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Klezmer Oboe Duets at Berkeley Rep

August 17, 2007

It's shameless plug time.

Josh Kornbluth and I will be playing klezmer oboe duets at Berkeley Rep on Saturday evening for half an hour or so before Josh does a performance of his new solo show, Citizen Josh.

"Don't you need to warm up before you go on stage rather than play the oboe?" I asked him the other day when we were rehearsing a few of our numbers. "My director told me I had to do a lot of breathing and vocal exercises before I go on," replied Josh. "Frankly, I can't think of a better way to warm up than playing the oboe."

Not many people know that Josh plays the oboe. Until recently, he'd apparently forgotten that he played the oboe too, as he says it's been some 25 years since he picked up his horn. For someone who hasn't played in that long, he's pretty good. He gets tired after quite quickly and his technique is a little on the rusty side, which is why we're only doing a short set. But his tone is quite lovely.

I don't suppose we'll get a recording contract after people hear us on Saturday night. In fact, when we started rehearsing in the courtyard at the theatre at lunchtime, we'd managed to clear the place out within five minutes. People just packed up their midday sandwiches, put bookmarks in their novels, and decided to take their break elsewhere.

Reminds me of the one and only time I ever tried busking. I was about 14 years old and had been playing the oboe for just a few months. A friend and I stood outside a pub in my home town of Canterbury in England. We played oboe duets for a couple of hours and made, as I recall, only about 50 pence (which was roughly equivalent to 50 cents back then.) Eventually, the pub owner came out and asked us to leave as we were driving away his customers.

Citizen Josh runs at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through September 2. The oboe playing mania begins at 7.30pm in the courtyard tomorrow (Saturday) night.

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