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12/22/2002: Music in my ears

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I love playing the oboe. It's a challenging instrument to play, true, but it's my favorite of the woodwinds due not only to the unique sound, but also to the fact that oboe players are usually few and far between. I'm rarely one among dozens with the oboe like I was when I played the flute, a lifetime ago.

I picked up the oboe the summer before junior high and have been playing ever since. I played through high school, and then once I got to college, I played in woodwind quintets every other quarter. But after I graduated, there hasn't been that many opportunities to play. At one point I toyed with the idea of joining the community orchestra, but all the travel meant I could rarely make it to practice. The only chance I get to play these days is once a month with the pick-up group at church, but that's mainly hymns, and fairly easy arrangements at that. Occasionally my dad (the director of this group) will write out something a bit more difficult for us to play, but since the group has varying levels of skill and experience, he usually just keeps it nice and simple.

The past two Sunday evenings I've spent in a little house in Sacramento with a handful of other people, playing music. We were an odd assortment of musicians - violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, trumpet, piano, and me on the oboe. The purpose - to practice for the Christmas cantata we finally performed today.

Normally for cantata I would be singing, especially since the tenor section tends to be fairly tiny in our choir. But this year the director picked a suite of songs that required musical accompaniment, and when he asked me if I'd mind taking the oboe part instead of singing I nearly tripped over my own feet in my haste to leap up and snatch the oboe music from his hand. Did I mind? Was he kidding? Here was a suite of five songs, filled with intricate runs and trills and changes in both key signature and time signature several times a page. Every time I have played through this cantata I was drained of energy by the end of practice, yet still wishing I could somehow continue. There is something amazing about playing music that challenges you; playing alongside people who are better than you yet still challenged by this music too. This was the kind of music that dances in my head long after we finish; the kind of music that makes the exhaustion all worthwhile.

Oh, how I've missed this! Oh, how much I wish chances like this came along far more often.

Tis the season for Holidailies!

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