Wednesday, December 06, 2017 12:27pm
One of the ways in which your ASO engages with its community is through its Come and Play program. This gives community musicians the opportunity to sit next to professional musicians to experience what it’s like to play in a symphony orchestra.
In 2017, this program was offered on Sunday 30 July and after the event, we asked participant (oboe player), Anthony Radogna for some feedback.
Anthony, tell us a bit about yourself. Wait for it…....I’m a Superannuation Accountant! I sometimes (jokingly) tell people that my career is something I just do in my spare time. I’m even writing my responses to this blog in my lunch hour! I really do place my musical life in high regard. It’s a place I always look forward to going where I can express myself in a way I simply cannot do with other facets of life, even after a solid day of number crunching. Some of my colleagues attend concerts I perform in where some of them hadn’t seen a symphony orchestra perform live for many years.
What motivates you to play and practice your instrument? The knowledge that every rehearsal or playing session brings me closer to reaching a concert quality standard of playing, and I’ve noticed that with gradual improvement comes an increasing level of satisfaction. The oboe is a particularly refined and expressive instrument that has the ability to sound exceptionally beautiful when played well. It can tell a story in just a few notes.
What is your connection with the ASO? I have a somewhat varied and historic connection to the ASO:
Peter Duggan (Principal Cor anglais) was my original Oboe teacher back in 1996 for the first few months before continuing the rest of my Oboe studies with Rosemary Stimson. Both of them were instrumental in laying down the foundations for really good playing habits that have stuck with me to this very day.
I used to get my Oboe reeds from ex-Principal Oboe Paul Miller. I currently serve as Principal Oboe in the Norwood Symphony Orchestra where the ASO’s Principal Second Violin, Michael Milton, is the current conductor.
I've attended several Australasian Double Reed Society (ADRS) events (events for Oboists and Bassoonists) and Oboe workshops led by Celia Craig (ASO Principal Oboe). I have taken part in several Big Rehearsal events dating back to 2001when the ASO were in the ABC studio, as well as all of the ASO Come and Play events to date. I am also a subscriber to the ASO Master Series Concerts since 2017 although I have attended some concerts in prior years.
How did you feel about playing with an ASO player sitting next to you? I thought it was one of the most amazing privileges I've ever had. These world-class musicians have had to go through many years of hard work and training to get to where they are today and produce such authentic-sounding music. They are people I look up to and strive to be like in my musical life. They were also very supportive in helping me achieve the very best out of my own playing and I really appreciated that they treated me like I was one of them (to me this is essentially the essence of Come and Play).
What is the biggest challenge you face in your orchestral playing? Has your problem been addressed through experiencing Come and Play? One of the biggest challenges I constantly face is knowing how to interpret the music. You know, music is so much more than just notes on a page. It’s an expressive art form, like acting. Many composers have a distinctive style of interpretation in their music and it’s not always obvious. Am I playing this passage too loudly or too softly? When do I stand out versus when do I blend in? Am I accenting these notes enough or emphasizing the right notes in this passage? These are all questions that subconsciously rush through my mind each time I pick up my Oboe to play, all in the effort of contributing to reaching an agreeance in interpretation among all the players of an orchestra, and I think this is one of the things that distinguishes a good orchestra from a great orchestra.
For me, in the absence of having a tertiary education in music, attending ASO concerts and taking part in the Come and Play event most certainly helps put my playing into the right perspective when placed in an environment where all of the instrumentation is present as well as being able to listen to all the sound around you that is balanced and that you can rely on and you know is right. I constantly put myself into the shoes of a professional musician and ask myself, how would they play this? Because I’ve always lived with the idea that the next best thing to being a professional musician is constantly trying to be a professional musician. The Come and Play event really accentuates this.
What other things did you learn from playing next to a professional orchestra player? That tuning the orchestra is apparently the most difficult part of a performance!
As a Principal Oboist, I also have to mention that I remembered the importance of having a good relationship with your co-players, in my case especially the Principal Flute player. These two often play in unison or similar parts together so I’ve always understood that it’s especially important that we work together as a team, listen to each other, keep an eye on each other’s cues to get the balance right between these two players. Geoffrey Collins (ASO Principal Flute) was wonderful to sit next to for this reason. A conductor once praised me for blending my sound so perfectly with the Principal Flute player, they referred to it as a “fluboe” sound! (Flute + Oboe)
What was the musical highlight for you in 2017 Come and Play? Getting to play Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. It has to be one of the most enchanting, intense and yet most beautiful overtures I have ever heard and is currently my most favourite overture. I really hope I get to play this with my own orchestra. I think all audiences would love it.
Having Graham Abbott conduct us for this event was special too as I hadn’t seen him in person since 2001 (when I took part in my first Big Rehearsal event), so it was nice to be able to play under his direction with my current playing ability as well as catch up with him for a quick chat during the break.
If you were to attend another Come and Play in the future, what music would you love to learn and play with the ASO? I’m quite open-minded to playing repertoire I have never played before, but I am a bit of a purist when it comes to orchestral music. I love a good Brahms or Dvorak symphony. As there is always room for improvement even with music I am familiar with, I’m keen to perform a symphony with the ASO. Overtures are fun too as they often combine various themes, playing styles and techniques in the one piece.
What was the best thing to happen to you during Come and Play 2017? Being promoted to Principal Oboe chair within the first 20 minutes of playing! Most importantly though, having a great sense of satisfaction that I got to conquer some difficult passages I wasn’t familiar with. You can achieve some things you never thought possible when you allow yourself to feel confident and determined during the adrenalin rush so I surprised myself during Come and Play.
Are there any other musical activities you have attended or are interested in other than ASO Come and Play? I enjoyed attending State Music Camp for a few years when I was still within the age limit. I would love to take part in an ASO workshop/performance type of activity involving the ASO winds.
Overall, did you enjoy your Come and Play experience for 2017? Absolutely! I’ll never forget this experience. I recommend it to all community orchestra players. Like the ASO, community orchestra players also play a role in promoting orchestral music to the wider community and general public, so we can really learn a lot from a professional orchestra by taking part in these kinds of events.
COME & PLAY returns on 26 May 2018. If you would like to spend an afternoon playing in the ASO next to a professional mentor from the orchestra, this is your chance. Applications are open now and close on 4 Mar 2018.
For more information, click here.