Ravel’s Tribute to Fallen Friends

This exuberant and elegant orchestral suite was arranged from selected movements of the composer’s original piano version. Three movements (“Forlane,” “Minuet,” and “Rigaudon”) from this orchestration of Le tombeau received a dance interpretation from Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht, Jean Borlin, and Rolf de Maré which was premiered on November 8, 1920, at the Champs-Elysées in Paris.

The Tomb of Couperin was intended by the composer as an homage to eighteenth-century French music, of which a majority of characteristic forms are found in the creations of François Couperin. The “tomb” of the title came to have further resonance; with the outbreak of the First World War, several of Ravel‘s comrades fell in battle, and each movement of the piano work is dedicated to one of them.

The first movement is a “Prelude”, in memory of First Lieutenant Jacques Charlot (transcriber of Ma mère l’oye for piano solo), in a lively triple meter marked Vif. The largely pentatonic theme is taken by the oboe, echoed by the clarinets, and gradually builds to a brief lush texture in the strings. Woodwinds are employed percussively at times, and the bassoons are sometimes combined with low clarinets for reedy timbres. Muted and pizzicato strings with harp harmonics at times form velvety “impressionist” textures that briefly contrast with the clear, pastoral timbres. The piece concludes with a surprising harp glissando into a sustained tremolo on flutes, oboes, and muted strings.

Although the rhythm, sprightly mordents, staccatos alternating with offbeat accents, and structure of the “Forlane”, in memory of First Lieutenant Gabriel Deluc (a Basque painter from Saint-Jean-de-Luz), are the same as the historical dance, Ravel employs major sevenths and chromatics, giving the tune a decided contemporary edge. This dance is lively like the preceding prelude, but has a more earthy feeling and is at a slightly less hectic Allegretto. An unusual touch is the combination of staccato woodwinds with string and harp harmonics.

The “Menuet”, in memory of Jean Dreyfus (at whose home Ravel recuperated after he was demobilized), opens with the theme in the oboe with mostly semi-staccato accompaniment figures and wonderful modal harmonies. The musette theme is scored with cello drone and subtle rhythmic harmonics. Thick, dramatic chords descend over a pedal and introduces the combination of minuet and musette themes.

The fourth movement “Rigaudon”, in memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin (two brothers and childhood friends of Ravel, killed by the same shell in November 1914), is in two contrasting sections: an animated dance in C major and a charming pastoral-like C minor oboe melody accompanied by guitar-like pizzicati. The first section is recapitulated for a bright conclusion.

Hear it live with the SSO Saturday, November 10th – click for more information.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock!

Humourist Stephen Leacock gave Canadians an identity at the time that the fairly new country needed a voice that bonded it ocean to ocean.  His writings were honest and captured a moment in time. Leacock found himself troubled by the onset of War – he understood that Canada needed to support the Allied Forces, but he acked for the young men a young country was sending off to war.

In 1914 when a Christmas ceasefire was declared, Leacock felt so moved by the act that he needed to write.  Putting pen to paper he coined a story that was Canada’s Christmas Carol. The story has magically been turned into a chamber opera by Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel and the SSO is thrilled to partner with Saskatoon Opera to co-produce this charming work that reflects on one of Canada’s greatest writers during one of the country’s defining moments.

Known for his gentle satire on small town life, Leacock wrote the short story “Merry Christmas” as his own cry against the horrors of World War I, and the inescapable robbing of innocence that war brings. In a deceptively short tale, he uses the character of Father Christmas, as a symbolic guardian of all our innocence, cruelly turned into a mad, shell-shocked victim of war, to bring his message home. Using a device that pays homage to his favourite author, Charles Dickens, in the classic “A Christmas Carol”, Leacock (himself a character in the drama) is visited by two spirits over the course of one night. These otherworldly visitations will lead to a transformation – one that empowers the author to use his writing as a tool for peace.

Our production of Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock will feature tenor Michael Harris as Leacock, soprano Chelsea Mahan and baritone Janaka Welhinda as the two night visitors.  The production will be directed by Charles Peters and conducted by Maestro Eric Paetkau.

 

Friday and Saturday, November 23rd and 24th

Quance Theatre at Education Buildling, University of Saskatchewan

Seating is limited – tickets are just $25.

Click for Tickets

Flanders Fields Reflections

As part of our SSO Remembers series, we’re honoured to present a performance of John Burge‘s Flanders Fields Reflections at our November 10th concert.  The concert commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, and John’s piece is a perfect way to capture the emotion of all Canadian’s reflecting on the impact of WWI.

That virtually all Canadian citizens and most English speakers in the Western world will immediately know that this musical work draws its inspiration from John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” is a good indication that this is perhaps the most famous poem ever written by a Canadian. Born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1872, Dr. John McCrae died in 1918 at Wimereux, France of pneumonia while on active service as a medical officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I. “In Flanders Fields,” was first published in the magazine, Punch, in 1915, and later appeared posthumously in a small volume of his poetry that bears the same title.

Flanders Fields Reflections is scored for string orchestra and is in five movements, each of which is titled with a phrase taken from the poem. The poem is remarkable in the way that it follows the fixed poetic form of the rondeau (which requires the repetition of the opening phrase at the end of the second and third verses) while expressing the extreme emotional gamut of loss, despair, sacrifice, obligation and hope. When one hears this poem recited at a Remembrance Day service, the words resonate with a depth that is transcendental in its power to convey what Wilfred Owen, another World War I poet, described as, “…the pity of war.” It is this resonance that the composer has tried to capture. At times, the music is literal in its approach, as with the wind effects in the first movement’s, “The Poppies Blow,” or the high, bird-like violin solo in the second movement’s, “Still Bravely Singing.” The middle movement’s, “We Are The Dead,” is captured in a slow funeral march while the final movement conveys the sentiment, “We Shall Not Sleep,” with a melody that keeps returning and an extended series of endings. The work’s most expressive music is found in the fourth movement’s interpretation of “Loved and Were Loved.” These few words represent so vividly, the individual tragedy that is contained within each and every death which is in stark contrast to the numerical tallies of war fatalities that can be summarized all too quickly. In this movement, a simple descending line of six notes is maintained throughout, as if to symbolically show that our search for love is perhaps humanities’ most constant desire. As the poem makes clear, we cannot forget that we are alive and free today because of those who gave up their own lives or loved ones.

The SSO’s audience last heard Burge’s work in the spring of 2017 when the SSO featured his work Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag as part of our all-Canadian concert.

For more information about the concert, or to listen to Flanders Fields Reflections, click here.

SSO Remembers

This November, the SSO marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice, the end of World War One, with a series of concerts that highlight music and stories of the era.  The Great War had a significant impact on music – composers fought in the war, died in the war, lost loved ones, and saw the ravages of battle first hand.  Their music changed.  It shaped the sound of the 20th century.  And it shaped our country.

The SSO wanted to explore the music of composers effected by the war.  As well we explore music set to two great literary works from Canadian writers during the war – John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields and Stephen Leacock’s Merry Christmas.

Our SSO Chamber Ensemble will perform on November an afternoon of music in the historic Convocation Hall – entirely music composed during the war, its a fitting venue for the afternoon as the hallways are filled with tributes to the Saskatchewan soldiers who served in the Great War.

Our November 10th performance features Elgar’s heartbreaking Cello Concerto, a work he wrote after the war had ended.  In it you see a torn world drenched in pain, sorrow, and eventual triumph.  Also on the program is Ravel’s Tombeau De Couperin, each movement dedicated to a friend lost in the battle of war.

On November 23rd and 24th we’re presenting Merry Christmas Stephen Leacock by Neil Wiesensel.  A co-production with Saskatoon Opera, this story tells the tale of Leacock himself being visited by spirits on Christmas Eve…

Music of World War One
2:00PM, Sunday, November 4, 2018
Convocation Hall
Elgar Cello Concerto
7:30PM, Saturday, November 10, 2018
TCU Place, Sid Buckwold Theatre
Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock
7:30PM, Friday, November 23, 2018
Quance Theatre
7:30PM, Saturday, November 24, 2018
Quance Theatre

A statement from ED Mark Turner

The first thought I had in the moment was that I wouldn’t be able to play piano the same way again.  My life did not flash before my eyes (no pun intended), and time neither stood still nor flew by. And while stories like this are usually told in a moment-by-moment retelling of the event, for me the story is more than a series of events. I cannot instantly recall the initial pain, but I can vividly recall the panic that I’d lost a part of my piano playing ability.  

To be very honest I have been attempting, and failing, to write a note to the SSO community since the attack.  I have wanted to share that I am fully recovered. I’ve wanted to share my thanks for the support and love the community showed to me and my staff whose lives were all changed forever that day.  I’ve wanted to talk about how at first I couldn’t listen to music, but now I rely on music to get through the bad days and the just getting by days. I’ve wanted to talk about the steps we’re taking to give the SSO a safe space.  There’s much I’ve wanted to say, but I haven’t had the words.

On July 31st, I was attacked at the SSO offices by a man who we’d never seen before.  In the middle of a meeting with three of the SSO team, he stabbed me in the eye. Thanks to the quick thinking and giant hearts of my team, I was rushed to hospital and I had the emergency care I needed.  The next few weeks were very difficult, very painful, very emotional, and very draining.  

The bruising, swelling, fractures, and eye complications have all gone, and I have made a 100% physical recovery. I am very grateful to medical team at City Hospital and the Eye Clinic for the care I received that made recovery possible.  

But the psychological effects of being the victim of a violent crime don’t disappear like bruises.  So while the scar on my eye is barely noticable, I’m adjusting to life with scars.

Like many people and, as studies show, nearly all musicians, mental health has always played a role in my life and I have struggled with anxiety most of my adult life.  Whether it’s a musician’s innate emotional connection to their soul or the vulnerability that comes with being a music student, musicians and mental health challenges go hand in hand.  I am very lucky that I don’t have performance related anxiety, and I’m not sure I’ve ever really been nervous to play no matter the size of the audience (though, my teachers Sheila and Penny somehow had the ability to make me question if I’d practiced enough….).  In the mid-2000s I began living with anxiety – it took a long time to understand, and accept, and eventually I was able to manage it. I’ve even given a speech on stage at the SSO while I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. More than once.

So new scars are just that – they’re new.  I consider myself very lucky that in my life I can turn with an open heart and open mind and open ears to music.  I am a voracious consumer and maker of music – it’s my life’s work, it’s my refuge, its my passion, it’s my research, it’s what I turn to when I need time and space. But this summer made me grateful that beautiful music exists and that whether its Bach or Aretha, there’s something for every feeling and every scar.

Safety is a must for a workplace – and because of that, the SSO Board of Directors and I made the decision to move the SSO to a new space.  

The shock and fear attached to the attack had impact on the staff, musicians, Book Sale volunteers, and even our patrons.  This isn’t about us running away from what happened, or turning our backs on the friends we’ve made in Riversdale – this decision was solely selfish: we needed to provide the team that brings you the SSO a space where they could feel productive again.  While I was the one left with a physical scar, the mental scarring affected many people. We have been able to do our work, but it is taking a toll on us.  

We’re thrilled to have found a great new space that has a great music room, beautiful offices, and a wonderful warehouse for the Book Sale. We’re grateful to our neighbours and landlord for making Riversdale such a rewarding home.  And we’re affirming our commitment to being an orchestra for all members of our community, and in continuing the work that has been so important to us in our time in Riversdale.

I’m behind on my work – we lost a month, and though I am back to work I still have days where concentration is difficult.  But I am loving being back at work. Our first few concerts of the year have refreshed my pride in the musicians of the SSO, and they’ve given me the energy to make the next steps for the SSO to be a catalyst for exceptional music making in our community.  

The next time you see one of my staff, please tell them how grateful you are that they are doing what they do for music in our town and how brave they were in the face of terrifying circumstances.  

A move is a lot of work and costs a lot of money, so don’t be shy about helping out!  Come to lots of concerts – there is no replacement for the healing power of music. It means a lot to us when you come to our concerts.

And I’m back at the piano.
Tune your heart to brave music.

See you at the symphony,
Mark


SSO Executive Director Mark Turner wishes to thank the community, near and far, who reached out in the weeks that followed the unfortunate events of July 31st.

The SSO will be moving its offices during the month of November to 602B 51st Street East.

Confession Time: I didn’t always love baroque music

Here’s a hot take: baroque music is about to get EXCITING.

Stay with me – I have a confession to make. I didn’t always love baroque music. As a young musician, I joked about baroque being “music to do math by,” and grumbled when my ever-patient teachers tried to impart their passion.

I got on the baroque train only a decade ago, feeling ready to dig a bit deeper. Nothing gets me going like feeling as though I’ve “discovered” new-to-me music! You can have the same experience on October 6, 2018 at Knox United Church, because I’m about to drop another bomb: all but one of the six concerti in this concert were new to the Saskatoon Symphony music library. Even better? The sheet music for the  Stamitz concerto for clarinet (Margaret Wilson) and the Punto concerto for horn (Carol-Marie Cottin) had to be transcribed by hand for this performance because they were unavailable in print. Yeah, you heard me – hot off the presses, new to Saskatoon, and delivered to your ear.

That means unique, fresh performances coming directly to Saskatoon by Saskatoon-based musicians. See? Exciting!

Also new to this series is Veronique Mathieu, violinist and holder of the David L. Kaplan Chair in Music at the University of Saskatchewan. She’s performing the incredible and now beloved Autumn from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as the Bach oboe and violin concerto, with our principal oboe, Erin Brophey. Veronique is a recent and highly-lauded voice on the Saskatoon scene.

With a program also including the Vivaldi Paris Concerto no. 1 for strings and the Vivaldi Concerto alla Rustica for strings, the audience is sure to experience the kind of music one can imagine featured in the ballrooms of the late 17th and early 18th century that probably melted a few wigs – and tore many a pair of hose. You can anticipate the vigour of danceable movements, the touching lament and whispered confessions of love in every drawn-out chord in the andante movements, and that satisfying sensation of each piece drawing to a close with dramatic resolution.

If you’re not fully stoked yet, please take my word for it as a relatively new fan of baroque music – this will be an evening you won’t want to miss!

Get your tickets today!


From SSO Blogger Michelle Telford

Michelle Telford teams up with the SSO this season to bring a wide range of blog posts – her creative work has focused in the world of opera, recently winning the Musique 3 Femmes Prize as librettist for a work composed by Saskatoon composer Kendra Harder, Book of Faces.  Her custom surtitles have been seen above the stages of many opera productions in Canada.

Who was Giovanni Punto…?

At our October 6th concert Carol Marie Cottin, the SSO’s Principal Horn, will be performing Giovanni Punto’s 5th Concerto for Horn….its the 5th of 16 concertos for horn.  His lasting legacy as a horn composer is undeniable, but Giovanni Punto wasn’t his real name…..in fact he wasn’t even Italian!

Jan Vaclav Stich was born in Žehušice in Bohemia. His father was a serf bonded to the estate of Count Joseph Johann von Thun, but Stich was taught singing, violin and finally the horn. The Count sent him to study horn under Joseph Matiegka in PragueJan Schindelarz in Munich, and finally with A. J. Hampel in Dresden (from 1763 to 1764). Hampel first taught Stich the hand-stopping technique which he later improved and extended.

Stich then returned to the service of the Count, where he remained for the next four years. At the age of 20 Stich and four friends ran away from the estate. The Count, who had invested heavily in Stich’s education, dispatched soldiers with orders to knock out Stich’s front teeth to prevent him ever playing the horn again, but they failed to capture the group, and Stich crossed into Italy, into the Holy Roman Empire.

On arriving in Italy, Stich changed his name to Giovanni Punto (an approximate Italianisation of his name) and went to work in the orchestra of Josef Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. From there he moved to Mainz, to the court orchestra, but left after a few years when they did not give him the post of Konzertmeister. After this he began to travel and play as a soloist, touring much of Europe including England. Charles Burney heard him play in Koblenz in 1772, describing Punto as “the celebrated French horn from Bohemia, whose taste and astonishing execution were lately so applauded in London”.

Punto was particularly active in Paris, playing there 49 times between 1776 and 1788, but his use of hand-stopping was criticized by some in London, possibly due to the novelty of the technique.In 1777, he was invited to teach the horn players in the private orchestra of George III.

Punto also composed pieces to demonstrate his own virtuosity (a common practice then), which indicate that he was a master of quick arpeggios and stepwise passagework.[clarification needed]

In 1778 Punto met Mozart in Paris, after which Mozart reported to his father Leopold that “Punto plays magnifique.” The same year Punto probably entered into an arrangements with some Parisian publishers; nearly all his subsequent compositions were published in Paris, whereas they were previously listed in Breitkopf‘s catalogue. A new horn was also made for him in 1778, a silver cor solo, which he used for the rest of his life.

Punto sought a permanent position in which he could conduct as well as compose and play, and in 1781 he entered the service of Franz Ludwig von Erthal, the Prince-bishop of Würzburg, later moving to become the Konzertmeister (with a pension) for the Comte d’Artois (later to become Charles X of France) in Paris. He was successful enough in this role that in 1787 he was able to secure leave of absence and tour the Rhineland in his own coach, a mark of considerable wealth at the time.

On returning to Paris in 1789 Punto was appointed conductor of the Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes, where he remained for ten years, leaving in 1799 when he was not appointed to the staff of the newly founded Paris Conservatoire. Moving on to Vienna via Munich, Punto met Ludwig van Beethoven, who wrote his Op. 17 Sonata for Horn and Piano for the two of them. They premiered the work on 18 April 1800 at the Burgtheater and played the work again the following month in Pest, Hungary.

In 1801, Punto returned to his homeland after 33 years, playing a grand concert on 18 May in the National Theatre in Prague. A reviewer commented that Punto “received enthusiastic applause for his concertos because of his unparalleled mastery, and respected musicians said that they had never before heard horn playing like it”. The reviewer commented on his innovative techniques, noting that “in his cadenzas he produced many novel effects, playing two and even three-part chords”, and added that Punto was evidence that Bohemia was able to produce “great artistic and musical geniuses”.

In 1802, after a short trip to Paris, Punto developed pleurisy, a common illness among wind players. He died five months later on 16 February 1803, being accorded a “magnificent” funeral in the Church of St. Nicholas attended by thousands. Mozart’s Requiem was performed at the graveside.

See this fresh concerto live with Carol Cottin and the SSO on October 6th!

New Research Makes Concert Debut

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers are harnessing new technology to learn what happens in the brains of symphony orchestra musicians when performing together.

A USask research team led by psychologists Janeen Loehr and Jennifer Nicol has been working with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) over the last year on an experiment that will be shared in a unique way with patrons at the SSO season opening concert on Saturday, Sept. 22.

“This research was a really exciting opportunity for us to measure brain activity from multiple musicians during a live performance and outside of the lab,” said Loehr, principal co-investigator. “There’s only a handful of research groups around the world that can do this kind of work.”

This is believed to be the first time that researchers have investigated whether synchrony between performers’ brain activity causes beneficial brain activity patterns, which may underlie a sense of wellbeing after performing together. This work could help explain why there are benefits, not just when performers play music together, but even when non-professionals play music together.

Loehr noted that in previous research, increased alpha brain wave activity on the front left side of the brain has been associated with listening to music and with happiness.

“There is lots of evidence that group musical performance has psychological benefits such as increasing well-being and reducing stress and anxiety – but exactly how that works is still a mystery,” said Jennifer Nicol, co-investigator on the project.

This is the first collaborative initiative under a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed January 28, 2017 by USask President Peter Stoicheff and SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.

“While this is the type of high-level research that could happen anywhere, it’s thanks to the connections we’re building between the symphony and the university that this exciting experiment gets to happen here,” said SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.

At a dress rehearsal on May 5th, the research team recorded brainwave data from four SSO violinists simultaneously as theorchestra performed Élan, an original orchestral composition by Canadian composer Derek Charke commissioned for Canada’s 150th.

The violinists had portable electroencephalography (or EEG) caps placed on their heads. Signals from the caps were fed into attached laptops. The full orchestra sat in silence for one minute, and then performed Charke’s Élan, then sat in silence for an additional minute.

“Thanks to this compact portable technology, we have a real possibility to look at how musical group performance affects mood, and how similarities between performers’ brain activity contributes to that—things we have never been able to examine before,” Loehr said.

At the Sept. 22nd concert, the violinists’ previously recorded brain activity will be projected onto a screen above the orchestrato accompany their live performance of Élan. This visual representation will show how EEG activity changes as the musicians’ attention fluctuates between focusing on their own performance and focusing on others as they synchronize with each other.

As well, during the intermission, USask researchers will have their brainwave recording equipment on display and will be on hand to talk about the study.

The research collaboration, funded by USask, is a major interdisciplinary undertaking involving with eight collaboratorsfrom various disciplines, as well as four undergraduate students, one graduate student, and one post-doctoral fellow.

The research team hopes to publish a research paper on their findings next year.

The initial idea for a research collaboration came from Farrah Mateen, a USask graduate now at Harvard Medical School. Mateen proposed using portable EEG devices with musicians to Turner after successfully treating patients in Burma using the caps.

The specialized EEG equipment used for the experiment will also be available for future studies in a variety of disciplines. Researchers from USask colleges of education, arts and science, and medicine say this project will pave the way for further research opportunities in neuropsychology, music therapy, anddiagnosis of epilepsy and dementia in rural and remote medicine.

Loehr and Nicol also plan to use the EEG equipment to examine the benefits of music therapy at the brain level.

“For instance, we may be able to record brain activity between a music therapist and a client,” said Nicol.

In December, Loehr and Nicol will host a public lecture about the study.

The MOU between the SSO and USask formalized a musical collaboration underway since 1931, the inaugural year of the SSO and the USask music department.

The agreement aims to foster connections between the community and the university’s diverse range of scholarly and artistic work, including events and projects across a wide swath of departments and colleges. The partnership also promotes engagement with the USask instrument collections, such as the Amati string instruments, a rare quartet of 17th–century instruments, and the growing Kaplan Collection, comprised of historical and indigenous instruments from around the world.

See a video about the project – https://youtu.be/MDLhjniqFCU

I Played Baroque Oboe. In Public….

Have you ever tried something that terrifies you? Well, I did. I played the baroque oboe. In public.

My name is Erin Brophey, and I am the Principal Oboe player here with the SSO. It is a job that I treasure. It is my mission to serve my community by bringing as much beauty as I can to each and every concert.

With that personal goal in mind, I applied to attend the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute in Toronto. Through the financial support of the Sask Arts Board, The Saskatchewan Orchestral Association, The University of Saskatchewan and the SSO, I had the opportunity to work with musicians from the world-renowned Tafelmusik Orchestra and to study the baroque oboe with John Abberger and Marco Cera.

The program offers lectures, workshops, master classes, sectionals, lessons and opportunities to play in public concerts. I would attend countless concerts and essentially live in the 17th century for two weeks

I was terrified.

You may think, “What is the big deal? She is going to study baroque oboe and is an oboe player!” Well, let me inform you that the baroque oboe is NOTHING like the modern oboe I play. I have practiced for tens of thousands of hours to make my modern oboe feel like second nature. The baroque oboe feels completely different. Every musical habit that I have practiced on the modern oboe made the baroque oboe squeak. A lot!

Why would I do this to myself? My motivations were harmless enough: I was curious to learn how early music oboe players play baroque music. I had heard many beautiful recordings that were so different from my modern interpretations of the same repertoire. I wanted to know how they did it! I was intoxicated by the idea of looking at familiar music differently. At this point in my career, making musical discoveries feels so precious! I was excited to discover composers I had never heard of and uncover new musical gems.

The TBSI lived up to my expectations and more! The music proved to be fascinating and so very beautiful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t beautiful the way I played it. Despite my best efforts, I could not wrestle that baroque oboe into submission. Both John and Marco were very encouraging. John would say to me every day “Well, Erin, it IS getting better…” But it was a long way from being beautiful. A LONG way.

When I first began studying the oboe, I had no expectations, no experience and no ego about my ability. On the baroque oboe, however, I brought all of my ego baggage with me. I CAN play all of the music that I was now destroying on the Baroque oboe. Yet every time I played, it was just a question of when I would squeak, squawk or miss notes. Sometimes entire passages would slip by with me sitting and struggling with just the first note!

But, you know what? I am so glad that I did it.

Make no mistake, my ego took a beating. I had to let go of my expectations and just take whatever came. In some cases, I would have an increase in acuity over the course of a piece. In others, I would slide so far backward, it felt like I had lost all ground.

I had forgotten how scary it can be to be out of control. When I had played the baroque oboe for one of my pithy students, she thanked me for demonstrating to her that I must have once been terrible on the modern oboe and clearly had practiced a lot. I am now much more empathetic to my lovely students.

I was not aware of my bias and came to realize that I interpreted Baroque music with modern ears. Looking back at historical records (treatises and artwork) and playing an actual replica instrument is very informative in demonstrating both its abilities and its limitations. For example, in the baroque era, the oboe had only two keys and was made of boxwood. It could only play in six different keys and had a sweet blend-y sound. Now I understand why so much baroque music is scored for doubled oboe and why it is so much more difficult to manage on the modern oboe.

I have a new appreciation for my modern oboe. Like any perfectionist, I can get caught up in the details of my playing. I can become obsessed with two bars of music as I struggle to get them exactly right. Too often, I have let these toils colour my enjoyment of playing. It is easy to forget that I can play 98% of the piece exceedingly well. Playing the baroque oboe reminded me of how much I can do on the modern oboe. Now, I feel like a superstar!

So, as it turns out, doing something hard is a worthwhile experience. I can’t wait to begin a new SSO season and flex my new muscles on my modern oboe. I feel inspired, I feel engaged and I feel refreshed.

I encourage you to try something terrifying like attending the TBSI. It just might be a transformative experience!