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Pippa Williams - Canadian Oboist

"Teluric Dances" Western Canadian Premiere Performance

An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, January 2008

Pippa Williams - Canadian Oboist

Pippa Williams

Pippa Williams, besides being a great oboist, has contributed to the development of the Vancouver Island Symphony in British Columbia, Canada, in her role as personnel manager. In this interview Pippa was preparing for her centre-stage performance in the Western Canadian premiere of Teluric Dances by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Her performance, conducted by Italy's Carlo Pallesche, was remarkable and thrilling and had the audience standing on its feet in response.

Baby Connor was fast asleep when I arrived at Pippa Williams' new home in the Cinnabar area of Nanaimo. “I just love it here,” she said passionately. Her young son awoke and began toddling around with his toys. “We finally found a house that I feel we can grow in as a family. I'm feeling settled.”

And as Williams curled up on her sofa with a mug of coffee it was not hard to see how settled she is with Christopher Spidel, husband and bass-trombonist, their son Connor, her oboe, the Vancouver Island Symphony and her life on the Island. “I studied oboe and piano at the University of Toronto,” she explained between hugs from Connor, “and when I came back to Vancouver, where I was born and raised, I saw the advertisement for the then new Vancouver Island Symphony. I came over to audition and over the last 13 years, besides playing with several ensembles throughout British Columbia, I have grown into the VI Symphony just as it has grown into an excellent professional orchestra.”

For a good many of those growing years Williams travelled back and forth by ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo to attend rehearsals and concerts. It was when she and Spidel were married three years ago that they decided to make Nanaimo home. “I'm permanently in Nanaimo now,” she added. And it is here that she makes her living as a professional musician.

“At first I didn't think of the oboe and the VI Symphony as a career,” she continued, for in addition to playing professionally, Williams also teaches piano and oboe with the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, privately, and at Aspengrove School. In fact, Williams, who is also the Personnel Manager for the VI Symphony, has become an advocate for the development and exposure of classical music in the community and in schools. Could that have anything to do with her reaction when she was handed an oboe while she was in high school?

“I wondered what on earth it was, “ she said. “And yet I got hooked really quickly. It has a very unique sound. You have two reeds vibrating against each other. Initially I wasn't told about the reed-making and the financial cost of caring for the instrument. It's a high-wire act all the time – a treacherous instrument. The reed and instrument are finicky. They are affected by temperature and humidity.”

Now she says of the oboe, “I love playing it. If I could play forever and ever I would be very happy. Playing is my greatest joy (besides Christopher and Connor) and I consider myself fortunate to be a member of the VI Symphony.”

It's in her role as principal oboist and guest artist that Williams gets to step forward to centre stage and shine as she plays Telluric Dances for Oboe and Orchestra written by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis.

“It's very exciting,” she said enthusiastically. Williams has been working hard, practicing Telluric Dances. “There is a melody that the audience will be able to hear repeated by different instruments in the orchestra. Even my husband is humming it.”

Then Williams got really excited as she explained, “I play multiphonics, which means more than one note at a time. And rolling notes. There are even indications in the musical score that I gesture to the audience so that the bell of the oboe is pointed at them. There are some very interesting instrumentations and duets. For example, in the opening there are duets with the English horn, the big brother of the oboe. There is a tuba solo, and some exciting brass playing. And, a percussionist will be sitting at the front of the stage with me playing a dumbek, kadang and bongos.”

It's dance music. Composer Christos Hatzis was influenced by popular dance forms from the Balkans and his native Greece. Some of the dances in the three movements, Snake Dance, Eagle Dance and Dancing in the Light had their origins in Turkey and Arabic music. It is oboe music at its best, and Pippa delivers!

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