Memories of John Oliver

Below are some anecdotes of John Oliver that I remember fondly. My formal tribute to John Oliver is published on the MIT web site, along with those of my colleagues.

* * *

Early in my TFC career, John approached me during a rehearsal break. “May I get your opinion on something?” he asked, pulling a carefully folded paper from his pocket. I panicked inside, assuming he was going to test his “newbie” with a musical question. Much to my relief and surprise, John showed me an advertisement for a 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copy machine. “That will be really useful to have in the office! And such a space saver,” I offered with far too much enthusiasm. “Good! I thought so,” John said, as he tucked the paper away back in his pocket.

* * *

One time in the Symphony Hall basement, I passed John on his way to the vending machines, and he asked if I had change for a two or a five. “A two?” I asked. “I always ask for two-dollar bills at the bank. That’s how they remember me,” he said.

* * *

Many years ago I had a coaching with John Oliver. At the end of the coaching, I asked how much I owed him for his time. He had already started walking from the piano back to his office and without turning around or pausing he said, “Nah, you’re family.”

* * *

(I guess technically this is an anecdote about me, but anyway.) Whenever people talk about how nobody reads print newspapers anymore, I always chime in, “Actually John Oliver buys four papers every morning!”

* * *

During a rehearsal of Bach’s Singet dem Herrn, John stopped the chorus, dissatisfied with the sound. “Don’t sing with your special Bach voices. Sing with the voice God gave you,” he said. These words of wisdom have become a personal motto for many of us.

* * *

July 26, 2017 was the last time I saw JO. I visited him with my friend and TFC “stand-mate” Jeni Cameron, and he was in such high spirits. In his living room, he had a framed “Missing Dog” flyer. He knew neither the owner nor whether they found the dog, but he thought the dog was cute! He told us about his friend Jim’s grandchildren and how kids were “the most astonishing thing,” a phrase he’d previously used only to describe great music and singers. He showed us pictures from the time Jim dressed him up in motorcycle gear and took him for a ride up and down the street. And, of course, he told stories about Leinsdorf, Lenny, Seiji, and Phyllis, all of which we’d heard before but were happy to hear again. Oh, what I would give to hear those stories again…I miss you, JO.


Related reading: Reflections on John Oliver and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Repertoire List: 2016-2017 Academic Year

Song cycles, sonatas, concertos, etc. were performed in their entirety unless otherwise specified.

Works performed in public:

Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 in F major, Op. 24, “Spring”
Bellini Dolente imagine di Fille mia
Brahms Sonntag, Op. 47, No. 3
Brahms “Vergebliches Ständchen” from Romanzen und Gesäng, Op. 84
Brahms Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100
Brahms Wir wandelten, Op. 96, No. 2
Child, Peter Moonscapes (2005)
Debussy Première Rhapsodie
Dutilleux Sarabande et cortège for Bassoon and Piano
Ginastera Pampeana No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 21
Haydn The Mermaid’s Song, Hob.XXVIa:25
Mozart “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” from Die Zauberflöte
Myaskovsky Cello Sonata No. 2 in a minor, Op. 81
Poulenc Clarinet Sonata
Purcell Sweeter than Roses
Rorem Spring
Schumann, Clara Liebst du um Schönheit, Op. 12, No. 2
Schumann, Clara Lorelei, Op. 53 No. 2
Schumann, Robert Phantasiestücke, Op. 73
Tansman Suite for Bassoon and Piano
Verdi “Saper vorreste” from Un ballo in maschera
Wieniawski Polonaise brillante No. 1 in D Major, Op. 4
Wilder Suite No. 1 for Tuba and Piano
Wolf “Die Bekehrte” from Goethe Lieder
Wolf “Die Spröde” from Goethe Lieder

Works prepared for competitions, masterclasses, and recordings:

Arditi Il Bacio
Bach “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” from St. John Passion, BWV 245
Bach “Zerfliesse, mein Herze” from St. John Passion, BWV 245
Bellini “Ah! non credea mirarti… Ah non giunge” from La Sonnambula
Bellini Ma rendi pur contento
Bloch Abodah
Britten “Be kind and courteous” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 64
Charpentier “Depuis le jour” from Louise
Copland Violin Sonata (Andante semplice)
Debussy Pierrot
Donizetti “Regnava nel silenzio” from Lucia di Lamermoor
Fauré Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1
Floyd “Ain’t it a pretty night?” from Susannah
Franck Violin Sonata in A major (movements I and II)
Grieg Violin Sonata No. 3 in c minor, Op. 45 (Allegro molto ed appassionato)
Handel “Rejoice greatly” from Messiah
Mozart “Der Hölle Rache” from Die Zauberflöte
Obradors “Con amores, la mi madre Canciones” from Clásicas Españolas
Obradors “Del cabello más sutil Canciones” from Clásicas Españolas
Ravel “Chanson a boire” from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Sarasate Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25
Schubert Der Wanderer, D 493
Schubert Du bist die Ruh, D 776
Stravinsky Suite Italienne (movements I–III)
Sullivan “Poor Wand’ring One” from Pirates of Penzance
Vaughan Williams “Whither must I wander?” from Songs of Travel

Fun fact: I’ve now played Schumann’s Phantasiestücke, Op. 73 with bassoon, cello, and clarinet.

10 Reasons the Audition Panel is Frowning

An unhappy-looking audition panel can really exacerbate the stress of auditioning, but fret not! Here are 10 reasons the jury might be frowning that have nothing to do with your performance.

  1. Not a morning person
  2. The room is too cold/hot
  3. Need more coffee (See #1)
  4. Uncomfortable chairs
  5. No cookie in the boxed lunch
  6. Food coma
  7. Wedgie
  8. Just remembered that email I forgot to reply to
  9. RBF
  10. No bathroom breaks