Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Oboe Update - and Harp

It's been awhile since I've given an oboe update.

Well, I now feel comfortable playing my oboe d'amore. I was supposed to play twice at church on Christmas Eve, but it wasn't meant to be. I had a tooth go bad on me which produced an abscess. Then the medicine I took made me as sick as a dog.

So, that day was a write-off.

Oh, and I bought a 26-string, lever harp last summer. I love it. It's a black Rees' Fullsicle Harp. Lovely, and it weighs only 4 pounds.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Go to the Head of the Class

I was given this little bookmark with these questions and answers. These are supposed to be from real tests given by teachers to their students. Pretty funny.

Q: What is the opposite of main?
A: New Hampshire
Q: Who was Joan of Arc?
A: She was Noah’s wife.
Q: Use etiquette in a sentence.
A: “I don’t know the meaning of etiquette.”
Q: Which state is a peninsula?
A: Peninsulvania.
Q: What percentage of the European population died following the outbreak of the plague?
A: One hundred percent, eventually. 

I can’t vouch for the veracity of the above, but here is one from a teacher our daughter had in high school. 

“Magellan circumcised the earth with an 80 foot clipper.” 

Here’s one more that a friend sent me. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is the Oboe, anyway? - 3

Here’s what a friend of mine said about my playing. We played in an orchestra together - he on electric guitar.

“When the oboe comes in it sends chills up my spine like the 1st time I heard Lenard Skinner play Tree Bird."

Best complement ever!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is an Oboe, Anyway? - 2

 The oboe is principally a melodic instrument; it has a rustic character, full of tenderness, I would say even of shyness.
-Hector Berlioz from his Treatise on Orchestration

Berlioz also says this about the oboe.:

The sounds of the oboe are suitable for expressing simplicity, artless grace, gentle happiness, or the grief of a weak soul. It renders these admirably in cantabile passages.

And this...:

    It can also convey a degree of agitation, but one must be careful not to intensify this to cries of passion, to vehement outbursts of anger, threats or heroism: its thin, bitter-sweet tones then become feeble and altogether grotesque.

I think that Berlioz is on the right track with this. The oboe does sound best when used in the kinds of passages he describes. Here are some examples of this. 

Berlioz was pretty cruel about the oboe in other respects. I don’t necessarily agree with him here. 

[…] Quick runs, whether chromatic or diatonic, can be played fairly easily on the oboe, but the effect they produce is merely clumsy and almost ridiculous; the same is true of arpeggios.

So, what is an oboe according to Berlioz? Well, he didn’t have it confused with a clarinet or a carrot that’s for sure! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What is the Oboe, Anyway? - 1

In the minds of many, the oboe is just a clarinet or a carrot.

After service was over on Sunday a few weeks back, one of the men in the congregation came up and told me how much he liked my clarinet playing.

I was playing my oboe d’amore.  I just said thank you. It has been my experience through the years that trying to explain the differences between a clarinet and an oboe is just too much information for a lot of people. So, thank you is my standard answer if someone says they like my playing.

The gentleman then went on to explain how some guy made a clarinet out of a carrot.

I lost count of how many of my friends have sent me that video.

I just say thank you for sharing the video. That’s interesting. The guy in the video is a very clever man, I tell them.

Some people see the d’amore and ask me what it is. I say it’s an oboe of love. That can be a conversation stopper, which is a mercy.

So, what is an oboe?  Hmmm.

I can tell you what it is not.

It is not a clarinet.

It is not a carrot.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Oboe d’Amore and general musical Update

Well, my playing has suffered a lot in the last 3 weeks because I’ve had this winter crud that won’t let me go. My daughter finally dragged me off to the doctor, so now I am on antibiotics. I still don’t have my voice back. I still have a sore throat. I still have trouble breathing.

The breathing is better, though, so maybe tomorrow I can do some playing on my d’amore. At the doctor’s office, I could hit 200 on the breathing meter thingy. Not so good. On the third try I got to about 300 - almost normal - but it hurt my lungs. Tonight I hit 300 on the first try, so that’s a good sign.  I just hit over 350, so things are definitely looking up!

To make matters worse, I had two new crowns installed on Wednesday. It has take a few days for my mouth to settle down. So, oh, woe is me!  All of these things affect my musical progress. At least they are pretty good excuses. Maybe giving my mea culpa here on my blog will help me get off dead center musically speaking and back into doing some playing!

I have been playing it for worship team, and that is a lot of fun for me. There are no oboe d’amore parts for praise and worship music. In fact, there are no parts at all, just a lead sheet with words and chords.

I don’t really need the lead sheet anyway, or the chords since the progressions are really simple. I do need to know what key we’re in, but that’s pretty much it.

From there I just improvise. Sometimes I play parts of the melody. Other times I play a harmony part or a little counter melody. Sometimes I just play sustained tones, adding some oboe color to the ensemble.

I keep asking for a mike, since sometimes I can’t hear myself all that well. It is especially hard to hear when I am in the middle of the stage between the drums and electric guitar on my left, and the keyboard and bass on my right. I feel like I’m playing inside a paper bag!

So, I got myself moved to the end of the stage farthest from the drums. Now I can hear everyone and try to fit my part into the sound of the group. I love the drums and electric guitar, but somehow my sound just gets absorbed into their  sound if I am too close to them. Since I am not playing from music, but just by ear, I really do need to hear what I am playing!

The sound guys - and my daughter - tell me I cut through just fine and don’t really need a mike. In fact, she told me that she could hear me all the way down the hall, outside the sanctuary. Hmmm. She’s my best or worst critic!  The d’amore is pretty powerful, I grant them that.

People tell me it sounds good. Our director likes it, so that’s good. A person does not want to be on the outs with the director. He is a young guy, but has had excellent musical training and knows his stuff.

Of course, for me this is a different kind of experience - to play on a worship team. It’s fun for me, and something new and different. I’ve learned a lot about improvisation and playing by ear. I do have to think ahead some. Improvisation takes some planning and thought.

Besides that, I purchased the A Major concerto for oboe d’amore by Bach. It’s really a transposition of one of his works for  harpsichord. It’s such a nice piece of music and quite playable. It does require air, though.

I also got the Oboe I part for the Mass in b minor by Bach, so I get to play along with that. I just ordered part II as well.

Oh, and my husband confiscated one of my gig bags for his clarinet. I have one for my d’amore and HAD another one for my regular oboe. So, I purchased a new oboe case. It’s pretty sweet, with room for all my oboe junk as well as printed music.

I quit making reeds years ago. I wasn’t all that good at it in the first place, so I just gave it up when ready made reeds became more available. I can even get ones that are unfinished and finish them off to my liking.

So, I guess that’s it on the musical update.

Music is so good for the soul and for one’s health - as long as the air holds out!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Oboe Merry Christmas!

Last Sunday I debuted the oboe d'Amore at church on worship team and for communion.

Our team was short an electric bass, an electric guitar, and vocalist because of  out of town family commitments. So, the team members included myself on d'amore, Ben on the grand piano, Janet on her bass viol, and Josh on drums. It was more acoustic sounding, except that we were miked.

We got a lot of good complements, and people even clapped several times. The songs were all traditional Christmas hymns with a more contemporary setting. I improvise - that is make up - my parts with an emphasis on sustained tones with some embellishments and a few fancy noodly stuff thrown in. Fun. I also throw in the melody at times.

Everything is recorded, so in awhile, Ben will give me a recording of everything I have played in the last couple of months. Then I will see if it really sounded as good as we all felt it sounded!  Reality check.

My daughter said it sounded good - which is high praise coming from her! She's pretty picky. She also noticed that I was having a little trouble with breathing, which no one else noticed. I was. I had to use my asthma inhaler just before we played, and my lungs hurt just a wee bit. While my breathing on the d'amore is much more comfortable than it was a couple of months ago when I started playing her, there is still some discomfort.

So, I'm going to have to finally admit that my asthma is a bigger problem for me than what I want to face up to. Off to the doc. in the new year. I'm so much better than I was even a year ago - actually Sept. of 2013 was the last time I had bronchitis. That is a long stretch for me!  Maybe I can make it to be never having bronchitis again, let alone the flu or pneumonia!  Music must have healing properties at least to the extent that playing a wind instrument makes a person want to have more air!  It motivates me to get the help I need so I can keep blowing for many more years. :-)

My husband and I also did communion music. We played Of the Father's Love Begotten and Thou Who Wast Rich. Thou... uses the French melody Quelle Est Cette Odeur Agréable.

Here's something I wrote about the hymn Thou Who Wast Rich. from last year.   When I wrote this blog post last year, I had just returned from Honduras a few weeks before. My pastor friend and his family were really trying to change the church culture in the area where he lived. The prosperity Gospel with its emphasis on giving to wealthy preachers was something he abhored. In fact, in his church, he didn't even talk about tithing!  His people were poor, so how could he ask them to give up what they themselves needed to live on?  He and his wife were the ones being generous and encouraging true generosity, not giving in order to become rich or to make others rich.

It is something I had been thinking about a lot as well. So, this hymn expresses a lot of what I believe to be who Christ is and then who we are expected to be as followers of Christ - generous and giving, not greedy and taking. I want to live that way, myself. Christmas is a good time to remember Christ's sacrifice and the sacrifices we are to give in His name.

 It is one of my favorite Christmas hymns, or maybe one of my favorite hymns of all kinds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oboe True Confessions

Okay, so I did a newby kind of really embarassing thing last Saturday. It was something that I have told students, even, to never do. It's sick 'em in oboe cleaning.

You see, the top of the upper joint of the oboe is quite narrow. You have to run a kind of thin silk swab that is sown onto a strong string with a weight at the end through the bore of the instrument. It's a bit tricky, since if you're not careful or if the swab is too thick, it will get stuck.

The oboe bore is conical shaped. Anyway, I've never gotten a swab stuck. Ever. Until last Saturday.

It was really stuck. I had pulled really, really hard to get it through. Oh, my!  Did I ever feel dumb.

I hadn't realized that the bore of the oboe d'Amore was even smaller at the very top than the regular oboe. The swab I use for my oboe is too large for the d'Amore. Duh!

So, on Monday I went into the local music store, and rather sheepishly confessed my transgression. The technician was in and was able to quickly get the piece of swab out. He told me that it was really jammed in there.

I knew that already. Anyway, d'Amore back in service. After Christmas, I'll take her in for a tune up. It's now broken in.  He'll check it all over to make any adjustments that may be needed.  Some of the notes aren't quite right pitch and response wise.  It can't all be me or the reeds. Honestly, it can't!

Sunday I hope to debut the instrument for communion music at our church. We shall see. I'll play my regular oboe for worship as well.

I love this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Oboe D'Amore Update

Something very exciting arrived today. Well, I suppose not everyone would find it all that exciting, but I do. It's this!

Da L'opera Omnia Di J. S. Bach (Tuttii "Soli-duetti-trii E Passi Tecnici" Per Oboe, Oboe D'amore, Oboe Da Caccia, Taille (II Volume))

Very cool.  It's from Milan. This volume has oboe, oboe d'Amore, and English Horn parts to the Christmas Oratorio, the Easter Oratorio, and a bunch of other things. Fun. 

Bach was very kind to the oboe, all of them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oboe Update

Well, I did a crazy thing last month. I purchased an oboe d'Amore.

What do I want to do with it? Well, try to tame it in the first place. There's the breathing issue and the reed issue and the fingers issue and all that.

I suffer from asthma, so a few years ago when I purchased a new oboe, I needed one that was free blowing and reeds that were kind of soft. Reed making was never my favorite thing to do, so I talked to a fellow oboe player who was also trying to return to the instrument. She was suffering from lyme disease. Because of her physical limitations, she had started to use ready made reeds and had purchased an oboe that was easier to play than her Loree from when she was actively playing.

I thought that was a great idea, given the amount of time as well as the amount of money I had to invest in reeds. Reedmaking takes about half of an oboe players time, and I wanted to just play and not whittle so much. I still have to adjust the reeds, but that's not so bad.

The Fox 300 I purchased is an asthmatic's dream oboe. Yes, you lose some projection and richness,  but it sounds very nice. It has all the bells and whistles of any professional oboe. Also, I don't have to worry about it cracking, like my old oboe did.

Now the d'Amore is a different animal, but not too different. My asthma is much better than it was a few years ago. Our little Cocker Spaniel, Sam, has been gone about 3 years, now. Our parakeets died a year or so ago. So, we are pet free. They were our daughter's pets, but all parents know how that goes. I made some other changes in bedding and stuff like that, and it has made a huge difference.

So, I thought maybe I could fill up a larger oboe made of Grenadilla. Man, I have to work hard to build up stamina - which is a good thing. It's coming along, but that part surprised me. I never had problems with the English Horn when I played it in college, but that was how long ago, now?

This is very good for me in so many ways.

I may have to break down and start making my own.  The reeds I purchased for the d'Amore are not very well made. I have to practically remake them anyway. We shall see.

Of course, for an oboe player, it's always the reed, the reed, the reed... :-)  What a bunch of whiners we are!

Stubborn little things. They have to learn new positions, but not new fingerings. Old dogs always have trouble learning new tricks, but my sisu will prevail.

Sisu is what makes Finns sit in a hot sauna and then go jump in a frozen lake. So, it makes us do crazy things.

"Sisu is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience."
- Wikkipedia

My goal with all of this?  Okay, so now comes the really weird part. I want to play Gospel blues oboe. My muse is Mahalia Jackson. 

Also, I have been playing my regular oboe in the worship team at our church. I love that, since I get to improvise my own parts. It's getting so I don't really need the lead sheet, so I am slowly weaning myself away from the printed page. Of course, the worship songs are straight, so it is easier for me to get into it.

The blues are a different genre, of course. We shall see. I'm trying to record something every day on Sound Cloud. That keeps me motivated. Also, I can check my progress. 

Another thing I want to do is learn the d'Amore parts to Bach's works. A book is coming in the mail and is supposed to arrive on Christmas Eve. 

Never too late to dream new dreams and try new things. You never know where they may lead. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Okay, so my oboe and I have kind of an off again, on again relationship - a bit like a rocky love affair. Right now it's on.

We have a few gigs coming up - 1,) the wedding of the sister of our son-in-law; 2.) a Christmas program at a large church in the neighboring town. That involves a real orchestra my husband and I get to play in. Rehearsals start some time this month. ; 3.) some communion music for our church; 4.) and I get to play my oboe in the worship band at church - which is a bit odd, since I play along with keyboard, drum, vocalists, keyboard, and electric guitars. I call it a rock band, but my daughter reminds me it just worship music. No matter. I'm very excited - too excited, actually - about being able to play my oboe in a rock band. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Hey, if it involves drums and electric guitars, it has to be a rock band, right?

I'm also thinking of calling my old jazz teacher for some lessons. Well, actually he was our daughter's tenor sax teacher when she was in high school, and I took about a month's worth of lessons from him. He even had me play in one of his recitals. So, I learned K.C. Blues out of the Charlie Parker Omnibook and played it. Of course, his other students were all kids, but hey!  He told me it sounded hip - and then we giggled. He even wanted to learn oboe himself, since he thought it was well-suited for jazz.

I got my oboe overhauled. I got new reeds. I got my Charlie Parker Omnibook. I also got my Bach b Minor Mass and pretend that the continuo is an electric bass guitar.  I'm gonna' give Dave a call. Well, at least I'll have fun with this. It's good to try new things.

Maybe I'll get an English Horn. It might be better suited to jazz, even.

My daughter mocks me and is not impressed.  Meh.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Glory - 4

Genesis 1:1-5

Genesis 1

The Creation of the World

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Technically I guess this is not the first manifestation of God's glory, but maybe it is the first. 

God's Spirit is present, hovering over the face of the waters.

The word "kabod" or "glory" when used of God has to do with His abiding presence.  His glory has to do with His great great and weighty reputation and importance.

Light is shiny, as is the Shekinah glory of God.  Hmm.

So, since this post contains my thinking on the subject of "glory", I 'm going to say that this is the Bible's first mention of God's glory.  The problem is that the word "glory" is not in the text, but the concept is certainly there.

God's Word begins with the light of His glory shown on the face of the deep.

No, light is not God, but it is used over and over again as a symbol of God's work and presence.  Since God is spirit, having no physical body, He both creates and then uses physical things to show us what He is like.

This statement is true.:

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

In the context of 1 John 1, the Apostle is talking about God's sinless moral character.  It is about His holiness in contrast to our sinfulness.  Darkness is used as a symbol of sin, and light as a symbol of sinlessness. 

Some are tempted to turn the phrase "God is light"  around, but that is not correct grammatically in the Greek.  

Some also try to turn around the phrase "God is love", saying that "Love is God" in the same way.  That was a popular interpretation of the Hippies, as you can well imagine.  One of God's attributes is love, as in He is loving.  We dare not deify love itself, as many pagan religions do.

1 John 4:8

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The first verses of the Bible found in Genesis 1  remind me of 2 Corinthians 4:6.  This verse supports the idea that the Bible begins with a manifestation of the glory of God.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

"We have here a further account of the first day’s work, in which observe, 1. That the first of all visible beings which God created was light; not that by it he himself might see to work (for the darkness and light are both alike to him), but that by it we might see his works and his glory in them, and might work our works while it is day. "

I love this Matthew Henry quote as well.:

"This was not only the first day of the world, but the first day of the week. I observe it to the honour of that day, because the new world began on the first day of the week likewise, in the resurrection of Christ, as the light of the world, early in the morning. In him the day-spring from on high has visited the world; and happy are we, for ever happy, if that day-star arise in our hearts."