Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meet the Double-Reed Section

This group of woodwind instruments is
unified by the pair of reeds that create the
instruments’  sound as air is blown
between them.

The four double-reed instruments are the oboe, English horn, bassoon and contrabassoon. They have, as a group, a distinctive sound, often described as nasal.

The oboe first appeared in the mid-17th century and continued to evolve until the late 19th century, at which point the design and construction of the modern oboe were fully established.

English horn (l)
oboe (r)
While the oboe is the soprano member of the double-reed family, the English horn (or cor Anglais) is the tenor member, sounding a perfect fifth below the oboe. Its bulbous bell gives it a tone that is typically described as more mellow and plaintive than that of the oboe, closer in tonal quality to the oboe d’amore, an early member of the family. It is typically scored only when its unusual tone quality is desired.

contrabassoon (l)
bassoon (r)
The bassoon plays the role of the bass-baritone member of the double-reed family. It has been produced in its modern form since the early 19th century, but increasing demands on capabilities of instruments and players in the 19th century— particularly larger concert halls requiring greater volume—and the rise of virtuoso composer-performers spurred further refinement.

The low-pitched contrabassoon is probably scored so rarely in band music because few musicians—other than those who regularly play the contrabassoon in symphony orchestras—have access to them.


Dr. Carolyn Bruse, who joined the Band in 2008, was born in Houston and grew up in Crystal Lake, IL. Retired from Oracle as a tech writing manager, Carolyn is a resident of Waltham. She studied music (AB, Stanford ) and earned a PhD in music theory and composition from Brandeis. Carolyn began singing in a chorus at age 8, and, from then until recently, participated in just about every kind of vocal ensemble.

She did not begin playing the oboe until 2007, studying with Jan Bennett. “I wanted to play in an orchestra; I initially joined the Band because I couldn't find an orchestra with an oboe opening. I had no idea I would come to love band music so much!” Carolyn has been active behind the scenes—Holiday Pops bulletin boards, newsletter mailing preparation and “parties”, concert set-ups and clean-ups.

“I've loved playing Roger Cichy's pieces and look forward to another in March; Rhapsody in Blue was also a highlight. I always enjoy our concerts with AmandaCarr. I'm especially delighted to be part of an organization with a strong commissioning program. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the Concord Band, given my limited experience. It's a real treat to play with so many gifted players.”
Concord Band double-reed section (l to r):
Carolyn Bruse,  Louanne Mackenzie, Nat Hefferman, and Erin Cram
Dr. Erin J. Cram, a resident of Somerville, who joined the Concord Band in 2007, is a tenured associate professor at Northeastern University, where she teaches and does research in cell biology and genetics. She was born in Miami, but also lived in Colorado and Hawaii before her family settled in Asheville, NC. She earned her BS in Biology at UNC, Chapel Hill, and her PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

As a child, Erin played several instruments, but in 10th grade, the bassoon became her primary instrument. She studied with John Pederson (Principal, NC Symphony) during her years at UNC. While a postdoc at Princeton, Erin joined her first community band: “I was hooked.” In recent years, Erin has been responsible for managing the Concord Band’s Holiday Pops concerts, a major undertaking. The most recent Pops was particularly satisfying to her: “Saturday’s fabulous concert was a highlight: the snow, the shared adversity, the awesome jazz combo, and the beautiful music.”

“Mondays are my favorite day of the work week,” says Erin. “The Concord Band gives me a much-needed excuse to leave work at a reasonable time and not return to my grant applications, papers, or student emails for the whole evening.”

Nathaniel Hefferman was born in Framingham, and grew up in Bellingham. He is an alumnus of Ithaca College, where he majored in bassoon performance. Nat works as a freelance musician, and assistant at Carlton PR and Marketing in Woburn, MA.

Nat joined the Concord Band in 2004. He started playing the saxophone in 4th grade, but was encouraged by his band director to switch to the bassoon upon entering high school. In the course of his musical career, Nat has been a member of eight community bands and orchestras. “For the past several years, I have been the Concord Band announcer, which gives me the responsibility to provide entertaining and occasionally humorous information about the pieces we perform at our summer concert series at Fruitlands Museum.

“My most memorable Concord Band experience was my performance of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto with the Band at our 50th Anniversary Concert in 2009. I've been very grateful for the opportunity to play with a community band that chooses to perform challenging literature, and expands my musical horizons.”

Louanne Mackenzie has been the Band's principal oboe and English horn player for five years. She has worked for 20 years as a school-based speech-language pathologist in the town of Concord, where she also lives.

Originally from Warwick, RI, Louanne began playing the oboe in the fifth grade, after her band director father offered her a choice between the oboe and the French horn. He had hoped that she would later help to fill out one of those sections in his high school band (which she did), as these instruments are less popular choices, and notoriously difficult to stick with. The oboe is a difficult instrument to play well; its small double reeds are fickle, as they are constantly changing with the humidity and in need of adjustment. Though Louanne jokes that she regrets her selection of the oboe, she is grateful for the many social, as well as musical doors that the oboe has opened for her.

She says that the two best things about her Concord Band experience include the privilege of being able to work with such high caliber musicians and the opportunity to meet so many bright, interesting people. “I am amazed at their diversity of talents and interests. They are teachers, artists, scientists, and even inventors, having expertise and hobbies related to so many fields besides music!”

Louanne’s extraordinary extra-musical efforts on behalf of the Concord Band were recognized at Holiday Pops, 2013.