Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A New Alternative in Oboe Cases

There are many ways to house an oboe.  Up until last year, the double backpack case made by the BAM company was my constant companion. Of course, an unexpected issue with the Loboe arose when it dawned on me that it would not fit in my double Oboe/EH BAM case (the oboe is an inch longer than the standard oboe). With airline restrictions as they are, carrying two cases when both instruments are needed is not a viable option. While the BAM case is a sturdy model, it relies on the oboe resting in a fitted molding, hence making an adjustment for the Loboe's additional length virtually impossible due to size constraints. In my search to find an appropriate case, I discovered an incredible new model.

The world of custom-made cases can be overwhelming, not to mention exceedingly expensive.  For as much as I respect Loree instruments, the cases are a far cry from the exceptional craftsmanship of the oboes, a feeling that I believe is widely held in the double-reed community. I scoured the Internet looking for options and granted, I did come upon a few very good makers for both single and double cases based in Chicago and Boston. However, the right balance of quality, functionality and cost for my specific situation still eluded me.

After some investigation, I was put in touch with Sue Bohling, the principal Cor Anglais player for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Though not a Loboe player herself, she also had been on a long quest to create a case that would provide superior protection and fit for her instruments, especially while touring internationally with her orchestra.
The additional inch that I required was easily made possible due to the rather ingenious design of the “Bohling” case. State-of-the-art foam holds the instrument in place only by the end joints.  With no pressure from traditional case molding on the top or bottom, the case perfectly secures any make or model of oboe. The oboe’s top and middle joint stay together and the bell is separate. I personally have found that the design and material of this case better protects the instrument from extreme temperature changes (tropical humidity to air conditioned buildings is the norm in South Africa). It restricts virtually all movement within the case while it is being carried.

I took the Loboe in for its farewell tune-up at RDG in Los Angeles last August. It then endured a 4-day odyssey in a moving truck across the US and then a 2-day flight covering over 10,000 miles; goodness knows how many temperature changes! Fully expecting the worst from such travel brutality in such a short period of time, I was stunned to find the instrument feeling just as it had at RDG. The last two times I traveled with the Loboe (Los Angeles to Colorado and then Los Angeles to Charleston, SC, both times before I received the Bohling case), I discovered a small crack in the instrument in addition to the typical minor adjustments that had to be made. My current situation in South Africa means that I will not have easy access to a repair shop for about a year and having a case that provides the maximum amount of protection and structure is of critical importance. 

I believe that this is due to the case’s superior ability to prevent jostling and slight movements that even the BAM case is unable to prevent. The case is fitted with both a shoulder strap and back-pack straps and most importantly, since the upper lid doesn’t come into contact with the oboe, one can easily place photos like the string players typically do…I chose to fit my case with pictures of Webster, my guinea pig.  Going the extra mile for the right case has paid off, especially since I no longer live within 30 minutes of the nearest repair shop.  The Bohling case is the perfect balance of protection and functionality and a great alternative for oboists looking for that extra degree of protection.