Tag Archives: clarinetfest2014

Conversations with Weber: A lecture with Jenny Maclay

In a short yet informative presentation, Jenny Maclay provided a brief outline of the life of Carl Maria von Weber.  Her lecture was dense with information including career highlights, legacy, lesser known history, and professional affiliations.  Taking great pains to uncover details and truths about Weber, her curiosity and intrigue led her to a rare find, a living descendant of Weber in her home state of Alabama.

The bulk of her research focused on tracking Weber’s lineage as told through Weber’s great-great-great granddaughter, Patricia Grover.  Not a musician herself, Grover was thrilled when a member of the music community reached out to her to learn more about her family tree.  Offering her resources freely, Maclay and Grover have forged an unlikely friendship that is sure to benefit the community as a whole.  Most recently, Grover spoke about an old family trunk filled with generations of memorabilia and history.  Maclay hopes to make a visit soon to see the trunk firsthand and examine its contents.  Attendees immediately requested she compile her findings in a book in hopes that she finds rare Weber manuscripts and other historical pieces.

A large portion of Weber’s history was lost  as a result of their immigration from Switzerland.  It is Maclay’s belief that in order to better understand the future of the clarinet community, we must better understand our past.  Traditions from the past influence our present and future, so it is the obligation of the performer and entrepreneur to make the past relevant to today’s musician.

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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Professor’s Choir

IMG_20140803_150625195Ending the week of clarinet entrepreneurship was the ICA Professors Ensemble.  The ensemble, led by Robert Walzel, opened the concert with the upbeat, Ronald Scott arrangement of Poco Allegro from Five Bagatelles, Op. 47 by Dvorak.  Masters of their instrument, it is no surprise that these clarinetists put on a final concert that was a smashing success.  The theme was light and clear, bouncing through the ensemble with ease regardless of dynamic or tessitura.

Piero Vincenti took the stage to lead the ensemble in three pieces he brought from Italy.  The choir’s full sonorous sound filled the hall like a church organ during the Donizetti and Rossini arrangements by Pontini.  The Klezmer rhapsody following added a wonderful color to the concert, especially in the E-flat stylings of Diane Barger who played with secure intonation and a warm tone most becoming but often absent in E-flat playing.

Of all the pieces, none were as jovial and  becoming as the World Premiere of Guido Six’s arrangement of Souvenir of The Piano Man: “Grenadilla Rhapsody.”  Even ensemble members Larry Guy and Julia Heinen could not contain their excitement as they bobbed and jaunted in their seats to the jazzy harmonies and rhythms.  The pinnacle of surprise came when an entire section played the Rhapsody in Blue solo in a roarous smear.  In an effort to respect the time of the performers, the final piece (another Six arrangement) was abbreviated.  Bravo Maestros Vincenti and Walzel on a superb concert!

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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What Every Classical Clarinetist Needs to Know About Jazz with Elizabeth

In her presentation, Elizabeth Gorman sought to cover many of the fundamental elements that are needed for a basic understanding of jazz theory and performance. She began with the basic rhythmic concept of swing, with its emphasized, irregular offbeat accents, but she noted that as tempi increase, swing becomes less and less pronounced, so that somewhere around 250 beats per minute, the swing feel tends to disappear. She also noted that Latin styles, such as salsa and samba, along with some fusion styles, tend to emphasize straight eighths as well. Gorman continued by discussing styles of jazz articulations, including styles that are particular to jazz, such as ghosted notes and falls. She then showed how jazz articulations can be used to “bop the top” of a melodic line, bringing out the important notes of a melody, which she even linked to the concept of Schenkerian analysis and structural notes. She spoke briefly about sound concept and vibrato in jazz, emphasizing that playing jazz does not mean playing with a “bad” sound. She suggested that jazz can be approached either from a saxophone-type tonal concept or from modifying a classical clarinet tonal concept.

Gorman suggested some methods for beginning to improvise, beginning with listening and transcribing favorite solos and continuing with a basic understanding of common jazz progressions, such as the ii-V-I progression. She suggested using classical excerpts that relate to jazz scales, such as the pentatonic scale featured in the excerpt from Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony, to begin practicing useful patterns in all keys. She also pointed out similarities in the classical concerti of Weber and Mozart, which, by using the lowered seventh and the raised seventh, actually offer opportunities to practice the scale known to jazz players as the dominant bebop scale (the familiar diatonic major scale with an added flat seventh). She then suggested some practice patterns to assist classical players in learning octatonic patterns, known to jazz players as diminished scales, beginning by emphasizing the diminished seventh chord that structures the scale and then adding in the adjacent half-steps. She went on to suggest different practice strategies to become more flexible with different keys, patterns and rhythms.

Gorman delivered her in lecture good spirits, not even becoming distracted when some video difficulties delayed the start of her presentation. This was a valuable introduction to jazz concepts, with some innovative links to classical literature that were especially insightful.

–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is the assistant Professor of Clarinet at The University of Mississippi. You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.

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Reeds: The Bane of Our Existence – Lecture by Richard MacDowell and Brian Hermanson

reedClassRichard MacDowell and Brian Hermanson’s presentation both educated and entertained the packed theater. The lecture discussed making reeds as well as adjustment, care, and maintenance of both commercial and handmade reeds. Their witty, nonchalant, engaging presentation had the audience laughing throughout!

The lecture began with an overview of cane, specifically describing the three layers of cane. It was noted that good cane needs an ideal amount of vascular bundles (the small “circles” you see at the butt/heel of a reed when wet).

Dr. MacDowell then presented a video of the reed making process from tube cane. When one learns to complete the process efficiently, it generally takes 7-9 minutes per reed. A reed plaque and double beveled knife were suggested for safety during this process.

Mr. Hermanson continued the presentation with photos and a description of reed anatomy and offered three basic components to reed adjustment: (1) good materials, (2) the golden rule — have patience; the break-in process can be different for each person, and (3) learn as much about each reed and its response before trying to change it. It was noted that when using commercially made reeds, be sure they have stabilized before working on them. Both MacDowell and Hermanson note this process can be different for each person and that the key message is to find and do what works for you. Mr. Hermanson noted that at the end of the day it is truly about psychology: what you believe works.

Whether your reeds are handmade or commercial make sure you have an ideal sound in mind, establish a consistent space to test them in, and be careful not to overadjust. It is essential to know the environment you are playing in so you do not mistakenly adjust the reed when it is really the room creating the concern. Remember to play, look, and feel by hand as you make adjustments.

This presentation definitely gives food for thought, whether you make your own reeds or not. For a copy of the full presentation, please contact Dr. MacDowell (rmacdowell@yahoo.com) or Mr. Hermanson (brian@reedproject.org).

–Notes by Senior Airman Jennifer M. Daffinee
Jennifer is a member of the United States Air Force Band of the West and is also finishing her DMA at the University of North Texas with Kimberly Cole Luevano.

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Texas A&M University – Kingsville Clarinet Choir and Clarinet Madness Clarinet Choir

Both clarinet choirs in Sunday morning’s 8:00 a.m. Shaver Theatre performance played admirably. The Texas A&M University – Kingsville Clarinet Choir featured several lively pieces with solid solos in Everett Gates’s Seasonal Sketches by the principal clarinetist, and a beautiful  feature of the front row later on. The TAMU-K Choir was professional in every aspect, down to the coordinated lifting of their instruments before beginning to play each piece. With a wide repertoire prepared, they continued with solid renditions of Bruce Ronkin’s Episode for Clarinets, Maria Theresia von Paradis’s Sicilienne, and Paul Harvey’s Jollipop. The 17 talented young clarinetists showed exuberance in their playing and demeanor, putting the fun back into clarinet choir.

The Clarinet Madness Choir represented a refreshing group of 10 adult clarinetists, also running the gamut of repertoire with a wide variety of pieces. All three performed Sunday morning — William F. Funk’s Grenadille du Trisque, Henry Tucker and Louis Lambillote’s Fantasia on Two Songs: Sweet Genevieve and On This Day O Beautiful Mother, and an arrangement by Jack Knowles of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville — were written specifically for the Clarinet Madness Choir. The first piece featured both the first clarinetist and the E-flat clarinetist in solos and a charming duet. The highlight of the recital, however, was The Barber of Seville, a work frequently arranged for clarinet choir. The Clarinet Madness Choir took the piece at a lively tempo and maintained the energy for the duration of the work. A technically challenging piece to tackle, The Clarinet Madness Choir handled it well, finishing the recital with a bang.

–Notes by Alaina Pritz
Alaina Pritz is a recent graduate from The University of Maryland and currently plays with The United State Air Force Band – Band of the Golden West.

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A Masterclass with Gregory Raden

Fresh from his performance of the Weber Concerto No. 1 on Saturday night, Dallas Symphony principal clarinetist Gregory Raden gave a masterclass on orchestral excerpts and solo literature Sunday morning at 11:00 in the School of Music Recital Hall. First was Alec Manasse, winner of the 2014 High School competition, who played the first movement excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.  Raden focused on finding a brilliant, “celebratory” quality referencing a word that Manasse used to characterize the excerpt. This included focusing on an intense airstream and using rhythm as an anchor, including mimicking the percussion rhythm to lightly emphasize the final sixteenth of the pair found at the end of the beat. Raden suggested that while a double trill is possible, it should not be attempted at the expense of the fundamental rhythm, and noted that a single trill, especially if “spread out” a bit in the second solo, can still have “plenty of flourish.”

Next, Caitlin Poupard played the cadenza from the Copland Concerto. Here, Raden worked to bring out the contrasts of the piece, beginning with the legato of the opening that “melts” one note into the next. He encouraged Poulard to listen carefully to the quality of each of the fast-moving notes, even as she allowed the rhythm to flow more, without too many phrase breaks.

Finally, Zachary Dierickx played the excerpts from Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. In the slow movement, Raden worked with Dierickx to bring out a contemplative, lonely quality to the solo.  He noted the difficulty of tuning the throat B-flat that ends the second and third phrases of the solo. Raden worked to even out some of the “bumps” that often creep into the line, suggesting a one-and-one B-flat in the phrase that leads to the high F-sharp. He suggested seeking a variety of options for the altissimo notes in the passage, using whatever vocabulary of fingerings best suits the player’s instrument and personal playing style. In the fast-movement excerpt, he congratulated Dierickx on choosing a slightly slower tempo, favoring clarity and brilliance over blind speed. He suggested that Dierickx continue to work on crisp articulation, but also congratulated him on keeping energy right to the end of the solo.

Raden suggested at the start of the masterclass that it is helpful to write a single word or short phrase at the top of an orchestral excerpt, to help call up a musical character when moving rapidly between excerpts in an audition situation. He also emphasized the importance of learning excerpts off original parts whenever possible and not out of excerpt collections that often include mistakes or missing measures. All three performers played brilliantly, and it was fascinating to hear Raden’s helpful and practical insights into this literature.

–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is the assistant Professor of Clarinet at The University of Mississippi.  You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.

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Lagniappe Recital: Quartet Atrivedo-Aleksander-Becraft

The 9:00 Sunday Lagniappe recital in the School of Music Recital Hall featured a variety of chamber ensembles, in combinations both familiar and unfamiliar. It opened with a spirited performance of four Estampas Criollas composed by Beatriz Lockhart, performed by the Quartet Atrivedo. The clarinet quartet played the lilting rhythms of these charming dances with admirable energy, syncopations and cross-rhythms shimmying away under sweet lyrical melodies. This was an altogether enjoyable performance, carried off with panache and style by the four artists: Allison Allum, Emily Kerski, and Mando Ramirez on clarinets and Asa Graf on bass clarinet.

The second group to perform was a wind trio from The University of Tennessee-Martin, an unusual trio of flute, played by Charles Lewis; clarinet, played by Elizabeth Aleksander; and saxophone, played by Doug Owens. The group performed seven short movements by Paul Harvey with charm and grace. The group balanced the three voices beautifully, so that each of the instruments could be clearly heard, and some lovely timbral blends emerged. The Incantation movement, which featured Lewis on alto flute, was especially notable. While each of the players had a chance to step into the spotlight with lovely melodies, the most notable feature of this performance was the wonderfully balanced chamber aesthetic demonstrated by this accomplished ensemble.

The final selection on the program was I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a duo for soprano voice and clarinet by Lori Laitman, performed by Laura Storm and Steven Becraft of Henderson State University. Storm explained that the texts are from a collection of poems written by children interred in German concentration camps during World War II, but she noted that in spite of their tragic circumstances, many of the poems are full of life and joy. Storm declaimed the texts clearly, with a rich, velvety vocal tone, matched by Becraft with a sound that was focused and warm in all its registers. The songs evoked a variety of moods, from the dance-like Yes, That’s The Way Things Are to the ominous quality of The Old House. Lighter moments, as in Birdsong, where the two voices were braided together in their high register, contrasted with darker ones, like the low bell-like tones and static vocal line that opened the final song. Becraft and Storm brought riveting drama to this powerful set of songs, bringing the concert to a contemplative close.

–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is the assistant Professor of Clarinet at The University of Mississippi.  You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.

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Think Outside the Concert Hall: Building your Musical Enterprise with Kliment Krylovskiy

Kliment Krylovskiy of the Zodiac Trio and Zodiac Music Academy & Festival led an evocative class on entrepreneurship.  With a background in PR and marketing, his thoughts on building an artistic presence were especially compelling.  “Every performance, no matter how big or small, should be seen as an opportunity to remind the musical community that you exist.”  Krylovskiy personally does this with visually appealing  newsletter that he sends to an extensive mailing list he’s built over the years.  He also recommended maintaining a regular website, using social media, and using traditional press releases with media outlets. These forms of communication should be used to inform your audience anytime something beneficial happens for you (aside from a press release).  This will keep you constantly in the mind of others, exactly where you want to be.

Another important aspect is your performance reputation.  To expand a performance schedule musicians should seek out venues (churches, community centers, libraries, unique spaces, etc), apply to perform at showcases (such as CMA), contact presenters using the Musical America database, contact presenters from other artists’ schedules, and self-produce concerts.  One way this can be done is through collaboration.  Collaborating with composers can be an artistically fulfilling experience as well as leading to artistic residencies.  Setting a long-term goal or project for yourself could also be another tactic to expand your schedule.  This could include anything from having a concert series to hosting a summer festival.

As your organization grows, Krylovskiy highly encouraged developing educational programming.  Many grants are offered for community programming, and in his experience, often times groups with at least some educational initiative will be  chosen to perform at a festival or showcase over an ensemble who focuses solely on artistic endeavors.  In a very practical sense, educational programming is a way to insure you have a future audience, add income, and make yourself more marketable to presenters.

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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Buffet Crampon Gala Concert

10556216_857259564285448_2699921473091380692_n[2]On the final evening at ClarinetFest 2014, we enjoyed incredible works for clarinet and orchestra.  Alcides Rodriguez and Gabor Varga give a jovial opening to the concert playing Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets and Orchestra, Op. 35.  With bubbling lines and a beautiful blend, the duo played with poise and grace. The two clarinetists displayed great sensitivity to throughout the second movement, playing with great control and intonation over a subdued Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

Following was Ralph Skiano with his poignant interpretation of Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie.  The clarinet weaved its way in and around the orchestra with incredible ease, wafting through elongated phrases and impish flourishes.  In these moments the interplay between soloist and and the orchestra’s principal winds was delightful, particularly with the oboist.

Taking the stage, Greg Raden performed Weber’s Concerto No. 1.  His first note stilled the room with his pure sound floating high above the orchestra.  The third movement was lively with delicate inflections and a variety of colors which made for a lovely contrast between themes.

Antonio Saiote gave a lively performance of Canongia’s Clarinet Concert No. 3 in E-flat.  With wild technical demands, Saiote took command of the stage and played with abandon.  Taking some artistic license, his virtuosic performance of Canongia’s work was a memorable performance from the night.

In a last-minute change of performers, Robert DiLutis took the stage instead of the programmed David Drosinos to perform Ben-Haim’s Pastoral Variee for Clarinet, Harp and Strings.  A consummate professional and profound musician, none would have assumed he was not the originally programmed artist.  In many respects, it was the most impressive performance of the evening.

A full, lush string section cued the start of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and the final piece of the evening. Paul Cigan delivered an inspiring performance of our cornerstone work.  His pianos seemed to draw you in, peering into intimate moments of repose.

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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Lagniappe Recital: Lulich-Luzembourg Duo

This recital of all contemporary music provided a wide variety of styles within the modern medium. Benjamin Lulich of Cal State – Fullerton performed Five Easy Pieces by Bacewicz, which turned out to be not so aptly named. Lulich’s fast tempos provided for a lively interpretation. As a special treat Lulich performed the second movement of Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes.  This charming and recognizable movement was performed with great energy and style.

One of the highlights of all the conference performances was the Luxembourg Duo. Sebastien Duguet (clarinet) and Simone Weber (bass clarinet) began their portion of the program with Meeting by Alfred Prinz. From Ms. Weber’s first note, I was struck by her carefully shaped and beautifully refined bass playing. Each note took on special meaning. Sebastien Duguet executed the work’s many dangerously high entrances with grace and perfection. His smooth connections between wide intervals were especially noted in the first movement of Gunther Schuller’s Duo Sonata. Duguet masterfully performed the tricky arpeggiated flourishes of the second movement. Jonathan Russell’s KlezDuo finished this portion of the program, a tasty work more understated than most of his compositions for various clarinet ensembles. The Luxembourg Duo presented this work with great authentic style, yet had a refinement not often heard in the Klezmer setting. The extremely high level of communication demonstrated by this duo throughout the program was thrillingly evident during the last note of their performance — a tremolo that started slow, sped up, and ended perfectly together, with exact synchronization. The performers achieved this feat by facing each other and following the movement of their fingers. Bravo Luxembourg Duo for a spell-binding performance!

–Notes by Melissa Bowles Snavely
Melissa Bowles Snavely holds degrees in performance and music education from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins, Shenandoah Conservatory, and James Madison University. She currently teaches and performs in the Washington DC area.

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