The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, July 26, 2006  

Oboist and Camp Fire Songs Singer

John Mack, Cleveland: oboist, instructor, and camp counselor, 1927-2006

Mack was an oboist for, in order, the New Orleans Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, and, most important, for the Cleveland Orchestra.

As for his technique, James R. Oestreich writes in the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Mack in his long prime played with a big, round tone that seemed to defy the finicky nature of his instrument, which draws its sound from fragile bamboo reeds, painstakingly carved and bound, and is prone to a ducklike nasality.

"Ducklike nasality." That sounds about right. Tell me about it. Tell my family about it. For me the whole oboe thing was a misguided experiment, best resolved when I switched to the clarinet and saxophone.

Mack also taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and founded the John Mack Oboe Camp, Little Switzerland, N.C.

Oboe camp. What's that like? Oestreich writes:

In a setting combining rigorous instruction with quaint amusements, Mr. Mack would regale the youngsters with tales about his own beloved mentor, Marcel Tabuteau, who retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1954 and died in 1966. The perennial groaner, always eagerly awaited, was the tale of Mr. Tabuteau’s amazement in childhood at seeing a turkey dance to music. The method, in brief (which was hardly the way Mr. Mack told it), was to put the bird on a metal floor and light a flame underneath.

(Hold your fire, Peta, I'm just quoting the text.)

Now over to you, Mad Kane, you oboist/attorney/comedian/writer/blogger, you.

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