We have officially reached the moment that the mood switches from “let’s just get a feel for this piece” to “ohmygoodnessIhavesomuchworktodo and I’m scared out of my mind.” Luckily, the schedule at Bang on a Can keeps one from dwelling too much on the fact that we are already at the half-way point of the festival and that the performances are rapidly approaching.
In fact, I had my first solo performance for the 1:30 recital today in the Invisible Cities gallery at MASS MoCA. Charlie Magnone and I performed “Black Tulips” from George Rochberg’s Eleven Songs for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano. George’s son Paul Rochberg wrote all the texts used in the cycle. Tragically, Paul died in 1964, at the age of 20, from a brain tumor. One can almost hear the paternal care that George Rochberg used when setting the text only a few years later.
VII. Black Tulips
I can’t see
and the road
on which I walk
with black tulips
Charlie and I worked out a way that we could move from the piece before into our piece without a break. As he started the beginning few notes, I walked through the audience and began to sing. I think it was haunting in just the right way.
The 4:30 recital by faculty member Ken Thomson was about as opposite as possible from the earlier (quieter) recital. The program featured five pieces written by Thomson including: “Bend Towards Light”, “We are Not in This Together”, “Spring”, “Welding for Freedom”, and “Wanderangst.” What is truly special about Ken Thomson’s compositional language is his ability to build structures of sound over time that often blossom into an intricate groove. Thomson, playing bass clarinet and alto saxophone, was joined by Todd Reynolds (violin), Travis Andrews (guitar), Gregg August (bass), and David Cossin (drums). Between the clear cues from Thomson and the smooth changes from Cossin the ensemble was shepherded from one tightly knit section to another. Each member of the ensemble was allowed their time to shine throughout the five pieces. “We are Not in This Together” was a tricky étude for both bass clarinet and guitar while “Spring” featured Gregg August’s spectacular pizz skills as well as Cossin’s intense kick drum and cymbal section.
Speaking of rocking out, we had our own diversion from overwhelming rehearsals at The Mohawk tonight. It was latin music night at Banglewood! Gregg August led a three-day workshop instructing the fellows in different types of clave rhythms. All this specialized training culminated in a performance at the bar around the corner from the museum. From harp to viola, from percussion to oboe, from cello to flute – we had it all. In fact, I left early to write this so they may still be there getting in a few last notes before it closes.
Send me good vibes as I bring my A game to my student composer pieces tomorrow (eek, today! Time for bed!)
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