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JENNIFER PAULL writes about
her love affair with the Oboe d'Amore


<< Continued from last week

The next day glowing with the enthusiasm of new love, I went to the RCM for my weekly oboe lesson with Terence MacDonagh. 'You don't want to play that bloody thing. It's always out of tune, has a mind of its own and no bloody repertoire', or colourful enthusiasm-dampers to that effect. I had not the slightest intention whatsoever of taking any notice of Terry!

I must admit, he was right. At that time, the manufacture of oboes d'amore was a compromise between trial and error. Even the best of them were very much hit and miss. Sadly there remain some which are not much better today, although there are now wonderful instruments to be found.

Where to start ? Obviously, I had to get an oboe d'amore somehow. The how is another complex tale, but I got there to my delight and the dismay of my family who really thought I had gone completely round the bend this time. Selling everything you have in the world including cashing in the little bit carefully put aside for survival, to buy an oboe d'amore, is not the usual problem put before parents by their wilful daughters. I realised then, the full impact of going it alone. Without moral support or understanding, it was going to be hard. My pioneering and passion for my chosen instrument were not appreciated on the home front. I settled in London, undaunted, or trying to be.

I kept British Railways in business single-handed as I went from Cantata to Passion, Passion to Cantata, not to mention the odd Bolero, all over Britain. However, forced by the London musical profession of the 1960's which was a bastion of male chauvinism, into being a freelance, I inevitably spent far too much time playing other oboes of a more habitual variety, or sitting on public transport. Women were not allowed to play in those Y-chromosomed London wind sections of yesteryear, with two notable exceptions, the BBC, and the English Chamber Orchestra.

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Copyright © 25 January 2001 Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA






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