Jean Hall

In by Alison Stewart

When and why did you start playing the oboe?

Growing up in a musical family I was encouraged by my father and by John Lobb, my music teacher at St. Helier Girls’ School. At age 13 I was given the opportunity to try several musical instruments. I liked the sound of the clarinet and the ‘cello but it was the oboe that I chose to play because it came to me quite naturally and was a good transition from recorder playing.

Describe your journey with that instrument.

The oboe was a challenging instrument for me to learn as I was self taught up to age 16. The instrument was still relatively rare at the time and there was no-one on the Island to teach it. John Lobb was a great support at school and helped me to pass my first exam, Grade 6, with distinction. Entering the Jersey Eisteddfod each year also gave me great platform experience with memorable performances winning the Roy McKee cup and the Junior section medal.

John Burdett was the first teacher of woodwind appointed to the Island in 1972 which allowed me to have regular oboe lessons. I passed Grade 8 with distinction and eventually in 1975 I was accepted as a student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music now known as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, gaining a Teacher’s and Performer’s Diploma and the John D. Miles soloist prize in 1979.

During my studies I also taught for the Saturday music centre at Paisley Grammar School and this experience led me to train further as a teacher, completing a post–graduate year at Rolle College of Education, Exmouth, Devon in 1981.

After a couple of years of teaching and freelance playing in London, in 1983 I travelled abroad and was accepted on a course of study in solo repertoire and orchestral playing at the Hochsch le fur Musik in Wurzburg, Germany. This led to many opportunities to perform solo, chamber and orchestral concerts all over Europe playing with the Hofer Symphoniker and in 1985 as sub-principal oboe and cor anglais with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

Returning to the Island in 1990, I taught for the Jersey Instrumental Service, St. Michael’s and St.George’s School before going abroad again, this time to India as a music missionary teaching woodwind at Woodstock International School, Mussoorie from 1995-1996. Since then I have lived back in Jersey.

How long have you been playing with the JSO?

Since about Easter 2000.

What has been your favourite JSO concert that you have performed in?

I enjoy all the JSO Concerts but one in particular which stands out in my memory was the the Gala Evening with Lesley Garrett in Summer 2009.

Do you play any other instruments or belong to any other musical groups on the Island?

As part of my job teaching woodwind I need to to be able to play the family of instruments. I particularly enjoy playing the saxophone and the bassoon in ensembles and also singing and writing songs at the piano.

I perform on occasions with the Jersey Chamber Orchestra and have also performed a couple of concertos with the St. Cecilia Orchestra.

Is music your main profession?

Teaching music is my main profession; helping children to learn an instrument at school or privately. I teach for the Jersey Music Service as a woodwind teacher (double reed specialist) and this involves giving individual and group tuition to children years 4-13 on a weekly basis.

I also enjoy teaching adults and run a weekly ensemble called Westwinds, a small mixed ability woodwind ensemble for players from Grade 3 upwards.

Who is your favourite composer and why?

Being an oboe player it has to be J.S Bach who I think is the best composer to write for the oboe and it’s family of instruments. I find playing Bach good spiritual and technical discipline, especially all those long obbligato passages in his Cantatas and Passions.

What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

I don’t have one particular favourite piece of music so I would put my choice into the following categories:

Orchestral The Enigma Variations of Edward Elgar especially ‘Nimrod’ really stirs me emotionally and makes me think of Great British heroes.

Concerto The Violin Concerto by Brahms. I thought this was one of the most beautiful pieces I’d ever heard as I was growing up. The slow movement with the long oboe solo in the introduction is very inspiring to play!

Chamber Music Serenade for Strings by Elgar. This piece used to soothe my mind on the days when I had to make reeds!

What music do you listen to?

I listen to everything from Bach to the Beatles which includes Jazz and Gospel.

What do you love about Jersey?

Jersey is home for me, the place where I grew up. I love walking on the beaches, especially at St. Ouen, and swimming in the sea

What one thing would you change about Jersey?

Do something to develop the old swimming pool at Fort Regent. We need a better Concert Hall with good rehearsal facilities on the Island. With the fantastic panoramic views up there it could be converted into an attractive concert venue.

What other passions do you have in life apart from music?

The Church, charity work and mission outreach to the third world.

What do orchestras need to do to attract larger audiences?

Good social media, interesting ‘eye catching’ publicity, up-to-date website and online information about the concerts as well as balanced repertoire with well known soloists and music which appeals to all ages and musical tastes.

How best do we encourage young people to become interested in classical music?

Exposure to concerts from an early age e.g in school from reception upwards with suitable repertoire that is fun to listen to. I think music in the form of a story or narrative using visual aids or art work with some way of getting children involved practically can help to stimulate and focus their attention.

If you could visit any musical period or see/meet/ hear play with any artist, what would you choose?

I would like to visit the Baroque period, dress in period costume and play oboe duets with Sammartini, one of the finest oboists of that time!