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


I remember so well the first time I was really aware that I was listening to an oboe. I grew up in Liverpool in the North of England, a place in which you didn't need a sharpened reed knife to cut the regional accent. My parents sent me to a private school hoping that I would sound a little less provincial.

Jennifer Paull. Photo: Charles Niklaus, Monthey, Switzerland

We used to have a sort of physical education programme indoors to the good old BBC Radio. Each week, there would be a different instrument being played 'live' with the piano, and we had to exercise with the music. I still remember that the programme was called 'Music and Movement'. It was an utter bore and (aged eight) I loathed it. Then, one day, it was the turn of the oboe and piano to play together. I was totally riveted and knew without a shadow of doubt that what I wanted to do in life, was play it. That wish was going to take me eight long years to fulfil, but at least my attending that starchy school hadn't been totally in vain.

I had been playing the piano for a few years, and dashed home full of the news that I wanted to play the oboe. My joyful tidings fell upon a most marked absence of enthusiasm. Neither of my parents really knew what the oboe was, but they did know that nice young ladies could continue playing the piano and concentrate on their elocution.

Looking back on this now, I realise that that moment was the start of my call to arms. I seem to have been fighting a campaign ever since. Subtle hints got me nowhere and when, three years later, I went to a performance of The Messiah, I knew that my battle strategy was going to have to be stepped up by a few notches. I tried everything to get an oboe. My parents were not going to buy one, my school didn't possess one and the many ways and means of today did not exist in the post war Britain of the fifties. My utter frustration and sadness at the prospect of wasted years stretching before me were put down to my 'being difficult'.

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Copyright © 18 January 2001 Jennifer Paull, Iowa, USA






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