composers could turn the screws of suspense without using dissonant devices pioneered by early 20th-century composers.

The trouble is, we’re not acknowledging this music as part of the mainstream; it’s been labeled a niche culture, a relic of the past.

Yet in a very gradual, word-of-mouth way, people are discovering the very rare experience that classical concerts offer: this phenomenon of sound emerging from silence, echoing in a natural space, and accumulating into grand architectural forms. In the end, the appeal is not just intellectual and not just emotional: it’s spiritual.

-Alex Ross (read here)