Incorporating the oboe?
  • I need ideas on how to effectively and judiciously incorporate the oboe into our sacred music program. Recommend specific pieces of music please and/or where and when an oboe might be used. We are meeting with great success attracting young, classically trained musicians to our parish, and I really want to include this oboe player. We have two really great cellists, so pieces for organ, cello and oboe would be helpful. Ideas? Suggestions?
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 653
    Well, the baroque literature is full of "trio-sonatas" many of which have a suitable upper voice for oboe. So that's good for a prelude or postlude. Any where there is a cantor singing a melody might -- with good taste -- be doubled with oboe. Maybe ...
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    The oboe has such a distinctive sound; it works well as a counterpoint to strings, leading the orchestral winds---like antiphonal choirs, sort of (I'm thinking of the 2nd mvt. of Tchaikovsky 4). I don't have my catalog right in front of me, but I'm sure that a good deal of Baroque recorder music---subsituting oboe and using the cello as a continuo---would be a reasonable starting place. Perhaps the Handel recorder sonatas---G minor, A minor?

    I don't know if it would be useful as a melody doubler. The oboe should probably stand with an ensemble, or as a choral counterpoint in a larger work.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    It could also potentially play a descant to one verse of a hymn.

    Be sure to use it sparingly. If an oboe is used on every piece (or even many pieces) throughout the Mass, it may be way overboard.

    Explain to the oboist that less is more and that you don't want to overexpose its beauty.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,395
    I've played oboe (and/or English horn) at Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist liturgies. It blends very well with voices and with strings (as well as brass, where it can hold its own). Oboe doubles the melody of many hymns very well.

    For a hymn with descant, use oboe on the melody for the first stanza (it supports the congregational singing) and use it to play (or double the sopranos on) the descant for the final stanza (for a 3 or 4 stanza hymn). Several of my own hymn descants (whether for standard tunes or for my own tunes) have been played on the oboe. Descants may be also improvised by playing either the tenor or alto part up an octave. Don't be afraid to use the oboe in other ways. A good player will have the sensibility and taste to play eloquently, lyrically and not loudly or soloistically.

    A very few repertory suggestions off the top of my head (because I've played them):

    J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel bekümmerniss" --
    1. Sinfonia (Oboe, Strings, Continuo)
    3. Aria "Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not" (Soprano, Oboe, Cello, opt. Continuo)

    J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Lebe" --
    10. Chorale "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" (Jesu, joy of man's desiring) (Oboe, opt. Trumpet doubling Chorale melody, Strings, Chorus, Continuo) - many arrangments

    G.F. Handel: 3 Oboe Sonatas (Oboe, Continuo) or the Oboe Concerto (Oboe, Stringss, Continuo).

    -- And a little humor:

    What's the difference between an onion and an oboe? Nobody cries when you chop up an oboe.

    The oboe is an ill wind that nobody blows well.

  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,202
    I love oboe on a moving tenor line.
  • You could easily do multi-voice polyphonic motets, substituting a cello each and then oboe on missing voices. Historically authentic way to do these.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    well said, mjm.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,395
    Doubling or replacing parts in polyphonic works of the Renaissance by oboes, cornetti, sackbuts, or stringed instruments was quite common in that era and resulted a splendid sound.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    My son plays cello well. What a brilliant idea! Thanks!
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • I first discovered this when hearing a double choir piece and realized that the second choir part was being sung by a mezzo soprano and three instruments...
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    This makes me consider the Biebl "Ave Maria"....
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • As early as 2001 I heard a trombone-choir rendition of the Biebl Ave. Well worth considering.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,395
    In 1996-97 I sang and recorded the Hassler Cantate Domino a 12 with Zephyrus with 18 voices, 4 each on the high and low choirs, the other 10 in the middle choir. A few years later we performed the same work with S&T soli in the high choir with a cornetto and sackbut, with A&B soli in the low choir also with a cornetto and sackbut, and the rest were in the middle choir, with cornetti and sackbuts also doubling the middle choir SATB parts. It was marvelous.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    Honestly Charles, you have had the most awesome experiences!
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • Thank you, ny_ct_ms_organist. This is a perfect example . . . especially since I have a soprano that can sing this! It also helps with opening up other possibilities for oboe in my mind. I think I was stuck on the sound of the duck from Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" which was my childhood introduction to the oboe!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Oboe and English horn are beautiful instruments. They would add greatly to your sacred music program.
  • Incorporate the bassoon, it burns longer.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Gavin
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    You could always get guitars and banjos if you don't like the oboes. LOL.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    Noel: For Advent IV, I had my children play the Choir II part of the Biebl "Ave" on their stringed instruments. Success! We had an enthusiastic and positive response from our congregation too. Thanks for the idea!
  • Nice to hear this, Canadash! Encouraging Catholic children to play instruments by involving them in a choral program is really fulfilling.
  • Well, I guess an oboe is better than bagpipes. (barely)
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,395
    Well, I guess an oboe is better than bagpipes. (barely)
    Heyyyy! I resemble that remark!!

    Listen to the oboe & English horn doubling the (double) descants of Come Down, O Love, Divine.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    The oboe is a lovely instrument. What's with these guys? LOL.
  • Bridget, there is a lovely Lent anthem by Mark Hayes, "Lenten Song" with a gorgeous oboe descant (English text). Hinshaw Music. J. W. Pepper has the first two pages for viewing.
    Thanked by 1Bridget Scott
  • Thanks, Patricia. I'll definitely be investigating that one. I'll be using Richard Proulx's arrangement of Italian Piper's Carol for two-part mixed voices, organ, flute, oboe and cello at the pre-Mass carol service. I'm loving it, and the oboe sounds great! Listen here: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/italian-piper-s-carol-sheet-music/4608280 The biggest blessing of all is that every single one of these players (including the organist) is 25 years old and younger. The median age of the choir is starting to tip in that direction, too! Opening up our music program to these young instrumentalists has been very effective. Not bad for a tiny Appalachian parish of only 300 families. And the oboe does not sound like bagpipes . . . I'm just sayin'. :)
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Spriggo
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    Bridget: That's amazing!
    Thanked by 1Bridget Scott
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    I played the oboe in high school... there was nothing lovely about the sound that came out of it while it was in my possession.
    Thanked by 1Bridget Scott
  • If you have access to one, as it's out of print, I highly recommend "Traditional Choral Praise," published by OCP in the early 90s. For each hymn, there is a vocal descant and instrument part. We use them extensivly here. They choral arrangements are generally quite nice also. We have a highly yellowing set for our choir, and they're an excellent resource.

    Also, the C Instrument books for Worship 4 and Gather 3 are very useful to have.