Saturday 15th December
For today's post we are looking back to an article in our newsletter from last Spring about the release of Tony Millyard's Baroque Oboes after Denner. We were delighted to get a glimpse at Tony's new Oboe D'amore after Eichentopf at this year's exhibition which are available to pre-order for delivery next year here!
A Visit to Tony Millyard's Workshop
Shortly after the New Year, Tony kindly invited me to his workshop, so early one frosty January morning I drove up from London. I arrived mid-morning in Northamptonshire at the beautiful country cottage Tony lives in with his wife, a welcome world away from the never-sleeping, urban London. With a much needed cup of coffee, we carried on our conversation about his new oboes from the London Exhibition of Early Music 2016, where Tony had exhibited his prototypes to much acclaim. As a recorder player, one of the favourite parts (perks) of my job is visiting makers and being able to see the instrument making process in action and learning more about the (sadly too often hidden away) work makers do.
Tony was an apprentice engineer in the aerospace industry and has come to music through a manufacturing route, initially studying with Eric Moulder. Although originally starting with oboes, flutes have become Tony's main output, alongside projects with Eric Moulder producing the keyword for their bassoons. Tony has always had the desire to revisit oboes, and with the investment in some CNC machines he has been able to do that. These machines reduce the cost and time needed to make an oboe, but it has been a long and arduous task getting to that point. Tony has worked closely with Belinda Paul, a professional oboe player, who produces reeds for this oboe. She helped review the oboes at various stages, point out playing problems, enabling Tony to go back to the drawing board and find the solutions. One point that came up is the question of the 4th finger hole - single or double? The decision: "The original Denner oboe has a split hole 3 to facilitate the playing of the G# but has a single hole 4 and we have copied this rather than using a split hole 4 as some instrument of the time used. We have experimented with a split hole here but it actually works better and is easier to play the F and F# notes with the instrument as Mr Denner intended. It would appear he knew what he was doing!"
The camaraderie between English makers and performers is a lovely thing to hear about, and isn't something that happens everywhere. These oboes are proof of the amazing products that can be produced through collaboration. As well as making instruments, Tony plays renaissance double reeds, recorder, bagpipes and hurry curdy with Piva, who specialise in late renaissance period music!