We’re performing tomorrow night here in South Bend, and playing the score to a silent movie – The Phantom of the Opera! I’ve done shows like this before, I think they’re cool, I like the music we are using. I only regret that we cannot see the screen from where we sit. That’s not because the artistry will suffer, but only because I want to watch.
Last week I joined the Executive Director and the Music Director of the SBSO at a downtown Lunch and Learn event to talk about the Chen piece that I am performing in a few weeks. It was a pleasure to do – I love to talk about the oboe – and hopefully we opened the door to some new listeners! Here is more or less what I said:
Hi, I’m Jennet Ingle. I am the principal oboist with the South Bend Symphony. And the Northwest Indiana Symphony and sometimes the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra. I teach oboe at Notre Dame University. And Goshen College, and Valparaiso, and privately at my home. I have a professional reed business, and with the SBSO woodwind quintet I take educational presentations to schools, retirement communities, rotary clubs, and libraries. I perform solo recitals and concertos as often as I possibly can, and in a few weeks I am performing the Chen concerto, Extase, here in South Bend. Which is all to say that I make my living as many professional musicians do these days.
All of my income is derived from music, but it comes from a number of small organizations, all of which are struggling for resources in this current economy. My personal mission, therefore, is to be an ambassador for classical music, and particularly for newer music. More people like this music than think they do, but many are intimidated by the idea of attending a concert. They think they won’t understand what’s going on, and that they will be bored. It’s important for me to help them by being articulate about what I do and helping them to find a hook into even the most contemporary works. I want to make beautiful music interesting.
I am wildly excited about the piece I’m performing on the 23rd. Extase, by Qigang Chen, is spectacular for the oboe. It is energetic, thrilling, beautiful, wild, intimate, and, eventually, ecstatic.
Qigang Chen is Chinese by birth but has lived in France since 1984, and was Olivier Messiaen’s last student. The piece reflects a characteristically French brilliance in the use of the western orchestra, especially in the woodwinds. At the same time, it sounds very Chinese. The big melody is based on a traditional Northern Chinese love song, and the solo oboe part is inspired by an instrument called the Suona, which is a sort of double reed trumpet. (The suona actually originated in Turkey and came to China via the Silk Road, but has long since taken its place in traditional Chinese music.)
The solo part, while difficult, is extremely well suited to the capabilities of the modern oboe. It showcases every trick in my repertoire, and some which I had to learn for this performance. During the 15 minute piece I must circular breath, bend pitches, glissando, double tongue, and even make sounds by inhaling through the reed. And despite all of that, the piece is coherent, listenable, and even beautiful.
And I have a great gown.
At this point I did a bunch of demos, to wild acclaim. I cannot WAIT to play this piece in public, and I hope people come.