Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Chris Bond
Arts Correspondent
12:00 AM 18th May 2024

CBSO Clarinettist Oliver Janes On The Power Of Classical Music

CBSO clarinettist Oliver Janes talks to Chris Bond about the power of classical music and following in his grandfather’s footsteps as he heads to Harrogate

Oliver Janes playing  Mozart Clarinet Concerto
Photo: Hannah Fathers
Oliver Janes playing Mozart Clarinet Concerto Photo: Hannah Fathers
Growing up, Oliver Janes looked for all the world as though he was going to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a violinist. They both played in the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester and young Oliver, inspired by his music teacher as much as by his mum and dad, learned to play the instrument.

“I really enjoyed playing in youth orchestras and school orchestras. I liked feeling like I was part of a team and making friends through music, but me and the violin didn’t click,” Janes says. “I stopped playing the violin because I wasn’t putting enough practice in and then my grandad who was a clarinettist said, ‘why don’t you try the clarinet?’ So I did and just fell in love with it.”

His grandfather, John Fuest, was Principal Clarinet at City of Birmingham Orchestra (CBSO) long before Janes was born, and the pair bonded over their shared passion for cricket (they used to go and watch Lancashire play at Old Trafford) and music.

Oliver Janes
Oliver Janes
“My grandfather dedicated his life to me learning the clarinet. He taught me every single day and I think he loved it as much as I did. There’s also that generational difference – you can’t really argue with your grandparents but you can with your parents! We just got on really well. He would find all my reeds so I could feel as though the clarinet was easy, even though reeds are the most frustrating and complicated thing to get right. So he did all the hard work for me in those days.”
The hard work paid off. Janes went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music before joining CBSO in 2014.

He’s now the orchestra’s Section Leader Clarinet and is performing in Yorkshire next month (June 8) when CBSO launches this year’s Harrogate Music Festival with a concert at the Royal Hall, featuring works by Caroline Shaw, Carl Maria von Weber and Sibelius.

Janes, who cites the likes of Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov as his musical heroes, says he was drawn to classical music, rather than jazz, rock, or pop, from an early age.

“I love the thrill of the big shapes and climaxes that classical music can do. A Bruckner symphony might take half an hour to get there but it’s so worth it when it does. It’s the thrill of live music where you feel overwhelmed by all the colours and emotions that an orchestra creates. I do love jazz music but I don’t get quite the same overwhelming sensation as I do when I listen to an orchestra.”

Janes says it’s been a “whirlwind” 10 years since he joined CBSO, during which time he’s worked with such acclaimed musical directors as Andris Nelson, Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla and now Kazuki Yamada.

His job has taken him around the world and seen him perform in some of the greatest concert halls. “We played at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2022 which was amazing, and toured to Japan and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. You hear about these places as a student so to actually go and play in them is amazing.”

Much has been written about and debated concerning the future of classical music and its relevance to the modern world, but Janes is in no doubt about its importance, particularly live concerts.

“Nothing can transport you somewhere quite like live music. It’s great listening to music on your headphones at home but actually experiencing it and feeling the floor vibrate when the orchestra’s really going, nothing can recreate that. Classical music is everywhere in our lives, it enhances film soundtracks and video games and it creates the atmosphere so that you can then let yourself go into these different worlds.”

Which is why he’s looking forward to performing with CBSO in Harrogate and returning to the stunning Royal Hall where he played previously with the John Wilson Orchestra. “It’s a beautiful hall with great acoustics, especially for wind instruments, and I’m really looking forward to the warm buzz around the Festival that I remember from when I’ve been before.”

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra perform at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, on Saturday, June 8, 7pm. For tickets visit Home - Harrogate International Festivals or call the box office on 01423 562 303.