chamber music ftw*

There has been a lot of chamber music in my life lately, and that isn’t likely to change soon. And that’s a very good thing!

Arnica String Quartet

Last Sunday, the Arnica String Quartet played our first concert with founding cellist Heather Blackburn back in her rightful spot. It was for the wonderful Camerata Musica series in Salem, Oregon. We played music of Mozart (two of his final “Prussian” quartets) and Arriaga (his first quartet). When we originally planned this season’s programs, we decided to do some of what we thought would be less challenging repertoire. Mozart is hardly less challenging in some ways, especially musically, but technically it can be a bit less demanding than late Beethoven, Bartók, or contemporary pieces. It made for a nice way to gradually get the quartet back into the swing of things after a couple years without all of our regular members present.

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methow festival wrap up

Whew! I’m back in Portland again, after an action-packed five days at the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival. I played three big pieces, two of which were brand new to me, and one which I hadn’t played in at least ten years. After three years of playing here, I can now declare my total love of this festival. It’s all about the people. My artist colleagues are all amazing musicians and people. We’re from all over the continent (and in some cases, the world) and our ages range widely, but we all came together and made music together, often with sublime results. The board and volunteers of the festival are some of the most dedicated and music-loving people that I’ve come across, and the setting of the Methow Valley is wildly beautiful.

Rehearsing the Dvorak E-flat Piano Quartet on the barn's main stage with Ryan, Elena, and Eric.
Rehearsing the Dvorak E-flat Piano Quartet on the barn’s main stage with Ryan, Elena, and Eric.

I had such a great time making music with my chamber music companions this past week – they were violinists Elena Urioste, Brittany Boulding, Emile-Anne Gendron, and Grace Park; cellists Eric Gaenslen and Meeka DiLorenzo; and pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough. Such great musicians and people! It was also great to see returning cellist/composer Paul Wiancko, and to meet the super funny and glamorous and formidable violist Ayane Kozasa. Finally, my host family, Boo and George Schneider were so welcoming and hospitable, I felt right at home in their lovely home. I wish I had some group photos of us, but we were too busy having fun to take many pictures. So these photos from my various activities at the festival will have to suffice:

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classical up close in lake oswego

lake grove presbyterian church sanctuary
lake grove presbyterian church sanctuary

Friday night I got my first chance to play on the awesome Classical Up Close series presented by musicians of the Oregon Symphony. I had played a ‘blitz’ event at the OHSU Center for Health and Healing in the South Waterfront neighborhood a couple days earlier (also very fun!), but this was my first chance to both attend and perform at one of the evening concerts.

The concert was held at the incredible sanctuary of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church in Lake Grove. It’s a gorgeous setting (they did a $2M remodel several years ago), capped by one of the most striking organ installations I’ve seen – contemporary and grand. The acoustics are also very friendly to all instruments, and the feeling of playing on the stage was very comfortable. It’s a gem!

To say that this was a unique experience is to underrate it substantially. With Kyle Mustain (OSO English hornist) as the master of ceremonies, each group of musicians performed, and then the floor was opened to questions from the audience. All sorts of inquiries were fielded, from “how much do you practice?” to “what instruments do you play?”. Even some viola jokes were told, when the subject of what the difference between the violin and the viola was: “they’re the same size, just the size of the performers’ heads are different”.

Principal cellist Nancy Ives and pianist Cary Lewis warm up before the concert.
Principal cellist Nancy Ives and pianist Cary Lewis warm up before the concert.

There was beautiful playing all around, a chance to perform with colleagues that don’t normally sit near one another on stage, and the warmth from the audience and the musicians was palpable. If you haven’t yet had a chance to attend one of these very special concerts, you really owe it to yourself to get to one of the two remaining evening concerts – 7:30 tonight at West Linn Lutheran Church [map], and Sunday evening at 7:30 at The Old Church [map] in downtown Portland. There will also be continuing short blitz concerts each day around town as well. Check out the web site for details! www.classicalupclose.com