Virtuoso Horn Duo – Dark and Stormy Night video

Wow, I never expected to let this blog lapse for so long!  There are many reasons for that, some of which I hope to address in an upcoming post.  But for now, I wanted to share this video.  The Virtuoso Horn Duo is in the middle of a project right now performing concertos with the Orchestre de Chambre du Luxembourg (OCL) and is also preparing for a Valentine’s Day recital with our fearless pianist, Lauretta Bloomer, at the Foyer Europeen in Luxembourg.  

 

Here’s my first attempt at iMovie, a little slideshow of pictures to accompany Kerry Turner’s “‘Twas a Dark and Stormy Night” from our 2007 CD:

 

 

What I Did Last Summer… Part 1: Singapore and Australia

 

 

It’s a bit daunting for me to try and sum up our summer 2010 adventures, but I might as well plunge in and just start writing this blog!  After much preparation and rehearsal, we embarked in July on the performing part of our travels.  With husband Kerry and pianist/friend/soul sister Lauretta in tow, we made our first stop in the almost magical land of Singapore.  On each visit to Singapore, I’ve been struck by the way so many diverse cuisines, religions, and languages live practically on top of each other, harmoniously, like a crazy multicultural patchwork quilt.  The purpose of our brief stay there was to get over our jet lag on the way to Brisbane (more about that later) and to try out our Virtuoso Horn Duo recital program before presenting it at the International Horn Symposium. 

 

Shortly after arriving at our comfortable hotel, we met up with our friend Jamie Hersch, who plays horn in the Singapore Symphony and is a fine soloist in his own right.  We went out for some local food (Kerry and I opting for Mee Rebus, a Malay jungle noodle dish we first ate 6 years ago at the Singapore Zoo.)  Afterwards, we went for a walk and ended up at the Raffles Hotel, sitting outdoors and enjoying a Singapore Sling from the cocktail’s birthplace.  The next couple of days were spent rehearsing at Top Brass, the hosts of our recital, as well as taking long walks through different parts of town – Little India, Arab Street, Chinatown, Boat Quay (oh, that Indian restaurant!!) , and other neighborhoods, great and small.   Kerry is very much in his element in the tropics – it was a delight to watch him blending in with the local scenery like an exotic bird among exotic birds.  It was also exciting for me to introduce Laurie to one of my favorite cities.  Our recital was a joy to play and the audience enthusiastic.  Afterwards, we were treated to a delicious Turkish dinner down the street from the Sultan Mosque, under a crescent moon, with old and new friends.

The next leg of our journey took us to Brisbane, a new city for me, on the occasion of the 42nd International Horn Society Symposium.  Both the American Horn Quartet (Geof and Charlie had come directly from Europe and were pretty jet-lagged for the first part of the week!) and Virtuoso Horn Duo were featured artists, so we had a busy week.  The weather was beautiful most of the time, despite it being “winter.”  They should see OUR winters!  Actually, it was warmer there than it is here today in early September… I was able to go running a few times along the river.  Symposium host Peter Luff and his collaborators (especially Armin Terzer, whom I bombarded with emails for months before the symposium!) ran an amazingly well organized week of concerts, master classes, workshops, and other events.  Through past workshops and the master classes and concerts we’ve played over the past few years, so many of the horn players at the symposium were already familiar faces.  Many of the world’s finest players and teachers were present, but of course it was a special sort of thrill to come down to the hotel bar and have breakfast with Barry Tuckwell!  As usual, the hotel bar was the scene for post-concert merriment every evening. Sometimes it got just a wee bit raucous down there 🙂

 

We played in the opening ceremony (a larger horn ensemble piece composed for the occasion and with the AHQ), the AHQ shared a recital with Frank Lloyd which included his collaboration on The Casbah of Tetouan, the VHD shared a recital with Bill Vermeulen and Nicole Cash (both of whom I met for the first time and whose exquisite playing I enjoyed,) the AHQ gave a master class and a warm-up session, we played the Schumann Konzertstück on the final concert with the wonderful Queensland Symphony orchestra, I taught several private lessons… Laurie was incredibly busy too, playing a heroic number of new notes on numerous recitals and differing pianos.  I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into when she agreed to come with us to Australia!  If you’re a horn player and have never gone to an international symposium, do make an effort to do so.  I promise you will come away inspired, energized, with new friends.

 

One funny moment – before the AHQ warm up session (at which I once again delivered my lip trill sermon) I was waiting outside the door for the key to show up and fell into conversation with a couple of ladies from upstate New York.  I think they took me for a student until I mentioned that I wished I’d had a little more coffee to be able to help present this session at such an early hour.  They did a double-take, then one of them exclaimed, “Wait a minute… You’re THE GIRL!”  She pointed to me for emphasis then enthused to her friend, “She’s THE GIRL!” 


The last morning we were in Brisbane, we went to see the absolutely unique exhibit of the sculptures of Australian artist Ron Mueck.  Look him up.  Really.  

 

We flew from Brisbane to Sydney, where we were the guests of Tina Brain.  If Tina could bottle up and sell little doses of her boundless energy and enthusiasm, she’d make a fortune!  To say she teaches at the Barker College, a private Anglican school in Hornsby, would be an unfair understatement – she is as much mentor and surrogate parent to her students as instructor.  We had the opportunity to work with some of her students as well as to play a VHD recital, all organized by her.  It was great fun to hang out with her for a couple of days, to hand-feed the exotic birds (including kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, and yellow-crested cockatoos) who visit her balcony, to peruse the old photographs hanging on the walls of her downstairs study of her horn dynasty family – some of which were already familiar to me from Dennis Brain’s biography.  I only wish we didn’t live so far apart.  Anyone who says “it’s a small world!” obviously hasn’t flown to Australia recently.

 

Our last “on-duty” day was back in Sydney, where we gave a master class for Ben Jacks’ students at the “Con” (Sydney Conservatory.)  Ben himself came straight from having oral surgery and very bravely came to hear us for most of the afternoon anyway!   I first met Ben at the Melbourne International Festival of Brass in 2004, and it was great to see him again. 

 

We flew that night back to Brisbane to catch our flight the next day back to Singapore.  I had looked for a cheap hotel near the airport, and we ended up at Brisbane’s equivalent of the Bates Motel, seriously creepy.  Kerry and I went for a late-night walk looking for a place to have breakfast the next morning – the hotel was located in a sort of industrial wasteland – but we did meet a man from Papua New Guinea, which was pretty cool.

 

The three of us, Kerry, Laurie, and I, ended our trip with three nights at a gorgeous resort hotel with a remarkable landscape pool on Sentosa Island, bordered on one side by the tropical beach and on the other by thick, tangled jungle.  I love the tropics, the sultry heat, the impossibly bright flowers and towering palm trees, the relaxed pace, the spices, the weird and wonderful wildlife – each time we have left Singapore behind, I have pined for it for weeks afterward.  Even the storm that lasted most of the second day was beautiful and vibrant. 

 

Coming back to gentler, civilized, grayish Europe was its own sort of shock, but it’s home.  We were back for about 6 days before taking off on our “real” vacation to Andalusia.  Perhaps the subject of another blog…

 

 

 

Passion and Precision – the joy of chamber music

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It’s been ages – again – since my last blog posting.  Since then, I have been on two chamber music tours, played Mendelssohn and Bruckner, Shostakovitch, Mahler and many other composers, celebrated holidays with family far away, had 2 x-rays for separated ribs (ouch!), joined a new chamber music group, done a 21-day inner retreat, and so much else, too much to write…

First of all, let me say that as far as performing goes, in my opinion nothing beats chamber music for emotional involvement and satisfaction.  It’s the intimacy of bringing a piece to life with a small group of (mostly, but not always) like-minded individuals with common purpose, creativity, and my own personal motto of what I strive for in music, “passion and precision.”  It is the marriage of these two factors that make the magic happen.  I have the great good fortune of counting truly world-class musicians among my chamber music partners, and they are all the finest of human beings as well.  In the last 2 weeks of October, the Virtuoso Horn Duo and Friends (Kerry and me as the VHD, tuba player and brother-in-law extraordinaire Kyle Turner with magnificent pianist and dear friend Lauretta Bloomer on piano, the Friends) embarked upon a 2-week US tour, giving master classes, ensemble coaching, and concerts at the Manhattan School of Music, Penn State University, Malone University in Ohio, Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, the University of Missouri, the Cincinnati Conservatory, and the University of Western Michigan at Kalamazoo.  It was sheer pleasure to play together with Kerry, Laurie, and Kyle, all beautifully intuitive musicians with gorgeous sounds and totally professional stage presence.  It was also such a gift to listen to so many fine students in every location where we taught, not to mention the generosity of our hosts.

After our last engagement in Michigan, I flew from Detroit to London to play concerts and give master classes with the Ni Ensemble, my brass quintet.  It was the first tour for our newest member, trumpeter Bob Koertshuis (from Arnhem, Netherlands).  Bob, Heather, Leon, Dave, and I had a truly lovely week together, mixing hard work with lots of laughter, running the musical gamut between Berio at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester to Frank Sinatra at a very cold outdoor barbecue charity benefit concert near Cambridge!  We also made a repeat appearance at the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Dance in Cardiff, followed by the best Thai meal I have ever eaten. In contrast to the breakneck pace of the Virtuoso Horn Duo tour, our schedule allowed us plenty of time to relax, go for walks in the country (one high point, literally and figuratively, was a hike up a hill in the Malverns, revealing a breathtaking view at the top), and of course a few pints here and there.  I treasure the sense of adventure, both musically and personally, in my Ni Ensemble partners, their love of experimentation, brilliant technique combined with great artistry, and the attention to detail carried along by a constant musical flow.  There are moments when we play together that I just want to jump up and shout, “Whohooooo” out of sheer exuberance!  We just had a photo shoot last week and will have our website ready to roll in the next few weeks.

The latest addition to my chamber music groups happened quite recently.  David Johnson retired from the American Horn Quartet, and the other members invited me to join them in his place.  I had been performing with them since last April, when health issues prevented David from taking part in the European tour, but becoming a member of the AHQ is a big thrill.  The quartet has a worldwide reputation and has been around since 1982.  I was only 12 years old in 1982!  Talk about stepping into a legacy…

The AHQ concerts are thrilling from the standpoint of the audience, but I can tell you after experiencing them from both sides of the podium, it’s a constant 10,000 volts on stage.  Before my first full-length concert with them last spring, I was a little nervous, but from the very first downbeat, there wasn’t a single second to think about anything other than the present moment.  The concentration doesn’t let down, ever, during or even in between the pieces – I felt myself constantly aware of everyone else’s parts, how I would articulate this note here, tune that minor 3rd there, breathe in the next phrase, fingers flying, pacing for the high notes, pulling out the stops for the climactic moments and soaring on the lyrical passages, mentally preparing for the next piece while taking bows for the one just completed…

Something I treasure from a fine chamber music performance is the instantaneous, almost telepathic communication between the members of each of my groups, which of course also has a lot to do with thorough preparation and rehearsal.  You have to put in the work to make it sound effortless!  Take huge risks, but only when hugely prepared for them.  The reward at the end of the performance is the ability to share the current of the music with the audience, and at the same time to experience that priceless feeling of emptiness and purity, like a huge wind just blew through my brain and left stillness in its wake.  For me, chamber music is a spiritual experience.  I love it.