Monday, January 18, 2010

Loree Day in LA

RDG Woodwinds presents
the Los Angeles Philharmonic oboe section
and current Loree Factory Director, Alain de Gourdon

Today oboists from all around Southern California braved what the news channel called "biblical levels of rain" to attend a special event hosted by the double reed store RDG Woodwinds. A series of four master classes took place, each one run by a member of the LA Philharmonic oboe section followed by a recital.

While a previous recording engagement delayed my arrival, I was able to attend the event that interested me the most; a forum held by current Loree Factory Director, Alain de Gourdon. Being a lifetime user of Loree instruments, I was thrilled to finally meet the "man behind the curtain", so to speak. The room of oboists sat riveted to Gourdon's charming French accent as he guided us through Loree's incredible 129 year history. The factory is still family run after many generations and has a regular staff of 35 people, resulting in about 1,300 instruments made each year. Gourdon put to rest concerns that the special wood used to make most oboes, grenadilla, was in danger of being over-harvested from its native Mozambique and Tanzania. It turns out that the trees are actually protected, with new trees being planted for every one cut down, and very few people besides oboe and clarinet makers have any interest in using it anyway!

While "Paris" is a fixed part of the Loree logo, France proves to be the hardest sell for the company. Gourdon explained that his oboe has a perception of being "the oboe for Americans" in France; how unfortunate that such philosophies still persist.

But what does he think of the "low-A" model...?!

I had a chance to ask the master myself after the forum. He was very happy to learn that I played on this model and was curious if I required very different reeds than for a regular model (the answer for me is not really, a quality reed goes a long way). I had a brief chance to tell him about how much I enjoyed the oboe as well as my excitement about new transcriptions and works. While it seems he likes this model very much, he did say that it is intended for professionals and therefore does not sell a large amount at this time and isn't concerned about that. This is perhaps one area where I feel a bit differently; I strongly believe that the low-A model deserves more visibility and exposure to allow customers the option of this extension at both the serious student and professional levels. I myself had to go to great lengths to even see this model in person and the instruments are currently only made-to-order at the factory. Maybe through these upcoming performances I can start to get the word out that one doesn't need to be principal oboist of a major symphony to have a reason to invest in this oboe; students and professionals alike deserve access to more quality repertoire through transcriptions and new works and having the low-A extension provides that.

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