Yeoman of the Month October 2014 – James Turnbull

Oboist James Turnbull

I first became involved with the Musicians’ Company in 2010 when I won a Maisie Lewis award. The prize was a recital at Wigmore Hall, a venue that’s played host to the world’s greatest chamber musicians. It was an honour to tread the same boards.

At the time I’d just recorded my album Fierce Tears, which takes its title from Michael Berkeley’s work  inspired by the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. The event provided the perfect platform to launch the album. It also served as something of an anniversary gig.  Almost 20 years earlier I’d picked the oboe up for the first time.

I was 7 when I heard the oboe on the radio, and nagged my parents to let me play. Eventually, my persistence paid off and I later swapped listening to renowned oboists on the radio and at concerts to studying under their tutelage at the RAM and Trossingen Musikhochscule. In Trossingen, I studied with English oboist Nicholas Daniel, and his influence encouraged me to work extensively with composers on new repertoire for the oboe.

Through the Musicians’ Company, I’ve been able to share my skills and experience as a Yeoman and hold workshops within schools. However, resources can be limited for those keen to learn the instrument. So four years ago, I launched learntoplaytheoboe.com. The site ranges from introducing newcomers to the instrument to holding masterclasses for more experienced musicians. It gets 600 visitors a month from all over the world.

My current main project is Ensemble Perpetuo, a music collective made up of active soloists and orchestral musicians that aim to bring chamber music to new audiences using cross-art collaborations. The Yeoman work I’ve carried out has really helped with this as our performances, workshops and activities take us into venues such as cafes, found spaces and schools. We also work within the area of music therapy.

I’ve also had the opportunity to perform recently at the Rye Arts Festival through the Musicians’ Company, which included a beautiful quartet by Sir John Tavener. As well as at festivals including the Oxford Chamber Music Festival, King’s Lynn and Cambridge Summer Music. However, one of the highlights of my career has to be meeting the late Christopher Hogwood, a man of incredible talent who I had the fortune to meet through the Musicians’ Company when I entered the Prince’s Prize. Christopher was one of the judges and he created a new edition of a forgotten sonatina by Thomas Attwood Walmisley for me to perform. That sonatina now features in the ABRSM oboe syllabuses. It is also on my CD The English Oboe: Rediscovered, which was released in February 2013. I am continually seeking forgotten works myself and it is a pleasure and privilege to say I met Christopher and that I was the first person to perform that sonatina since the 19th century.

Stay up to date with James at www.james-turnbull.com