Curtis Summerfest Young Artist Summer Program 2014

Today marked the end of three fantastic weeks on the faculty of the Curtis Summer Young Artists Summer Program – what a day! Four concerts in less than 24 hours, one giant cake, and many tearful goodbye selfies later, 81 students are returning home enriched, inspired and uplifted.

The precious moments are too many to name. Every concert – faculty recitals, playing new works by student composers, orchestra performances, Stravinsky, Beethoven – was a celebration. Hard work, long days, and deep breaths paid off. I saw the luminous face of a child as he heard his music played for the first time. I played for a young conductor’s debut. I shared a music stand with a teenager whose intellect and enthusiasm re-invigorated my love for Elgar’s orchestration.

Youth is a special time for an artist. The spark is already there. Passion and spirit abound. All are truly themselves. None are jaded. It’s such a privilege to spend time with a young musician, to share with them and challenge them. It’s nothing but joy to pass it all on.

Go forth, young artists. May your journeys be inspired by love, and may we all remain young artists at heart.

Brave New World

To celebrate the 450th birthday of The Bard, Tempesta di Mare joined the Folger Consort for their program Brave New World: Music of The Tempest. In Washington DC’s magnificent National Cathedral, we performed incidental music by Matthew Locke, Robert Smith and songs from Thomas Shadwell’s 1674 production of The Tempest, James Primosch’s Songs and Dances from ‘The Tempest’ and our namesake, La Tempesta di Mare by Vivaldi.

Prior to boarding the Amtrak to DC, I re-read The Tempest. The last time that I read it, the view from my window was of Wells Cathedral, where I was a sixth-former studying the play in preparation for A-level examinations. Proustian moments abounded as I read the play this time around. Tears sprang to my eyes at the searing beauty of the poetry, and at the happy memory of being overwhelmed by it at age 17.

The Folger Library generously arranged for musicians of Tempesta to tour their music collection during our stay. Laid in front of us were Byrd partbooks, lute songs bearing Dowland’s signature, Purcell’s King Arthur, Thomas Morley’s ‘textbook’ in the form of a dialogue and… Locke’s The Tempest. We read Queen Elizabeth 1’s patent to Tallis and Byrd, granting them permission to print and sell copies of their works during a time of religious turmoil, and Dryden’s glowing words about Purcell’s genius.

During the concert, I looked up at the gothic interior of the National Cathedral. If I squinted just a little, I could imagine myself in an England of times past, contemplating the themes of The Tempest, as relevant to a person of the early seventeenth century as they are to us today. The dawn of the Age of Information makes it easy for us to access images and form opinions in the time it takes for us to blink. Great works of art such as The Tempest demand that we engage our intellects when considering profound questions of humanity and our co-habitation on this strange sphere, and the fact that they endure for centuries teaches us to lean on and learn from our collective wisdom. The power that art has to articulate our most profound emotions and experiences, regardless of our place in time or space, is what makes it so important that we stand and listen to it when it speaks. As it has been said, if we experience it, Shakespeare probably wrote about it – and that’s just Shakespeare. Listen, look, read, and participate in art. It is humanity in its essence.

 

There is not anything of human trial

That ever love deplored or sorrow knew,

No glad fulfillment, and no sad denial

Beyond the pictured truth that Shakespeare drew.

 

William Winter

Biber: Mystery Sonatas

My interest in Biber’s Mystery Sonatas came from a curiosity about ritual.

We discover depth of meaning and profound connection in repeated actions. Art in all its forms has the capacity to enliven and transform our ritualistic behavior, whatever faith, culture or walk of life we identify ourselves with.

It is thought that the Mystery Sonatas were composed for use by a Jesuit prayer society in seventeenth century Austria, where the faithful would contemplate the works as they meditated upon the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. My first performance of any of the Mystery Sonatas happened to be remarkably similar to this original intention: I performed the five sonatas that represent the Sorrowful Mysteries in a concert for members of an Anglo-Catholic church, following their ritual walking of the Stations of the Cross during Lent. In this context, the pieces were musical ikons, sacred portraits in sound.

That this was the beginning of my relationship with these pieces I consider to be a piece of great personal good fortune. Whatever one’s faith, the subject matter of the Mystery Sontatas invites contemplation of the strange and wonderful, of questions that cannot be answered, and of reality upturned. An important facet of our shared humanity is our capacity to bear doubt; contemplation of mystery has the power to remind us of our common strength and fragility.

In preparing to perform music from the Mystery Sonatas and other works by Biber this year, I keep this in mind. It is not my business to know the hearts of my audience, but I am inspired by the mystery.

 

Performances of music by Biber for solo violin with Richard Stone, lute/theorbo:

 

  • Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont PA, Saturday February 22, time TBC
  • Bach at 7 (presented by Choral Arts Philadelphia): St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA, Wednesday April 9, 7pm
  •  Tempesta di Mare Artist Recital Series: Woodmere Art Museum, Chestnut Hill PA, Sunday April 13, 3pm
  • Tempesta di Mare Artist Rectial Series: Powel House, Philadelphia PA, Sunday April 27, 3pm

https://tempestadimare.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0Si0000001ELEJEA4

LiveConnections Bridge Sessions

I started performing in LiveConnections Bridge Sessions in 2010. Bridge Sessions are cross-genre educational and interactive performances for young people and special needs populations, performed at World Café Live in Philadelphia and Wilmington. From the artist’s perspective, they are deeply rich experiences – co-creating with artists working in other artistic genres is illuminating and inspiring.

Jospeh Conyers (assistant principal bass of the Philadelphia and director of Project440 – www.project440.org) and songwriter Andrew Lipke (www.andrewlipke.com) and I created a session called The Building Blocks of Music. The message of the session is that the ingredients of music are relatively simple – take a melody, a bass line and some harmony, and the possibilities are endless!

More recently, I co-created a session with movement artist Lela Aisha Jones (founder and director of FlyGround – www.flygroundera.com) and violinist Daniel Han (The Philadelphia Orchestra). Motion in Music tells the story of the connection between music and movement, and allows the audience to experience and create at that crucial meeting point.

Working on Bridge Sessions has often put me outside my comfort zone – musically, intellectually, creatively – but it has been in those moments that I have found great clarity and beauty. Likewise, the experience of watching my accomplished artistic partners work outside of their ‘creative homes’ is extraordinary – artists are naturally risk-takers, but how rare it is to consciously witness the risk be taken.

It is a wonderful thing to challenge oneself to go beyond, to reach ahead, up and sideways.  It is worth the risk to find out what is possible – you never know what you might find.

Read more about LiveConnections Bridge Sessions and other projects at: http://liveconnections.org