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Love, harmony and beauty



<< Continued from last week


'Development as a performer as well as in my therapeutic work is about communication. Music is a universal language which can cut across the languages of different countries; human feelings can have the same range despite cultural differences. Being an idealistic person, I have to be careful not to go off on some crusade, but connecting, creating and the regular renewal of one's self belief is important in order to build up and bring out the music's message without harming oneself. My style of playing has matured over many years listening to exponents of the French, German and English schools, and I can now say that the sound is my sound. You can hear it on this album of folk melodies - many of them laments with very sad texts. The Oak and the Ash is about a homesick north country lass coming down to London. To have a full range of expression, the oboe should not always sound 'nice' as such. It depends on what you are trying to portray - real life is certainly not always nice and these songs are about real people and their real lives.

Brilliant arranger Paul Hart was inspired by her playing and the risks she took. He put all these songs into new classical settings for chamber ensemble, and loved the way she held that final note of The Oak and the Ash, 'so pungent, aching!' When a BBC producer brought Stella and Hart together for a one-off programme 'The Art of Hart', Hart arranged a fugue by J S Bach. Stella played all three parts overdubbing oboe, cor anglais and bass oboe. This was followed by Trio Stellar with Paul at piano and Brian Miller on keyboards, appearing live at the Cork Jazz Festival, Barbican, National Theatre and in Norway. 'We'd moved on from Radio 2 and did some Chick Corea with ethnic touches.

'It was then that we consulted producer John Boyden about how to proceed with our first solo album. I began to explore my folk roots in earnest. One of the album tracks Sair Fyeld Hinny is a Northumbrian lament. We dedicated it to the memory of oboe technician Trevor Maloney who maintained and restored my instruments and seemed to understand my intuitive approach while effecting improvements by miniscule changes to the shape or size of tone holes.

'I am frequently consulted by other players about my instruments, made by Roland and Christophe Dupin. My very fine British oboe was suddenly swapped half way through a performance for an old Dupin in bad condition, and Trevor took all the keys off, soaked it in oil for several weeks and then restored it. Eventually I commissioned a new one made out of cocobolo wood, recording the Classic FM Radio identity jingles.' Dupin then made her a Cor Anglais. 'I had strange dreams. It was as if he knew me and understood who the instrument was for. There was a strong psychic connection as if the energies of the maker were absorbed by the wood and metal. For me, there is something mystical about it. My relationship with Famille Dupin is very important, with much good humour on both sides! I am very circumspect about other performers handling or playing my instruments - they feel different afterwards, and it is a very personal thing.'

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Copyright © 30 May 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK



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