I think it all began to deteriorate at Friday night dress rehearsal. A kiln with a profuse gas leak caused the entire cast and orchestra to be evacuated from the arts building mid-rehearsal. Being the type of people we are, those of us in the pit orchestra quickly packed up our instruments and headed out into the 14 degree weather. We were outside for only 20 minutes or so before being allowed back in. I was a wee bit concerned, although not too concerned, since I have a well insulated case and outer case for my oboe. And, it was only 20 minutes, right?
As the rest of the rehearsal progressed, I felt that my intonation was a bit off from its usual tendencies. I thought to myself, the reeds did not like the quick shock of cold...they will be fine. So I thought, until I opened my reed case the following morning to teach my Saturday lessons. Gasp! The six nice, playable reeds I had were either cracked or the blades had pulled apart from each other. Four were not salvageable, as they were cracked. The other two I was able to coax into working...somewhat. I had three other reeds in my case that were fine, but they were old practice reeds. Totally unsuitable for performing in public, nonetheless a three hour long public performance.
I have never been in such a dire reed situation before. I usually have a handful of good practice reeds, several solid performing reeds, and a couple of reeds in progress. With the mountain of projects due last week, I did not have any reeds in progress. After the Saturday dress rehearsal concluded I hunkered down to work on new reeds. Nothing. Four hours later I had produced nothing. Every reed I made had horribly unbalanced intonation. I was on the verge of tears. It was time to walk a way. Embarrassed and full of shame, I called my oboe professor for help. Can I buy a pair of reeds? I have not bought reeds in eight years.
This is how my brain felt Saturday night... a splatter of frustration and anxiety.
Have I totally lost it?
Have I totally lost it?
However, my professor did not sell me finished reeds. Instead, she graciously and wisely provided me with a pair of initially scraped reeds, and assured me that I had not lost my ability to make a good reed. She reminded me that I have been making reliable reeds for years, and that everyone falls prey to a bad reed patch from time to time. Also, making reeds under pressure while frustrated usually results in poor quality work. Sigh....I know.
It is Sunday morning, and the opening show starts in a few hours. I am playing on my brand new, very cautiously prepared reeds and the intonation is horrendous. The C was flat, the B was uber sharp, the Bb was slightly less sharp, and the A was so flat it was half way to Ab. Seriously! I could not bring myself to tinker with my reeds any more. I decided I would have to compensate with my embouchure. Needless to say, my lips and jaw were very tired at the end of the performance. However, with all drama and nonsense aside, the opening matinee went very well.
It is now Monday morning. I am in my weekly oboe lesson, and I am recalling the horrors of yesterday to my professor. She hands me her oboe with one of my reeds, and I began to play. It is beautiful....AND IN TUNE! The problem is my oboe...
The excursion into the cold did my poor oboe in. The best news: my oboe is not cracked, which was the first thought that surfaced in my mind as I played on my professor's horn. After a thorough search, the possibility of a crack was ruled out. However, I can not get a proper seal on my upper joint. Multiple pads are unseated, which means most of my keys are leaking. This accounts for the lousy intonation and response I have been struggling with for the past 3 days. Good grief!
Early this afternoon I took my oboe into the repair shop to visit Fred, an incredible Milwaukee area instrumental repairman who is particularly talented at servicing double reeds. Chances are I will not have my instrument back for the Tuesday performance, but I do have a very nice Fox plastic resin oboe as a back up.
The lesson learned: Be more thourough with my diagnostics. It is not always the reed...or me.