Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks Oboe

If I have a “main” story about gratitude in meeting a musician, it is my longtime friend Warren Jones that I have to talk about.
I started graduate school at the San Francisco Conservatory in the fall of 1974. The graduate school class was small – 20 or so. Many of us had accomplished some good things as musicians, but one of us, Warren Jones, was rumored to be the most significant of us. I didn’t know him at all.
We took a class together that met in the evening. Around dinner time I was in a practice room, working on the Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss. The door burst open.
“Do you have a piano score for that?”
It was Warren. He’s a good bit taller than me and in those days dressing in ways that I would have to call bold and colorful. I was intimidated to say the least.
“Yes I do,” I said.
“Well let me play it.”
So Warren sat down at the piano in the practice room and started to play the first movement with me. It suddenly made musical sense that it hadn’t made before. Suddenly there was time for all the things I needed to do, breathe, extra time to elongate or emphasize part of a phrase, and much more. Now I knew why Warren had the reputation that exceeded the rest of us by so much.

Now, 36 years later, I have been on the stage performing with Warren more times than I can count. We’ve been close friends ever since that day. Every time I work with Warren, I emerge from the collaboration a better musician.
If I can sum up, in a few words, why he is so wonderful, it is this: He is never in a hurry. There’s always more time in the music than one might think. Tiny adjustments to tempo, a few percent, I mean, are easy for him, in a way that they are not for most of us.
If you want to know more about Warren, look at his website, http://www.warrenjones.com/. If you want to hear him play, keep your eye on the Olmos Ensemble concerts. His performance for this season is passed, already, but he’ll be back next season.
The recording I’ve submitted to John Clare with this story is from the Olmos Ensemble’s concert on October 26th. It is the Three Romances, composed by Robert Schumann, for oboe and piano. Schumann wrote something beautiful when writing these and also something treacherously difficult, causing fatigue in an oboist that can really limit the expressive range of the pieces. Warren plays them in such a way as to make room for phrasing and breathing in such a way that the pieces are as easy to play as they could possibly be.
(click on the link below to hear their performance)

Romance 1
Romance 2
Romance 3

Happy listening, Happy Thanksgiving!
Mark Ackerman

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