This week, Brigham Young University will host double reed players from around the world when the International Double Reed Society convenes on campus Tuesday.
Upwards of 700 oboists and bassoonists will make their way to Provo to participate in the five-day event. This will be the first time the conference, which has been held annually since 1971, will take place at BYU.
"This is a unique event, and we are just thrilled and excited that it's finally come to BYU," Christian Smith said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. A BYU faculty member and bassoonist, Smith will co-host the conference with oboist and university colleague Geralyn Giovannetti.
"Both Geralyn and I thought that BYU would be a terrific space and location for the conference," Smith said. "Everything is in close proximity," both on campus and in Provo. For about a decade, BYU has been interested in hosting the event.
And members of IDRS who have visited the school agreed with Smith that it would make an ideal location. Even so, BYU wasn't IDRS's first choice for this year's conference. "It was originally going to be in Boston," Smith said, "but when that fell through they came right to us."
Smith said the IDRS conference is "the most significant gathering of its kind."
Most of the performers will be from the United States, but there will also be others attending from Canada, Japan, Belgium, France and New Zealand.
"Among the performers will be members of the Minnesota Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the National Arts Orchestra of Toronto," Smith said. "Also, all of the (double reed) players from the Utah Symphony will be performing."
Among the players from the Utah Symphony, principal oboist Robert Stephenson, principal bassoonist Lori Wike and English horn player Holly Gornik will be featured soloists in the Utah Symphony concert on Friday at the Deer Valley Outdoor Amphitheater.
The concert is actually a part of the conference and will be the "big event," as Smith put it. The program for Friday's concert includes several concertos for double reed instruments, including Marie Nelson Bennett's concerto for English horn, "Excursions," written for Gornik.
Nelson Bennett's work won't be the only contemporary work played at concerts during the conference. "While we enjoy the old warhorses, there will be 17 world premieres, including a work by Libby Larsen for bassoon and piano."
Two competitions are also scheduled. The final round of the Gillet-Fox Competition for bassoonists will be held during the conference, along with the IDRS Young Artist Oboe Competition. "This is the first year of the young artists competition, and both will be a big part of the conference," Smith said.
In addition to concerts and recitals, there will also be workshops, master classes and presentations. "And on top of all the performers coming here, there will also be vendors, publishers and instrument makers. Some 50-plus companies will be showing their wares." The vendors will be in the Wilkinson Center, a short walk from the Harris Fine Arts Center, where all of the events will take place.
Smith said he and Giovannetti knew about two years ago that BYU would host the conference, so they've had time to prepare. But it's still been hectic for them. "It's been a huge effort on many fronts. We've been working on it in earnest for the last six months, and we're just putting the schedule together. It's just about done."
For years, it's been a tradition to close the conference with a performance of selections from Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks."
"Our grand finale Saturday evening will be two or three numbers played by 150 oboes and bassoons," Smith said. "We're going to do it on the main floor gallery (in the Harris Fine Arts Center). It's a neat sound there and it's going to be a fun way to end the conference."All evening concerts take place in de Jong Concert Hall and are free to the public. For a listing of events log onto www.idrs.org and click on IDRS 2008.
If you go ...
What: Utah Symphony, David Cho, conductor
Where: Deer Valley Outdoor Amphitheater
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
How much: $50 reserved, $25 lawn seating, $75 family pass, $12 students and youths
Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787
What: International Double Reed Society Conference
Where: De Jong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, Brigham Young University
When: Tuesday-Saturday (check Web site for times)
How much: Free for evening concerts