nora van dok etcThis is the sixth interview in our series Weaving the Web of Finnish Orchestral Bassoonists. The series introduces some of the orchestral bassoonists from all over Finland. Each guest will get the same set of questions. Guest #6 is Noora Van Dok (nee Kärnä) – solo contrabassoonist with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, also known as Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri (HKO), since 2013.

Did you play an instrument before you started playing bassoon?

Yes, I started with piano when I was 6 and then some bass and drums in school bands. I was always a very eager singer too!

Who introduced you to music?

Probably my mum, who sang to me the same lullaby every night for my first year. Those words became my first real sentence - with the actual melody too! So mum has said that I sang before I could talk.

When did you start to play the bassoon, and where did you get the idea from?

Piano wasn’t really doing the trick for me so my older sister Anu (who had also changed from piano to trombone) suggested that if I want to get a job as an orchestra musician in about ten years I should start to play the bassoon. Low notes were my thing anyways, so after hearing a bassoon trio live for the first time, my decision was made.

Who was your first teacher?

Jari Laakso in Oulu.

When did you start to think about becoming a professional bassoonist?

I think it was the first time I left the Kälviä music camp in 2002. I thought these are just such nice people, I want to be one of them!

When you started to play, who was your favourite bassoonist?

After going through all the cd’s that our library had I must say Dag Jensen. But especially as a person I still look up to Jarmo Corkki Korhonen, who was the teacher at Kälviä camp at the time.

What is currently your favourite recording of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto?

Eri’s answer was really my thoughts too. Haha! But honestly I love listening the ARD competition semifinals for some fresh versions of Mozart Concerto by young super talented bassoonists.

If someone had to describe your sound in one or two words, what would they be? (you can cheat and ask someone for help with this one!)

I’m gonna have to let my section members to write this down. Verdict is: blending like honey and contra is like soft granite. (Wow, I’m blushing and overwhelmed by the boys’
verbal artistry!)

If you were limited to only one piece to play for the rest of your life, (solo piece for bassoon, or bassoon and piano) what would you choose?

For me Saint-Saens Sonata has it all. I love that piece!

Who taught you how to make reeds?

I’ve been getting bits and pieces from here and there for bassoon reeds. I make my own contra reeds and that was taught to me by Stephan Krings.

What reed shape do you use?

My reeds are made with 1a-shape.

What is your favourite reed-thread colour?

I like changing... My newest thread is salmon-pink!

What do you listen to (if anything) while you are making reeds?

I like to make reeds with other reed players, so just talking would be my 1st choice, then some up-coming orchestra repertoire, podcasts or just random music.

What is your greatest extravagance spent on making reeds?

Hmm, still probably my Rieger gouging machine that I bought when I started my studies at the Sibelius Academy.

What is your favourite reed-making tool?

Pliers! I just love the red pliers and it’s something so simple yet special.

If you had to describe the world’s best bassoon reed, what would it be like?

Lasting forever, never changing in any climate or weather, would have enough umpf when needed, solid pianissimo attacks, deep low sounds, flexible tenor- and high register, and never getting dry! Only in my dreams...

If you have ever used a website or YouTube channel to help you learn about reeds, would you like to share it with us?

Nope, it’s just me and my paper notes, and if you want to see them you have to come to make reeds with me! ;-)

If you could change anything about the world of classical music, what would it be?

I would develop an equal, fair and in every way pleasant solution to have auditions. Haven’t really caught up with that idea yet, but I’m sure the day will come if we work
together towards it!

What is the best advice you have gotten, and where from?

Hah, I must mention again my sister. She once said to me to remember everyone has the same value - even the greatest soloists or conductors do the same things as us. Sleep, eat and shit!

If you weren’t playing bassoon, what do you think you might be doing instead?

I’m so interested of all other things people do for living! I never really considered anything else than music as profession, but I once thought that what would be better than open a flower store with a cafe and a pub inside! I have also been interested to study psychology.

What is the hardest part of your job in the orchestra?

Waking up in the morning...

Can you describe something an orchestra colleague should never say to a bassoonist?

We had this joke while studying at the Sibelius Academy. When someone was practicing for an upcoming exam or audition, one would go in and say “but surely you’re not gonna play with that reed, are you?!” If that happened in real life that could be one of the worst things to say! (By reading Sanna’s interview you can guess who I studied with...)

What is your favourite orchestral excerpt?

For bassoon there are so many! But somehow first thought of Tcaikovsky 5th. For contra all Mahler’s symphonies!

What is your favourite memory from a concert that you played in?

Playing Mahler 9th with HKO in Paris La Seine Musicale new concert hall. (see photo above)

What is the nicest thing another bassoonist has ever done for you?

My dear colleague Erkki, somehow knowing when my morning has been especially challenging, he has already prepared me a coffee when I enter our reed room. BIG HEART!

Every bassoonist seems to have a passionate hobby, what is yours?

I’m gonna have to say beer. Old style Belgian beer and U.S. craft beers especially and going on beer trips with my husband.

Thanks Noora!

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