08. October 2023 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , , ,

David L. Brunner: Cantate Domino
National Taiwan University Chorus; Zhen-Shuen Choo, Conductor; An-Chi Chen, Piano

Cantate Domino canticum novum,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Cantate Domino omnis terra,
Sing to the Lord all the earth!

Sing to the Lord and bless his name:
Proclaim his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
His wonders among all people.

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised.

Cantate Domino canticum novum.
Cantate Domino omnis terra.
Sing a new song!

03. October 2023 · Comments Off on Hearing Conversations · Categories: Hearing, Ramble · Tags: , , ,

First of all, I have to say I’ve been so very grateful for the responses I’ve received regarding my journey of hearing loss. I linked yesterday’s post to some social media places and I was just so touched by all the comments. So many loving people are in this world!

I don’t plan on writing about this every day — or even every month! — but today I thought I’d mention a bit about how hearing conversations has changed.

When I was younger I was the Best Eavesdropper Ever. In a restaurant I’d be listening to several conversations at once (although we all know that means I wasn’t being as attentive to the one at my own table as I should have been!). Hearing loss changed that. If there is more than one conversation going on my brain sort of shuts down. It’s just too much information, I guess, and it all become a jumbled mess. Restaurants are the worst for this, and there are some restaurants I can no longer go to because they are just too noisy and I want to scream. I must say that the outdoor spots that opened up during Covid have really been quite the blessing for those of us with hearing loss!

At orchestra this past week there were times I couldn’t hear the conductor because there were people nearby chatting while she was talking. Again, my ears just seem to say “forget it!” That is so darn frustrating and if I were the confrontational sort I might have lost it and said something. Instead I just shut down. I don’t like to shut down, but it’s my way of coping. I wish more people in orchestras realized how distracting those conversations can be. It’s true, in fact, that others around me — those with two good ears — were equally frustrated, so it’s not just us hearing impaired folks that are affected. I will never understand why some people will talk when a conductor is giving instructions. Even if the conductor isn’t speaking to them I find the chatting pretty darn rude.

Okay, rant over. Promise!

When Dan and I were on our trip and out walking I’d look over at him and say, “What?”, thinking he had said something. Nope. It was someone to my left instead (we try to always remember Dan needs to be to my right), but because I don’t hear in the left ear my right ear informs me that the speaker must be to the right. It’s kind of crazy making.

Sitting in the English horn chair in the orchestra is quite nice for me since I’m to the left of the oboes … I can hear them! Sitting principal in opera I’ll still hear the principal winds, which is quite important, and I DO hear those to my left, but it’s as if they are coming from my right. Again, crazy making! But I will Make It Work. Period.

Teaching isn’t a problem. One on one is just fine. I hear my students quite well, both when they play and when they speak (well, except the ones who are nearly whispering … I have to work with the shyer ones to get them to speak up!). One on one in any situation is always comfortable, so that’s great.

Oh … and not music related, really, but at church I now sit in a pew on the right side, but I sit at the far left so no one is to my left. That works well. I usually wear my left ear plug because the amplification frequently means I’ll experience distortion. When we sing it can be strange — sometimes I simply can’t hear myself at all. Hm … perhaps that’s a very good thing!

Well, if that subject header made you think I was retiring, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that. But it’s time I talked about something I’ve dealt with since April, 2009.

Yes. That long ago.

I had written about the incident then, but hadn’t really discussed what happened next because, well … because talking about one’s hearing when in the music business can be a bit tricky. People will make assumptions once they know someone is dealing with a hearing issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the beginning.

On April 23, 2009 I had vertigo, which was something I’d not experienced before. I remember telling our conductor that I was feeling a bit dizzy, just to warn him that I was sort of “off”. On April 26 I had an awful migraine in the morning and then had to play Carmen that afternoon. I get migraines on occasion, and I call them “eargrains” because the tragus of my left ear is so painful to touch and I know that means a migraine is coming on.

But on April 29 I had a horrible experience. I had vertigo, and a headache that actually caused me to cry and worried Dan so much he asked if he should call an ambulance. I couldn’t stand or I’d throw up. And I had opera in two hours. (Fortunately I was able to call my wonderful sub and he came in for that performance.) I was a mess, and the next morning ended up going to the doctor. She said she thought it was labyrinthitis, sent me home after doing some tests to make sure it wasn’t something worse, and I waited it out.

It did pass. I felt better. But then I had tinnitus in my left ear. It was pretty awful and I went to see an otologist. It turned out that not only did I have tinnitus, but I also suffered hearing loss. It wasn’t horrendous, but it was still troublesome.

Fast forward some years (and more migraines) later. I returned to have another hearing test and my hearing had deteriorated enough to qualify for a hearing aid. It was a tremendous help at parties and restaurants: the hearing had gotten to a point where I just withdrew at noisy events because I couldn’t hear. The funny thing was I was MOST comfortable in the orchestra: I didn’t notice the tinnitus, and I didn’t feel the hearing loss caused any problems with my playing. The majority of my colleagues didn’t even know I had the hearing loss problem (I didn’t wear the hearing aid at work because the sound was so darn tinny).

About a year or so ago I went in for a new hearing aid. I’d been neglecting wearing the old one a large part of the time. My audiologist said that was a mistake — the ear can just shut down eventually if it’s not working. But oh this new hearing aid was a life changer! I could wear it at work. The sound was marvelous. I was overjoyed. And I nearly felt normal. Still, very few in the orchestras knew about my situation: I was still not ready for the looks, the possible judgments on my playing if I was out of tune … that sort of thing.

Again we fast forward to a week before our huge trip this past summer (so mid-June). Dan and I were walking downtown and I told him I felt like my head was in a bubble or something. He suggested perhaps I had a clogged ear. I tried to get the wax out using the drops one can buy. No change. In addition my hearing aid seemed broken … until I held it up to my right ear and realized it was working just fine. So I made an appointment to see a doctor. She took one look in my ear and said it was as clean as can be. NO wax. So off to get a hearing test I went.

Profound hearing loss in the left ear. Sigh. When the speech recognition bit was done I simply couldn’t understand anything! It was all distortion and ugly sounds. The doctor suggested prednisone and, thankfully, said I could travel. My hearing aid was useless, so while I brought it with me on the trip, hoping the ear would somehow heal itself, I never could put it to use.

I thought my career was over.

I have always said “I am not my oboe,” and I still believe that to be true. I still, though, hoped to play a bit more. One possible goal was to play through the 2025/26 season so I could say I’d been with symphony for 50 years. Could that still happen?

Yes. No. I don’t know!

What I do know is I played last week and if people are being honest I was fine. I use an earplug in my left ear the entire time to avoid distortion. I use the right earplug when everything is tremendously loud (I do NOT want to sacrifice that ear!). So I am taking one day at a time and we’ll see what happens.

Oh, and if you are wondering, the damage was NOT caused by loud sounds. The doctor made that very clear. It was the migraine, most likely. Did you know migraines can result in hearing loss? Now you do.

So that’s my story. And I’m ready to go public with it because it helps people understand why I might not respond if they are to the left of me. I am going public because I think people should know that music really can continue even with hearing loss. I’m going public because, despite my loss being caused by something other than loud sounds, I hope my colleagues and students will wear earplugs when they are able since we all know that loud sounds CAN certain cause hearing loss. I’m going public because it is my way of processing this loss.

I’m writing this quickly, and odds are I’ll go back and edit on occasion, but I just wanted to finally get this out there for all to read.

17. September 2023 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , ,

Giovanni Gabrieli: Jubilate Deo
VOCES8 Scholars

Let every land praise God,
as the man who fears the Lord is blessed.
May the God of Israel bind you together
and himself be with you,
may he send you help from his holiness
and watch over you from Sion.
The Lord blessed you out of Sion,
he who made heaven and earth.
Serve the Lord with joy!

04. June 2023 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , , ,

William Byrd: Praise Our Lord

15. January 2023 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , ,

Purcell: Thou Knows Lord the Secrets of Our Hearts
Les Arts Florissants; Paul Agnew, Director

08. January 2023 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , , , ,

Giovanni Croce: Buccinate in Neomenia Tuba

Blow the trumpet when the moon is new, at the sign of your solemn feast day. Alleluia.
With a voice of rejoicing, with the sound of the trumpet, rejoice in the Lord our help. Alleluia.

Let us rejoice/Rejoice in God with strings and organ, with drum and in chorus.
Sing and rejoice and sing psalms as well as you know how.

19. July 2020 · Comments Off on Sunday Morning Music · Categories: Sunday Morning Music · Tags: , , ,

MacMillan: O Radiant Dawn
Stay At Home Choir

O Radiant Dawn from The Strathclyde Motets by James MacMillan
with The Sixteen – https://thesixteen.com/
Want to sing it with your choir? – https://bit.ly/38e6T9O

The Stay At Home Choir is a global musical community of more than 14,000 people from 64+ countries who come together to interact with and perform alongside some of their favorite artists.

We really don’t know what the coming months will bring. Many of us — perhaps all? — are rather certain there will be no concert halls full of listeners and a stage of musicians. Until there is a vaccine it is hard to imagine that we can possibly go back to “normal”. Some wonder if the old “normal” can ever return. It’s difficult to say. At the moment we are forbidden to be on stage, and that’s as it should be.

But no one can stop the music!

When live in-person concerts stopped musicians immediately started to post the “virtual” videos — performers each recording their part (or parts in some instances) and someone (or someones) would put it all together: it’s a very time consuming job, but the end results can be quite glorious, as you’ve seen here at oboeinsight.

And now there are occasionally the small groups. A reduced orchestra on stage, everyone six feet or more apart. Sometimes with a conductor, sometimes not. Still no audiences.

But THIS … a quartet. Still separated by space. With no audience. But oh the music making! If this is what we have to have for a while, I can live with it. SUCH beauty! (But if you’ve never heard the full orchestra version of the Adagietto you have missed something incredible, so do search it out.)

Mahler: Adagietto (from the Fifth Symphony)
The Alma Quartet

Followed by more Mahler, including Nino Gvetadze on piano … please do listen!

07. April 2020 · Comments Off on Saying Goodnight With Bach · Categories: Can't Stop the Music!, CovidTimes · Tags: , , , ,

… because Bach is always good for the heart. As is cello. Here are New York Philharmonic cellists playing Bach’s Suite No. 1 for unaccompanied Cello. (No, they don’t play it together … each player takes a movement.)