A (mostly) very good year.

Personally and musically, it was on the whole a very good year. Almost an entirely very good one. But there is always the element of the bittersweet as one gets older, and one starts to get ever more particular about what may be defined as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. The mortality reflex starts to kick in at the age of 50. You don’t want to give too much importance to minor things when the time you have left might be less than the time you’ve already had. [Hm, that was way more dark than I was intending, but I’ll leave it because it’s true.]

People love lists (even when they say they don’t), so this will basically be what they call in the blog biz a ‘listicle’. It sounds like it should be a body part, but don’t fear – it’s just an amalgamation of ‘list’ and ‘article’. Enjoy! (or not, your choice.) And it’s in chronological order, sort of.

The (very) good list(icle).

*recorded for broadcast/streaming on OPB’s State of Wonder – coming January 2019

So, lots of different stuff happened in 2018, and it’s looking like 2019 might be just as interesting (in a good way) or better! I wish the same for you as well – thanks for making this blog a place to visit, and I hope to make it a little bit more populated with reading material in the coming year!

summer catch-up

I can’t believe that it’s been nearly two months since my last post! Lots of stuff has been happening, musically. In early July I was at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon. I played three orchestral concerts there, and two chamber music concerts. The orchestral concerts were a mixed bag of repertoire. The first concert consisted of the world premiere of The Passion of Yeshua by Richard Danielpour, conducted by JoAnn Falletta. The final orchestral concert was the Elijah oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn, conducted by John Nelson. In between was a hybrid orchestral-chamber music concert. It featured the music of JS Bach and Philip Glass. Our piano soloist in the Oregon premiere of Glass’ Third Piano Concerto and Bach’s G minor piano concerto was the incredible Simone Dinnerstein. We performed without a conductor per se, but with Simone leading as needed from the piano. The opening piece was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, also without a conductor, led by OBF orchestra (and OSO) concertmaster Sarah Kwak. Then, in our festival debut, was the Pyxis Quartet (part of the new 45th Parallel Universe collective) playing Glass’ String Quartet No. 5. Glass was in attendance at the concert, and was also generous enough to give us a bit of time to play through some parts of the quartet the afternoon before the concert. It was a fantastic experience – very much a once-in-a-lifetime sort of musical happening!

Post quartet selfie with Philip Glass: L-R: Marilyn De Oliveira, Charles Noble, Philip Glass, Ron Blessinger, and Ruby Chen.

Then, after a week off at home, I was off to Coos Bay, Oregon for the Oregon Coast Music Festival. This festival has been going strong for 40 years, and this was my first time taking part. James Paul is the music director, and the orchestra comes from all over the western U.S. It was a blast from the past for me, as many in the orchestra played in the Cascade Festival orchestra which I took part in in Bend, Oregon for several years back in the late 1990’s. It’s a large orchestra, and the repertoire was sized to match – Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade, Brahms’ 4th Symphony, and Strauss’ Don Juan were the major works of the week’s classical concerts. It was a super fun and relaxed festival, and it was also much cooler than the nearly triple-digit temps that folks inland were dealing with during the week!

Now I’m home again, and getting ready for some chamber music concerts in the Oregon Wine Country. I’ll give you the low down on those later this week.

on goodness

The past two evenings I performed on a Third Angle New Music studio series concert called “A Family Affair”. It was a concert centered around one of my colleagues in the ensemble (and in the Oregon Symphony), cellist Marilyn De Oliveira. Marilyn is quite a remarkable human being. She is one of the few people I know who is almost relentlessly positive in her outlook, regardless of what is happening both inside her life and in the outside world. She describes herself – somewhat ruefully – as a pollyanna. She is also, perhaps because of this worldview, a tremendous advocate for music to everyone. She, as she put it at a Q&A session last night, was brought up with the view that music has an incredible capacity to bring joy to every single person who encounters it. She is, quite honestly, a musical evangelical. And she’s one of those advocates who doesn’t tell you why music is good for you, she just, by her way of being and inhabiting the music, makes you also want to hear more, do more, maybe even learn more about music.

It’s so admirable, what Marilyn embodies. The audience at the concerts this week were also completely rapt in their attention to what Marilyn and her band of friends and family presented. It’s a rare thing, to be on the receiving end of that sort of audience focus. There really was a give and take that one always hopes for, but seldom gets in larger scale performances in the concert hall. For chamber musicians it’s more common to encounter, but these shows were at a level of interchange between audience and musicians that was way up in the 99th percentile. I’ll close by saying a heartfelt thank you to Marilyn for her musical kinship and friendship these past few years, and for inviting me to perform with her this week. It was a career highlight for me.

Obrigado, Marilyn!

Program:

CAROLINE SHAW | limestone & felt (2012)
JOHN TAVENER | Akhmatova Songs (1993)
ANDY AKIHO | 21 (2009)
SVANTE HENRYSON | Off Pist (1996)
KENJI BUNCH | Adventure Awaits (2017)
Commissioned with support from The Collins Foundation
GIOVANNI SOLLIMA | Lamentatio (1998)

Performers:
Marilyn de Oliveira, cello
Edlyn de Oliveira, soprano
Trevor Fitzpatrick, cello
Charles Noble, viola
Michael Roberts, percussion
James Shields, clarinet