So this happened. We were playing a quintet concert in a library, and I didn’t quite like the way my oboe was aligned. Some of the keys on the lower joint affect vents and pads on the upper joint, and the instrument wasn’t responding quite right, and I knew exactly the microscopic adjustment I needed to make in the way those two joints had twisted together. This happens frequently, and I was ready to fix it and move on.
So I twisted the joints. I over-corrected a little. Tried to go back – and the oboe was stuck. Untwistable. I tried wiggling it, twisting the other way, clockwise, counterclockwise – nothing. And what had been a slightly inconvenient little technical glitch was suddenly an unplayable oboe, and my colleague was just about to finish his speech and introduce the next piece.
But I already know that the oboe is not my friend, and I nearly always carry a spare instrument, and I was able to pull it out, slap the reed on, and be ready to play without delaying the concert. At the end of the show, my oboe was still stuck – hard – and to get it back into its case I had to ask a colleague to twist it apart with his strong manly hands, which was a blow to my own ego.
The first lesson here, for me and for everyone, is NEVER to trust an oboe. See HERE, and HERE. I down-sized and carried only one instrument to many of my summer concerts – out of laziness, and out of desire to keep them climate controlled when possible, and really mostly laziness – but it’s awfully smart to have an easy back-up with you.
I do have an explanation for this incident, which provides our second lesson. It was one of those days – Steve had an out of town gig, I had a 2:00 quintet concert barely two miles from my home, and Zoe gets in from school at 2:30. I expected the show to end by about 2:45, and gave Zoe her instructions – she was to come straight home, text to let me know she was in, and then just have a snack and stay inside until I arrived at 3.
The concert went a little longer, because the audience was so receptive and friendly, and because it was our first gig back and we got a little long-winded with our speeches. And Zoe forgot to text me, so by the time I was packing up at 3 I was a little anxious. I threw the oboe into the case UNSWABBED and dashed out into the unseasonably humid day.
I picked Zoe up and headed to her choir rehearsal, and she surprised me by asking me to come in and listen. I had planned to use the time to write and work on the cover for my CD, but she was sweet about it so I came in, leaving my oboe locked inside the car. Listened for a while, came out and dashed off to a coffee shop to salvage some work time, dashed to pick up dinner for her, picked her up, and dashed to my second quintet show.
Are you seeing it? Moisture in the bore, moisture on the cork, hot humid conditions – that poor oboe swelled up just like the wooden doors in your lake house in the summer. It was completely my fault, I know better on all counts. Always swab your oboe, always keep it with you, never ever leave it in a hot or cold car, or unattended – I KNOW. But sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions.
What I lack in being a bad oboe mommy, though, I make up for in preparation. This time, anyway, we managed to scrape through the situation.
Never trust an oboe.
Take care of your instruments so they’ll take care of you.
Good luck, Everybody!