It’s now that part of the year in which Davy and I remind ourselves that we “just need to get through to Thanksgiving.” Which we have, almost. Lots of traveling and worrying about the weather have happened, including worrying about friends in really bad weather. Now, we are looking forward to doing stuff on projects that were put aside for a bit.
This includes a small project of mine with a real deadline – I need to make a tour arrangement of one of the movements of my Mass. The UMaine University Singers are taking the Sanctus on tour next spring (they just premiered the Kyrie last weekend), and while they will use the original instrumentation on campus (2 clarinets, bass clarinet and piano, with me on bass clarinet), the clarinet trio won’t be able to go away with them for a week in March on their way to NYC. So, what to do to replace the clarinets? What do we have around the house?
Yes, we have melodicas.
Actually, we only had three of these when the idea crossed my mind – this after attempting to write a 4-hand arrangement of the Sanctus and realizing that this would not work, ever. When I asked to try one of Davy’s melodicas that he’d bought for various pieces of his (just google them, really), he was very enthusiastic about the idea, but insisted that I needed “my own” instruments for my work. Hence, my Christmas presents have arrived early.
And after Thanksgiving, I get to demo the melodica and bass melodica (yes, both…why wouldn’t you have both?) for the students that will be playing these things on tour alongside Laura Artesani on the piano. I foresee much amusement, but also some nice sustained chords.
So, we drove back from Brooklyn, where we saw a few friends, many of whom had gotten lost on the way to our gig. For now, I’ve put a track of Geoff playing the solo piece of mine called “Two Bits” (which in part sounds like me trying to do Davy-piano writing) on Soundcloud. More later, after we enjoy not being in the car.
With the concert season now fully up and running, I’m in the midst of rehearsing with all kinds of musicians, from people whom I work with on a daily basis at UMaine to people that I’ve never played with before. But this particular fall I’m performing with some people who go way back, so to speak, to graduate school even. Like Eric Thomas, whom I’ve known since free-lancing in Boston in the 80’s, who is conducting our UMaine Pierrot performance, “guesting” from Colby College. Eric and my husband went to NEC together, and there’s a picture of Eric playing clarinet in Davy’s piece on the NEC Commencement concert in 1980 on our wall here at home (see above – Davy is playing the piano). It’s great to be conducted by someone who knows Pierrot from having played it himself, and I’m looking forward to the couple of concerts we have scheduled for the piece.
I’m also rehearsing with old friends Geoff and Maria for the Brooklyn concert coming up, which gives me excuses to stay in New York more than usual this month. After that, I’ll be performing “Star Theatre” at the Electroacoustic Barn Dance in Fredericksburg, which was organized by Mark Synder. I haven’t known Mark for as long as the other people in this post, but I did meet him when he was still a grad student in Memphis, running around organizing a festival there. Both of us wound up getting into pieces-with-video at the same time, and it’s good to see how active he is now. Now we both hope that the travel from Maine to West Virginia is relatively trouble-free.
Here we are, September 1st, and already many plans have to be made for rehearsals and travel plans finalized for gigs, etc. Luckily, the first real concert event at UMaine that I’m involved in this fall is really someone else’s show – my former student Juraj Kojs, will be lecturing and performing a concert that he curated in honor of the Cage Centennial. Here’s some basic info on his UMaine events:
The last time I really saw Juraj, he was a fellowship composer at the Wellesley Composers Conference, and he came to a picnic at our house during the festival. At said picnic, he took part in an eating contest with other composition students Hillary Zipper and Seung-Ah.
And Juraj won. I don’t think we had any food left in the house afterwards.
Have been learning the clarinet part to Pierrot lunaire over the past year, as some of the UMaine faculty have been performing bits of this piece over the last few months, and getting ready to do the whole thing this season during the work’s 100th year of existence. It is, of course, really concentrated, everything going by in an instant, so I don’t know that anyone ever gets “comfortable” with the lines or ensemble rhythms. So, practicing these movements seems different from practicing the other works for this season, even newish ones like Judith Weir’s Sketches from a Bagpiper’s Album (which is challenging from other, more long-term, points of view, including high register control). But basically, I have a lot of notes to get down.
Plus, I’ll be playing a concert at The Firehouse Space in Brooklyn on Oct. 20th, with friends Geoff Burleson and Maria Tegzes. So I’m also practicing my own music, some of which I didn’t really imagine myself playing when I wrote it. Which is nicely different from how things usually go, though it does mean yet more notes to learn. Here are some of the pieces for the Firehouse concert:
Sharp Nostalgia, for bass clarinet and piano
The Primary Tool is Soup, for soprano, piano and DVD
The Star Theatre, for clarinet, piano and DVD (there’s a demo performance of this one here)
So, my colleague Jennifer Moxley and I are starting a new chamber opera, based the novel Bid Me to Live by the American poet H.D.
This means that I get to write music that will be sung by the characters of H.D. and D.H. Lawrence, which is not something I thought I would every say in my lifetime. Yes, the main characters are called D.H. and H.D.
So far, at the beginning of this long-term project, and just trying out short solo arias with some of the characters, setting the tone for each person.