A Busy Week Of Concertizing!
The first couple weeks of April are shaping up to be quite busy ones for concerts for me. What a far cry from where life was a year ago! I was not quite sure what life in New England would bring for performance opportunities with all the many well-trained musicians abounding throughout the region. Somehow, I have now found myself playing with four different orchestras!
First up, today, Friday, April 8, I will be in Providence joining the Rhode Island College Orchestra for a program of Mozart, Copland, and Berlioz. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of playing the Symphonie Fantastique with the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and their conductor invited me to join this group for the current program. This significant repertoire piece is always interesting to listen to and as with most great works, one really gets an unique perspective when you are in rehearsals listening to how the piece is put together. This second run through for me is just another great opportunity to fully appreciate the brilliance of Berlioz's orchestration. While his orchestra was indeed massive, he still made full use of that size with orchestrated crescendos and decrescendos that are really amazing. The bassoon part is a dream, even with some of the technical challenges that exist in the final two movements in particular. But, by having 4 bassoons all attacking those moments together, Berlioz insured that most everything would get covered and that when one might miss something it would subsequently create an odder textural shift. There are a couple spots where the second bassoon needs a HUGE breath and control to hold a long note. What is very cool is that the section starts with all 4 playing that note. The first two drop out half way through, thus letting the 2nd and 4th bassoons sneak a breath there. In that register, the sound really will drop a lot when you shift back to 2. A couple of great passage runs in the 4th and 5th movement are always approached with a bit of trepidation and excitement. Honestly, it is great fun to get to the other side of those and then realize what you have just done! Here it is muscle memory that can aid the player as you do not have time to really think about what you are doing until it is gone. It was a privilege to be able to be a part of this orchestra of students and educators.
On Sunday, April 10, the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra will be performing their annual Family Concert. Postponed from January, this concert for audiences of all ages is designed to be sensory-friendly. Included will be a recent work for orchestra and narrator, Nathan Stookey's The Composer is Dead, a tongue-in-cheek, pun-filled exploration of the orchestra with texts by Lemony Snicket. Some Star Wars music and Grainger's Shepherd's Hey is also on the program.
And later in the month, I will be part of the UMASS-Lowell Orchestra's Spring Concert (April 23) which will include performances from recent concerto competition winners. It is always fun to be part of this student ensemble which brings such great energy to the stage. Director Mark Latham continues to find ways to introduce the student's to a wide swath of literature and this year has programmed a lot of smaller, or excerpted movements, to help students experience music that had to be set aside during the pandemic shutdowns. The program will feature music by Elgar, Stamitz, Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart, and more. They will also be joining the choir for an April 26 program.
The New England Film Orchestra is hoping to pull together a brief fund-raising concert for Ukraine in April. Finding a venue and date that will work for the ensemble will prove difficult in the midst of Holy Week observances and prior commitments. No word on whether this will happen yet at the end of the month or if I can even participate as all the previous evenings are taken up with prep for the above programs. But stay tuned as I will pass along word if it does get scheduled.
Hopefully these and other programs will continue to entice folks to return to live-music making and attending concerts. There is a different energy and enjoyment I think that is now a part of these programs. I have felt more relaxed on stage than ever before, even with that edge of nerves that ramps up as you begin a program. I think it is because there is a sense of satisfaction that you are there to engage others with great art and you enter into a time where we can appreciate how fortunate we all are to be able to experience live music again.