Interview with Sarah Roper – Oboist of the month
First of all, we invite you to read Sarah ́s Biography in her blog: https://sarahroperoboe.blogspot.com.
As a brief introduction: Sarah is Solo Oboe in the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, President of the Asociación de Fagotistas y Oboístas de España and First Vice President of the International Double Reed Society.
Today we have a few questions for her:
When did you start playing the oboe?
I started playing the recorder and piano when I was about 6 years old and I began playing the oboe when I was 10.
Why did you decide to play this instrument?
I chose the oboe because I was playing the first oboe part with the recorder in a local amateur orchestra (there were no oboists near where I was living). I liked the idea of learning an instrument that was thought of as original and as difficult to play.
How much time do you spend on the oboe a day?
With the orchestra and chamber music groups, I can be rehearsing and performing about 6 -8 hours a day. If I have a free day at home, I like to spend at least 2 hours on the oboe and another in reeds. It is necessary to spend time on daily exercise and other activities whenever possible.
Is there an oboist who inspires you especially ?
There are many fantastic oboists that I love to listen to, but I think above all, Francois Leleux would be on the top of my list.
Which achievement as an oboist is the most important to you?
The recordings recently brought out with Oboe classics (http://www.oboeclassics.com/digital/) : CD Quartets for oboe and Strings with the Cuarteto Emispherio, the digital track of Malcolm Arnold – Fantasy for oboe solo and especially the last two digital tracks of works by the Spanish composer, Jesús Torres – Cuarteto con Oboe ( 2009) with the Cuarteto Emispherio and Silentium Amoris for oboe and piano with Ignacio Torner, piano ( written for me in 2018). Some of these recordings can also be found on YouTube, for example Cuarteto con Oboe: https://youtu.be/Z5wW8uNTIRE
What advice would you give to someone studying music who would like to be a professional oboist ?
It is not easy to become a professional musician and it is essential to feel very passionate about playing the oboe and everything that goes with it – making reeds, dealing with nerves and working late at night often, etc.
An oboe student who wishes to become professional will need to work hard, be ambitious, have dreams, be prepared to fail sometimes and also to keep everything in perspective.
Can you tell us any anecdote from your career as an oboist?
During the last recording I made (Silentium Amoris for oboe and piano by Jesús Torres) in February this year, my reed suddenly cracked. It was raining and the studio was very damp. I do not know whether this was the reason as I have experienced this maybe only 3 times in 35 years…. I couldn’t believe it when it happened. Ignacio and I had only booked one morning session for this short piece and I had to keep going. I took my second best reed and carried on – to my dismay, I can now hardly tell where I changed the reed in the recording. This shows me that we can do a lot more than we think with our second best reed!
Is it easy for you to cope with your activities as Solo Oboe of the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla , serving as President of AFOES , as well as First Vice President of the International Double Reed Society? You do many things!
No, it is not easy but I manage! My priority is obviously my position as Solo Oboe in the ROSS and I love working and performing with my colleagues, performing some of the best music written for the oboe. Of course, it is a big commitment to often spend a couple of hours on the computer a day, answering emails and speaking with the AFOES and IDRS Executive boards, but I enjoy being active in different areas of the double reed world. I feel very passionate about my work with AFOES (afoes.es) as I have been in the organisation since the very beginning and my serving with IDRS (idrs.org) came about as a consequence of being in AFOES. I have to plan my time well so that I can fit everything in and make sure that I always have time to practise the oboe and make reeds. As a result, I am constantly making lists of chores for myself…
Could you tell us a little more about how it is to work as Solo oboe in the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla?
I am very fortunate to form part of a fantastic oboe section in the ROSS (José Manuel González Monteagudo – Solo Oboe, Héctor Herrero – 2o Oboe and Sarah Bishop – Cor Anglais). We get on well and respect each other. This is very important for the work atmosphere and permits us all to play relaxed and with confidence. As the soloists and leaders of our section, Manolo and I are responsible for the oboes together. We are equal leaders and work as a team whenever an important decision outside the rehearsal and performances may need to be made.
There are two solo players in each wind section of the ROSS. This means that the solo players are often able to take turns with projects and when the orchestra plays a programme that involves 4 players, one of us will play 3rd oboe, cor anglais or oboe d’amore, depending on the repertoire. When we are not officially working in the orchestra one week, Manolo or I are required to be available to step in to play first oboe at any moment – this does not happen very often but in the past I have had to suddenly play first oboe in an opera performance, after Manolo had a bicycle accident, for example and Manolo stepped in for me one night when I had food poisoning, so it is absolutely necessary to have this size section and system with the soloists in our orchestra.
When I am not playing a programme in the orchestra I have time to make reeds and practise for the next programme and other solo and chamber music projects that I have planned apart. These extra personal projects are very important to me as they oblige me to push myself even further with my oboe studies and creativity – elements which are vital for an orchestral player in order to stay in form and to keep the level as high as possible which consequently influences the level of the whole orchestra.
Would you like to share anything else with Medina Reeds?
I play a LXV Howarth of London oboe with two different top joints – the original African Blackwood joint and a new synthetic joint which was made specifically for the same instrument. I still hand scrape my reeds and continue to use different types of cane, including Medina cane :-), but I have kept to the same type of staples (Chiarugi 46/47 2+) and shape (Reedsnstuff -2) for a long time. This enables me to experiment with the cane and any slight changes I may want to make in my scrape.
Thank you for the time and opportunity to share some double reed information and comments. Best wishes to you and all your readers.
Many thanks Sarah for your time!