On the skis, at the top of a new run, Part II

Reblog from Kenneth Woods- A view from the podium

On tour with Ensemble Epomeo, Day 2 and 3

We set off early for New Brunswick, with over 300 miles to cover. We’d never done such a big trip as a trio before (the previous record was more like 2 or 3 hours), but it was a pleasant drive in good company. Somewhere along the way, we stopped for lunch for a rather disappointingly ordinary meal at what had looked like a cute old-timey diner. While David and Caroline paid their checks, I made a few frantic business calls before we crossed the border.What a border crossing it was- we were in line for a long, long time going up, and when we returned we actually had to park the car and go in for extra questioning, even though we’re all US citizens. Why the drama? It’s Canada- we’re all brothers and sisters!

The weather in New Brunswick was rather foul- we got to our hosts around 5 then had a “sound check” at 6. The university hadn’t quite explained what it was a sound check for- it turns out they wanted to film and record our children’s concert the next day. It was a good thing we did have a sound check- the hall had HUGE acoustic problems and we decided we need to mic the speakers, something we almost never do. We hadn’t had a minute to look at the children’s music this time, but we muddled through before adjourning for dinner with Ron, our host. After dinner, I think we were all too tired to rehearse productively.

The next morning, Monday, we had a lot of work to do, starting with a stack of emails about schedules and contracts and other nitty-gritty details. The kiddie concert was at 12, so we had about 2 hours once we’d driven to the college to put together Ferdinand the Bull, Kile Smith’s “Bremen Town Musicians,” David Yang’s “Lubin from Chelm” (in which I have a great speaking role as Lubin’s nagging mother) and Martin Kutnowski’s “How Toad got his Spots.” Martin’s piece was the newest for us, and we wanted to get it extra right, since he was our connection for the visit to Fredericton, where he teaches composition at St Thomas University.

All too soon, the kids started filing in, as they do. We always start with Ferdinand, which is great- all the rest of our pieces are for violin, cello and narrator, but I’m not involved with Ferdinand, so I can go in the audience to marvel at Caroline’s jaw-dropping virtuosity and get a sense of how the audience is responding to David’s shtick. This was a once-in-a-long-while audience, and they were almost immediately howling with laughter to almost everything David said, which brought out David’s sharpest comedic instincts. After a roaring ovation, I joined my colleagues for the rest of the performance- great fun, and a great bunch of kids.

After lunch, we had more music to learn. We had two more new pieces to look at- one was Martin’s marvelous new clarinet quintet. David had commissioned it for his festival, so he knew it, but Caroline and I had just managed to print our parts out before leaving our homes last week. I was relieved after lunch to find that it was quite playable- don’t ask what I would have done if it had been extraordinarily difficult. Our originally planned tour program was to have been the one we played in Newburyport- Kile Smith’s Thrice Blest, Gal Serenade op 41, Strauss “das Deandl is harb auf mi” and Beethoven op 9 no. 1. Things got slightly more complicated when our presenter for Wednesday asked for the Schnittke Trio. The Schittke is one of the greatest masterpieces of modern chamber music, and it was the first thing David and I did in the trio with our original violinist, but we’d never played it with Caroline, and it is a big piece to dust off after a 2 year break. We were thrilled to have an excuse to work it up, but more repertoire means more do do in less time.

So, Monday afternoon, we had a trio sectional on Martin’s quintet and a first look at Schnittke. After dinner, we met our 2nd violinist, Nadja, and Wesley Ferreira, who had to take on Martin’s formidable clarinet writing. The quintet,  ”En la Mar Hay un Torre,” is a sweet, tender and very beautiful piece with hints  of tango and a final coda that Ernest Bloch would have loved in its Hebraic defiance. After quintet, we wanted to rehearse, since there’d been no time to look at the trio rep since Saturday, but instead we all adjourned to a wonderful meal. A better choice, in the end- it’s nice to get to know who you’re playing with and the composer whose music you play! It was a nice day- wonderful kiddie concert with an audience to die for, a new work to discover and an old favorite to re-discover, and lots of nice new colleagues to meet.

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PS- you can follow Ensemble Epomeo on our Facebook Page here.