The Columbus Symphony Orchestra will kick off 2023 tomorrow night with a concert at RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in Bill Heard Theatre. In addition to performing Beethoven's popular Eighth Symphony, tomorrow's concert will showcase one of the ensemble's woodwind players as a featured soloist playing Vaughan Williams' Oboe Concerto.
Erica Howard, tomorrow's soloist, was kind enough to let us in on a few behind-the-scenes facts about their preparation, what it's like to perform with the CSO, and more.
Q: How long have you been with the CSO? Please describe your experience with the ensemble and Maestro Del Gobbo.
A: I first played with the CSO as a substitute musician in 2006. I became a member in 2011 as the English horn player, and I have been Principal Oboe since 2014. Even though many of the musicians don't live in Columbus and we might not see or perform with each other for a month or more between concerts, it's always immediately comfortable to come back together on the RiverCenter stage and feels like no time has passed at all because it's so easy to work with everyone. George is one of my favorite conductors of all the places I've played. He always comes to rehearsal with a well thought out plan for how the music ought to go and what needs to be done to accomplish that, but he does it without any ego getting in the way and with a sense of humor that has the whole orchestra chuckling. I'm also always excited about the repertoire each year when we get the season announcement. It's a great blend of more well-known perennial favorites and hidden gems that none of us on stage have ever played or sometimes even heard of before which turn out to be really incredible pieces of music.
Q: What have your preparations looked like for this concert? Was the Vaughan Williams already in your repertoire? What does it typically take for you to work up something like this piece?
A: George first asked me about playing the Vaughan-Williams almost a year ago, and the music has been on my stand since then. I first learned the concerto when I was in college for a recital and I have taught the first movement to several students over the years, but it hadn't actively been in my repertoire for quite a while. Early on in the process, there's lots of slow repetition of the tricker technical passages to get those under my fingers. I have a playlist of about 15 different recordings of the piece that I frequently have on in the background. If one of the oboists plays something in a way that I particularly like, I'll try to incorporate that into my own performance, but it's primarily so that I know what's happening in the string parts and have a good understanding of how my part fits in with that and can mentally practice my entrances and know who to listen to once I'm on stage with the orchestra. For the last couple of months, most of my practicing has been running through the piece from start to finish with just a little bit of touch-up work on anything I wasn't quite happy with yet, as well as making plenty of reeds to be sure I'll have one that I'm happy with for the performance.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Columbus?
A: If I had to pick one favorite thing about Columbus, it would probably be the RiverWalk. It's beautiful and peaceful and so close by! I love the walkability of the downtown area and the great variety of good food and coffee, as well as the lovely old architecture there and in the neighboring historic district.
Q: What would you like for our audience to know before Saturday's concert?
A: Whether you're a first time concertgoer or a regular season ticket holder, I think that for audience members who would like to know more about the historical context or musical nuts and bolts of the pieces on the program, the pre-concert discussion with Maestro Del Gobbo can't be beat! With that being said, I don't think there's a "right" way to listen to or feel about the pieces. There's a lot of beautiful music on this concert that you can just sit back and listen to and enjoy without feeling like there's any prerequisite knowledge you need to have. ◾️
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