I saw my first Salome tonight at San Francisco Opera.

The scheduled soprano didn’t sing. Someone had told me there was a rumor she was out — he had heard just a few minutes earlier — and, sure enough, Nadja Michael had had to cancel just that day. Or at least that’s what it sounded like when David Gockley announced it. But I could have heard incorrectly. I certainly heard her replacement’s name incorrectly. I thought he said, “Molly Dill”, but that must be wrong. He said the new singer was working on the opera in Phoenix, so I looked put all that information together and I come up with Molly Fillmore. I hope that’s correct, but maybe a reader can correct me if I’m mistaken. In any case, I sure can’t imagine coming in with no rehearsal to sing that opera!

I thought she did quite a good job. She doesn’t have the strongest of voices, but she sounded lovely and her high notes were there (I had read criticism of the other Salome’s high notes). My favorite of the night, though, was Greer Grimsely. What a voice!

I got a quick look at the Heckelphone when Dan and I came down to the pit before we headed to our dress circle seats. I could hear it a bit during the opera, but I wish I could sit IN the pit to really give it a good listen. Oboe solos and English horn solos were great!

The audience laughed at odd, uncomfortable or creepy times. I realize it is laughable if one thinks rationally, but since when do you think rationally when listening to opera? I wish people didn’t laugh out loud … I find it distracting.

Weirdest part of the night? No, not watching Salome cradle Jokanaan’s head in her arms and kiss him. That was just creepy. Not the Dance of the Seven Veils (were there seven? I wasn’t sure.) either, which I confess didn’t do much for me visually. Kind of boring, really. It was seeing a VERY young girl — I’m guessing maybe eight years old — at this opera. She appeared to be with her grandmother. Would you think to bring a child to Salome? Seems like a poor decision to me.

30. October 2009 · Comments Off on Well Yeah, It’s Fast · Categories: Videos

Maybe I should tell all my students this piece is their final at the end of the quarter.

Just for fun.

30. October 2009 · Comments Off on They aren’t always French! · Categories: Read Online

“It’s utterly magical,” says the former stage actor. “And John’s music is so complex and wonderful. You really see the workings of all the instruments — the French oboe, the violin, the horn.”

-Anthony Daniels

Hmmm. Do you think he meant French horn? English horn? I mean … “French oboe”?! Oboes aren’t exclusively made in France. Maybe Anthony Daniels is a Loree purist or something?

I read it here.

30. October 2009 · Comments Off on You KNOW It Had To Happen This Way! · Categories: Ramble

… because it’s just some sort of rule or something.

If you read this blog you know about my my very special wonderful can’t do without ‘em music glasses and how they somehow disappeared.

Well … drum roll … THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND!

The flutist of the UCSC faculty woodwind quintet, in fact, is the one who located them. How ’bout that? We have rehearsal on campus Monday night, so I’ll get them there. I miss them horribly, and wish I could have them sooner, but I am not sure I’m ready to drive all the way over there and back for them. I’m just sort of dealing, putting my music very low, squinting a lot, and missing notes here and there. Oh well! One good thing about missing glasses, if I dare try to look on the positive side, is that I really have to rely on my memory, and I’m realizing just how well I do know the works. Good news, yes?

So this was a $280 “oops”, but probably worth it; at least now if I lose one pair I’ll have a backup pair. If I had lost these glasses the day OF a concert I’d have really been in serious trouble!

Oh … and you wonder where the glasses were? She wrote:

How strange that your glasses showed up as I was picking up all my
stuff on the right of the desk. There they were—just on the floor
next to the right back leg of desk ( might have fallen off of the

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Greer! 🙂

30. October 2009 · Comments Off on Read Online · Categories: Read Online

At our concerts, we play only the best music ever written for orchestra.

I wonder who has the final say on “the best music ever written for orchestra”. Musicians don’t always agree on this!

I can relate to their common bond, though.

29. October 2009 · Comments Off on BLISS! · Categories: Oboe, Repair

I’m just home from Bob Hubbard’s house. He owns Westwind Double Reeds, and do check in here on occasion to see if his business website is up and running; when it is I suggest you check it out! I own three of his shaper tips and I love them. He will be selling other equipment as well, including reed knives, dial indicators … and of course all the “other stuff” we reed makers spend far too much time with.

But anyway … back to my story (this blog is all about me, right?!) … my “usual” oboe is fixed! Ahhhh, low notes, how I love you (now). Ahhhh, banana key, how reachable you are! Both my “usual” oboe and my English horn have a bit of cork repair too.


Thanks, Bob! Now get that site up! 🙂

29. October 2009 · 1 comment · Categories: Videos

Tim, I thought you might enjoy this! 🙂

29. October 2009 · Comments Off on Not So Very Nice? Or At Least Not So Very Fun … · Categories: Ramble

… except when it works it actually is fun! Go figure.

I really do like Eric Ewazen’s Woodwind Quintet, Roaring Fork. I think the audience will too. But there is one spot that does not make me happy. It’s the sort of thing that causes some of us to call composers “mean”. We don’t really mean it of course (well, I don’t anyway!), but when a bar like the one I’m having to deal with pops up I go a bit crazy.

Ewazen WWQ 2nd movement

Oboists will see, I’m sure, which bar I’m talking about. I’m starting with left E flat, but for the second E flat I slide from the right D flat to the right E flat. I have tried it several ways, and I think what’s best for me is to use the banana key on the low B flat. One of my colleagues actually plays left E flat and then moves her left pinkie to the low B flat key. That actually hurts when I use my usual oboe. Trouble is, right now my usual oboe has issues with the banana key (I think it needs to be bent a bit closer in, and maybe moved in height as well.), so I’m using my “not so usual” oboe. It works almost consistently. (I suspect this will never be one of those “Oh I’ll never miss!” passages.) Starting at bar 62, this is pretty much an oboe solo, too.

The other difficulty is the length of this phrase. This is a slow movement. You can see where I’ve written “solo” … and I mean “all alone” … there is no place to breathe until bar 70. If we go too slowly, I’m pretty dead by the end.

I have a recording of this work, and the Borealis Wind Quintet oboist, Tamar Beach Wells, doesn’t sound like she is struggling at ALL.

Makes me feel very, very wimpy.

In a short time I’m off to a friend’s house. He does oboe repair (and makes fine shaper tips too … stay tuned for an announcement when his site is up and running!). I’m hoping he can work on both of my oboes and my English horn in the short time we’ll have. I definitely need the banana key looked at, and I need some corks put on a few spots where I had to remove them because they were causing keys to stick. I’m hopeful, too, that he can figure out why my “usual” oboe doesn’t care for either low B or low B flat. Those appear a good number of times in our woodwind quintet music.

29. October 2009 · 1 comment · Categories: Ramble

Name the musical from which I’m quoting, please. (I know a few of you easily are able to do that.)

I was told by the person who helped me order my glasses yesterday to call the very next day (Wednesday), to see how the order is going. The woman who I spoke with was rather shocked, “She should have known it takes 3 full days for the anti-glare treatment!” Sigh. So much for picking them up on Friday.

As I taught today I could barely see the notes. I’m honestly not sure how I’ll do at our woodwind quintet Monday night if I don’t have these glasses to wear. I can’t tell you how troubling this is. I guess I’ll go to Lenscrafters to see what sort of megabucks I’ll have to spend to get anything quicker (if that’s even possible with my prescription).

How stupid is it that I tossed my old pair of music glasses?

Yep. THAT stupid. Sigh.

28. October 2009 · 1 comment · Categories: Links

Q: You have a relationship with music and musicians that I don’t think enough people are quite aware of — you’re good friends with musician Jonathan Coulton, a man against whom you’ve had to run negative campaign ads; you portray “The Deranged Millionaire” in They Might Be Giants’ projects; you’ve appeared on Flight of the Concords. And I read recently that you actually play oboe and viola. Do you still practice?

John Hodgman: Clarinet! I am a SINGLE reed person. Not a double-reed person. No, I no longer practice the clarinet or the viola. I’m practicing ukulele. The ukulele is enjoying its moment and deservedly so. It is portable, it does not require a double reed. And it only has four strings compared to six. If the guitar is the novel, the ukulele is the book of fake trivia. Sublime in its own way, but much, much easier for me.

You know the guy who plays the PC in the Mac ads? Well, he does have a name, and he does other things besides those ads too. And now we learn he was a single reed man. Come to think of it, he does look a bit like a clarinet player. 😉

And I think Mac folks should play double reeds. Or double reed players should use Macs. Either way. Just so you know.