10 December, 2006

Sheffield Oboe Player

"Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony...
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free."

-- Joni Mitchell

He busked nearly every day on the high street in Sheffield. I would leave rehearsal to get dinner, and there he would be; playing with his gorgeous, dark tone. Sometimes the classics, sometimes folk, sometimes those recognizable songs buskers always play.

Once, I saw him call out to a kid, a young boy of about eleven or so. Hey kid, he seemed to say, would you hold my oboe for a minute while I grab a Mars bar? I'll give you a quid when I get back. The kid seemed to think this was a great idea, and so the Oboe Player carefully handed him the instrument and took off to the newsagents.

Whilst the Oboe Player was away, the kid examined the oboe as if it were a relic! Or made of gold! He didn't dare try to play it, but he did fiddle with the keys a bit... it was pretty adorable. The Oboe Player returned a minute or so later with a mouth full of mars bar, a crumpled wrapper, and a pound for the kid.

And then, picking up the oboe, he began to play again. He closed his eyes. It was Goosens. I knew it because Lilly played it for Concertos at Interlochen. And the kid stuck around, he listened too. And then, without making a fuss, whilst the Oboe Players' eyes were still closed and concentrated, the kid put the pound the Oboe Player had given him, into the small pile of change inside the oboe case. And he sat on a nearby bench until the piece was done.


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