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Watch: What does a lead oboist do if his reed breaks onstage?

Olivier Stankiewicz explains a viral video and life in the London Symphony Orchestra.

An oboeist and his reed
An oboeist and his reed

The London Symphony Orchestra’s principal oboist showed some quick thinking after his reed broke mid-performance, in a video which has since gone viral.

Olivier Stankiewicz was playing the lead oboe in The Damnation Of Faust by Hector Berlioz, conducted at the Barbican by Sir Simon Rattle, when he was faced with the predicament.

The Press Association caught up with Stankiewicz following the mishap.

How often does this type of thing happen?

“(For it to happen) this dramatically, it is very unusual, it has never happened to me before.

“You often get minor problems with your instrument, such as condensation that forms in tone holes, or a reed that gradually wears out during a concert.

“But this time the reed broke top to bottom. There was no chance to get anything out of it, hence the switch.

“Things happen with instruments during concerts: a violin or harp string can break, a note on a piano can go out of tune, a whole bow hair can occasionally go off.

“Reeds, however, are the oboists’ nightmare.

“We make them ourselves, it’s a long, tedious and inconsistent process, they are fragile and wear quickly.”

Sir Simon Rattle – The Damnation of Faust

“You often end up anxiously trying to ‘find’ the best reed we have on a concert day and praying for it to last the evening. Breaking one accidentally becomes then quite frustrating.”

What was going through your head?

“Nothing,” said Stankiewicz. “I just had to find a solution.

“Playing in an orchestra is very much about making quick decisions.”

What was the reaction like from your fellow musicians?

“Rosie Jenkins, who was playing oboe next to me, is a fantastic colleague. I am not surprised she reacted the way she did, just calmly sorted out my oboe and got a new reed out of the box.

“She showed my reed box open so I could point to one that was working. She couldn’t have done a better job.”

What’s the teamwork like in the London Symphony Orchestra?

“Working in an orchestra is teamwork by definition. You can’t be focused on just your playing, in fact your attention is much more directed towards what the rest of the orchestra is doing.

The performance at the Barbican

“It’s a bit like playing football. At the LSO we tour a great deal, sometimes for weeks at a time, and can spend more time with colleagues than with our family.

“Intertwined like this as we are, the sense of teamwork and co-operation is crucial for the orchestra to function and is really in its bones.”



From Belfast Telegraph