Southern Illinois Music Festival 2011: The Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet: The the Clown of the Orchestra Takes the Spotlight

Southern Illinois Music Festival 2011: The Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet: The the Clown of the
Jennifer "Jay" Bull

On Thursday, June 16 at the Cairo Public Library and Friday, June 17 at the First United Methodist Church of Carbondale, music lovers will have a wonderful and rare opportunity to hear the Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet-- a fun, funny, and light addition to the Southern Illinois Music Festival.

"We have sort of created a new tradition, although its only a year old at this point," Charles Shapera of the Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet told Nightlife. "Hopefully it will be a long-running tradition to put together some bassoon quartets for the chamber-music portion of one of the [Southern Illinois Music Festival] concerts. One of the reasons is bassoons almost never get a chance to play in a bassoon quartet."

The bassoon is a double-reed instrument resembling an oboe, only much larger and longer, and therefore it produces a much deeper sound than an oboe. The bassoon is often a lonesome instrument in an orchestra, which may contain many violins, flutes, or other instruments. Not often, however, does an orchestra or composition require a plethora of bassoons.

"There's rarely four bassoons in a room at the same time," Shapera said. "Since we have that option at the festival, we thought that we would take advantage of that."

Due to the rarity of bassoon quartets, this performance provides music lovers in Southern Illinois with a wonderful opportunity to hear some fun music.

"It gives the audience a chance to hear something that they are likely to have never heard before in their life-- a quartet or a chamber group of any size that consists only of bassoons," Shapera said. "It's a very different sound. It is obviously something that is not well-known because it is not a commercially viable kind of a group, but it gives them a chance to hear the instrument not just in the orchestra but as an entity to itself."

Audiences really enjoyed the performance last year.

"They have responded really, really positively," Shapera said. "Last year, they were really happy with the pieces that we played. They really enjoyed hearing something they have never heard before."

According to Shapera, the bassoon is sometimes referred to as "a burping bedpost," and playing the bassoon requires a certain sense of humor in addition to skill.

"In that same vein, because a bassoon is not such a serious group for composers, the tendency is for a lot of the music that is available to be on the light side or even on the humorous side," Shapera said. "Because of the way it looks-- it is very tall and it is made of wood-- and tends to play a lot of accompaniment parts, not the melody in the orchestra, so a lot of those parts tend to be kind of light and bouncing around, so it has the name as 'the clown of the orchestra.' It is an old name, and if you go and talk to young students they may not even have heard it, but if you are a little bit older, such as I am, then you still lived in era when people knew that term, 'the clown of the orchestra,' so we play music that is very light in character-- a jazz style that is basically heavy on the fun and light on seriousness."

The June 16 concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will feature the Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet with the festival Schubert Octet. The bassoon quartet and Tchaikovsky Piano Trio will share the June 17 date at 7:30 p.m.

Admission for the June 16 show in Cairo is free. Admission to the June 17 show in Carbondale is $10 for the general public, and $5 for students. Tickets sell via the Marion Cultural and Civic Center box office at (618) 997-4030 or <>.

For the complete festival schedule, log on to <> or call the SIU School of Music at (618) 53-MUSIC.

who: Southern Illinois Bassoon Quartet

what: Southern Illinois Music Festival recital

where: Cairo Public Library; First United Methodist Church of Carbondale

when: Thursday, June 16; Friday, June 17