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Name: Celia Craig

ASO Member since: 2011. Previously: BBC Symphony Orchestra Chairman (resident at Royal Albert Hall), also member of BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cardiff, Bournemouth Symphony, guest player with London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, NZSO, SSO, MSO, AOBO, and others

Position: Principal Oboe   

Hometown (where I grew up): Northampton, UK

Education: Scholar at The Purcell School, Harrow, London, (specialist Music school), also University of York, also Exhibitioner at Royal Academy of Music. Winner of National Festival of Music for Youth Oboe Prize, British representative to European Music for Youth Prize, Zurich 1989.


Describe the best thing about being a musician? Best thing about being a musician, doing what you love for a job. Worst thing, working 24/7 because music is NEVER finished, perfected, there’s always more practice could be done…!

How did you choose the oboe? How did I choose the oboe? Totally by accident, I was a dedicated violinist but school gave me the chance to take up a second instrument and as I failed flute and clarinet auditions,(lol, true) they gave me an oboe. They said Because I already played another instrument I could handle it. Compared to violin I thought it was easy! (if you play recorder too it is a head start on oboe..)

Being interviewed for C Beebies by BBC presenter Angelica Bell

Who has influenced you most as a musician? My biggest single influencial musician is wonderful oboist and educator Nicholas Daniel. It was a great moment when the ASO invited him as soloist in 2013, coinciding with my national conference for double reeds, to have my ex teacher as a guest artist was a great moment. You may remember, he played the James MacMillan Oboe concerto in the Adelaide Town Hall, absolutely superb. He is a wonderful musician and the most inspiring teacher. 

Some of my most memorable performances: It was wonderful to work with Pierre Boulez at the Barbican celebrating his 80th birthday with himself conducting and rehearsing a program of Boulez and Ravel (Daphnis and Chloe). This concert was one of the highlights of my career to date- a stunning performance of Daphnis which I will treasure forever.

A great moment with the ASO was playing Gabriel’s Oboe with Ennio Morricone himself conducting. That was a great honour and a wonderful event during Adelaide Festival, very memorable.

Celia on stage with Piere Boulez

Do you come from a musical family? My father was musical, yes, I grew up sitting in rehearsals with the Monteverdi Choir (and baroque instruments, at unequal temperament, so really super exact tuning…) and going to many of his concerts. 

Celia with students.

When you’re not performing or practicing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? In my spare time, if not reed-making, (there’s not much time left after that!) I like to take photographs and I have had two exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath. 

Teaching a masterclass at Birmingham Conservatoire oboe class.

Something people may not know about you? Three other things people might not know, I grew up in Germany, had violin lessons in German, when we lived there for three years. And I’ve toured on five continents: performed on tours with orchestras in US, Europe, Russia, South America, Australia (not China yet!) and performed direct to several members of the Royal Family. Prince Charles (at school, he was Patron of Purcell School and spent a day with us, interviewing everybody), Princess Diana (I did a concerto at St Martins in the Fields in London) and the Queen (her 80th birthday Prom, part of the committee that met her at the Royal Albert Hall and also playing the solo, New World Symphony).

Coaching Australian Youth Orchestra oboe section with conductor and ex oboist Douglas Boyd

On Wednesday 16 August 2017 you are performing Mozart's Gran Partita with your woodwind colleagues at Elder Hall.

What is special about this work? This is a wonderfully mysterious work, nobody really knows why it was composed, many of us suspect masonic connections, as it is such a large scale, important, long work, far removed from other pieces he wrote for wind ensemble which were more outdoors, background music. This one seems designed as a very serious, monumental piece - lots of movements, lots of instruments.

In the past, people have singled out the Adagio as particularly beautiful (it also features in the famous film Amadeus), do you agree? Yes the Adagio is the most sublime movement, it’s in Mozart’s significant key of Eb too, with intricate but such resonant texture and lovely signing lines. It makes you feel (on first oboe) as if you are singing.

What is the challenge of performing an all-woodwinds work? What are you looking forward to the most when preparing this piece with your colleagues? I’m looking forward to SEEING my wind colleagues- working with them including a better interaction than we can get in orchestras always sitting in rows with our backs to each other. It will be wonderful to see everybody at last!! Makes it more fun to anticipate reactions, watch people breathing, which all goes towards good ensemble and a musical conversation. Sitting opposite first clarinet in this work allows a great interaction, and the two parts answer each other and duet a lot. The Gran Partita was performed in 1784 as a Benefit concert for the famous clarinetist Stadler, for whom the famous Concerto was written, he must have been a wonderful player and the clarinet part is absolutely gorgeous.

The challenge here is also doing it without a conductor, many performances do use a conductor, as it;s a monumental work of nearly an hour, the idea that one person should be charged with the overall architecture as is the conductor’s job, is common, and doing it on your own (although equally often performed like this) is a great challenge and opportunity. 

Why is this a concert not to missed? It will be a totally unique experience! We as wind players are getting a chance to democratically prepare a work and play it on our own, no coverage from string texture, and that the overall sound will be deep and warm, something completely different from what you expect from the orchestra. And - how often can you hear basset horns?!

We’ve decided to employ contrabassoon instead of Mozart’s original score marking of double bass, (Mozart wrote in pizzicato moments, so we know he expected double bass) because recent historically informed performances such as Trevor Pinnock’s have speculated that Mozart would have used a contrabassoon, had they been more advanced in his time. The thinking is, he knew more bass was needed to provide the foundation and therefore asked for double bass as it was easier to demand a very high standard from this instrument at the time. (However- Mozart hadn’t met Jackie Hansen, our contra bassoon player! We decided to keep it wind-only for this program.

I’ve also decided to use my gold keyed oboe, as the wood its made from is similar to that used to make oboes in Mozart’s time- lighter brown wood rather than the dark blackwood we use in modern instruments. That means the sound is lighter, more as Mozart would have imagined, but also it weighs a lot less! 


Celia performs in Mozart at Elder - 16 August 2017, 11:30am, Elder Hall, North Terrace.
You can purchase tickets here.

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