Oboist aims for high octaves

Richmond’s Nattie Chan and her instrument of choice: the oboe.  -
Richmond’s Nattie Chan and her instrument of choice: the oboe.
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An oboe isn’t the first instrument most making moves in music move toward. But the reed instrument’s rarity is part of its appeal for Nattie Chan.

The 22-year-old Richmond oboist is now preparing for her latest performance, with the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra.

Born in Hong Kong, Chan recently graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in oboe performance. She’s now eyeing either a master’s degree or making a push toward playing in a professional orchestra.

The Vancouver Academy of Music concert is entitled “Beethoven Celebration,” and takes place 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre. The concert is said to be the most elaborate by the academy, and will feature one of the most famous pieces of classical music: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

The work is the last complete symphony written by Beethoven and stands out as one of the famous works in Western classical music. It is recognizable for its final movement, “Ode to Joy,” which marked the first time a major composer integrated soloists and chorus into a symphony.

Guest performers at the Nov. 18 concert include academy alumni, Vancouver Bach Choir and Vancouver Opera’s young artists.

Tickets, $6 to $10, at vancouveracademyofmusic.com or at the door.

The oboe doesn’t have the popularity other instruments have, what draws you to it?

“Oboe is a very unique instrument. It can project very well, so composers write tunes that need to cut through thick textures for the oboe. At the same time, it is perfectly capable of spinning out sweet, delicate melodies. Moreover, professional oboists make their own reeds by hand, so there is a personal element to the instrument.”

What’s your proudest moment in music so far?

“Having the opportunity to commission two new pieces for oboe and taikos, which is Japanese drumming. Oberlin highly values creativity and the professors there often encourage us to think outside the box. As a Chinese-Canadian [having] lived in both Asia and North America, I am very interested in bridging the Western and Eastern cultures together. In my senior recital, I premiered two chamber pieces—one for oboe, piccolo and taiko ensemble, and a trio for oboe, piano and taikos. I was very lucky to have two very talented composer friends writing me beautiful music, and the audience absolutely loved it.”

Tell us about your Nov. 18 performance.

“The Ninth Symphony is the most significant work of Beethoven’s life, if not, in music history. The length of the symphony and the addition of text and a choir in a symphony is unprecedented… This piece is not programmed very often, but it is definitely a rare gem. The Fidelio overture is always delightful to play and listen to.”

What’s next for you?

“I have always enjoyed the high level playing of music here in Vancouver. After being away for four years, however, I feel like a new kid in a old block. I am trying to establish my freelance career here in Vancouver. Hopefully I will get my chance to collaborate with professional musicians one day.”

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