Orefici Melodic Studies

Orefici's Melodic Study #18. Being a "micro-athlete," performance issues with aging, a new alternate fingering for A4, and suggestions for performing Study #18 by Terry B. Ewell. BDP #351. www.2reed.net.

[Excerpt from Orefici #5, performed by Terry B. Ewell]

“The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head.” (Proverbs 20:29) Well, I am certainly in the gray hair stage! This video was made just two months away from my 65th birthday.

One of the things that I have learned through my 40 years and more performing the bassoon as a professional is that nothing stays the same. To continue to perform at a professional level, a musician needs to adapt and change the way of playing an instrument. At age 64 I don’t play the bassoon the same way I did when I was 44 or 24. Lung capacity, endurance, eyesight, and many other things have changed for me. As a result, I am adapting and performing in different ways. Let me give you two examples.

We are micro-athletes and slight changes in our bodies will greatly affect our performance abilities. Ten years ago, my hands suddenly flared up with osteoarthritis. Within the span of a few months a joint on my right hand swelled so that the finger could no longer extend straight. Even though it was difficult, I didn’t want to give up my performance on the bassoon. Because the curved finger engaged the bassoon sooner than the other fingers, I had to relearn my finger technique. Many hours were spent re-timing my finger patterns.

As we all age lung capacity and endurance are lost. Over time I have adjusted my reeds to compensate for this. Now I make lighter reeds not only to help my performance, but also to adjust to the smaller ensembles that I generally perform with. These smaller ensembles require a more delicate and blending sound with the other instruments.

However, changes in reeds have created some difficulties with the response of certain notes. Recently I have noticed that slurring up to A4 is more of a problem than before. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that using a half hole or leaving off the left index finger altogether fixes the response issues for certain slurs to that note. An example of this can be seen in line 7 of this etude.

Despite the fact that there are more physical challenges to performing the bassoon, I must say that I am enjoying performing as much as any time in my life. It is such a joy to continue playing concerts. What a great gift God has given me! I hope that He is continuing to give that gift to you as well. Bye.

[Excerpt from Orefici #5, performed by Terry B. Ewell]