Endangered Instrument: Oboe

In 2019 the oboe took centre stage across the festival as we continued to showcase 'endangered' instruments. 

Acclaimed oboists Christopher Redgate and Nicholas Daniel joined the festival as Artists in Residence performing as soloists with international ensembles and leading a number of specialist workshops and masterclasses.

About the oboe 

The oboe is one of the two double reed instruments of the woodwind family (the other is the bassoon) and is a conical bore instrument which facilitates its distinctive sound.

It has four sections:

The lowest note is played when all of the holes are closed - a low Bb - which is when the column is at its longest. The column is shortened by opening up holes successively, starting from the bottom and moving up. The highest notes employ a different way of creating the notes; they use
harmonics, which are created when cross fingerings (similar to some fingerings on the recorder) are used.

A reed is used to create the sound, in fact it is two reeds which are placed back to back and tied on to a metal (often brass) tube. The reed is made of a type of cane called Arundo Donax.

Most professional oboists make their own reeds. When the oboist blows through the reeds they start to vibrate which in turn sets up vibrations down the length of the tube. Reeds are made of springy cane and can vibrate on their own.

When a reed is attached to the instrument and someone blows into the reed, the pressure increases which makes the reed open more, letting more air into the oboe and creating more noise. When the pressure falls, the reed tends to close and let less air in.

There are several other members of the oboe family including the musette (piccolo oboe), cor anglais, oboe d’amore, bass oboe and lupophon.

The Howarth-Redgate 21st century oboe

The Howarth-Redgate oboe is a revolutionary custom made oboe by Howarth of London, specialist oboe makers. The oboist Christopher Redgate was active in redesigning the key-work of the oboe, and in collaboration with Howarth of London, developed the Howarth-Redgate system oboe for contemporary music performance.

Extensive research was undertaken to develop this new oboe. As a result of this research a lot of keys were added to the new instrument and some key-work was removed. The new oboe features a multiphonic switch and the flexibility needed to play contemporary repertoire as well as standard music.