Early Summer

Hey Folks,
it’s been awhile, but now that I have re-couped from early summer projects it’s time for a retrospective.

June 18th was a busy day. In preparation for an article for Pan, I visited the Hochschule here in Cologne. What a creepy place! Lovely naked concrete 80’s architecture. Anyway, that aside, had a very interesting 3 hours with Prof. Robert Winn and his students. He gave many salient points that I will need to sift through before airing them to the British flute-loving public. And sorry, I’m not at liberty to give anything away before publication!

Later that day I pedaled over to Cologne’s Loft – which as some of you may know is the venue for improvised music. God Bless Hans-Martin Müller for founding it!

My duo partner Alexei Lapin (Lyosha) from St. Petersburg had just arrived and we were ready for his German debut. For the concert I rounded
up Melvyn Poore, tuba –

Matthias Schubert, sax

and at the last minute Roger Turner, drums.

I got roped into playing as well for the second set. We had a small audience, but all in all it wasn’t bad. There were also some good moments. And if we get the recording mastered well, we just might be able to put it out on CD.

June 20 I arranged for Llyosha to do a jam/recording session at the musikFabrik with Frank Gratkowski sax/clarinet and Sebastian Gramss bass. I think those guys played very well together, and I learned a lot.

June 26-27 I headed up to Hannover to record at the EMI Emil Berliner Studios. Jüri Reinvere had arranged for us to record his Requiem for flute, 4 male voices and female voice-over. We met the singers who flew straight in from Tallinn to the rehearsal. I was treated with a flood of Estonian words, and temporarily even learned to count in Estonian. It’s all long-gone the way all my short-term learning goes.

June 29 I went north again, this time to Münster to do the German premiere of this Requiem. This was shown with film footage of Estonia from before the wars. We played in the Apostelkirche, quite nice but with acoustics too-churchy for this piece. It went OK, but the audience (a bigger turnout than I expected) response was underwhelming. Too bad, I like this piece. One we got the notation sorted out (subject for another blog entry) it went very fine – excellent writing for flute. The combination with male voices is very soulful.

July 2-3 was busy with rehearsals for Royaumont with musikFabrik. Also with film. Very tricky stuff that needs to be coordinated with click-track. These are all new works by Michael Jarrell, Martin Matalon and Paul Cendo. Am looking forward to August in Royamount with lovely food and the beautiful Cistercian chapel where we will play. These Cistercian cathedrals and churches are my absolute favorite, no peeing putties or horrible bleeding cross paintings, just light, light, more light and beautiful stonework.

July 5 was my solo concert which took place in an absolute sauna of light, speaking of…..
After the first two works it didn’t go too badly. The concert got off to such a bad start – and I think I have the answer (also another blog subject). In short, I ignored my physical well-being again. On the whole, the turnout was better than I expected, the organizer was happy, and the whole thing will be available for purchase/download in the Fall. More on that later.

Now coming up:
July 15 in St. Petersburg at the GEZ with Llosha and Nikolai Rubanov, sax. I’ve been humbled though and am a bit shy now of this improv stuff. I’ve heard so many really good people recently that I’m inspired and ashamed (of my own piddling attempts) at the same time.

Then it’s family time! There will be 2 sets of grandparents for my little boy to drool on. We are all looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll even have time to blog…..

When Inspiration Knocks

I had this conversation with a student of mine who just graduated. It’s a tough situation for her: suddenly no stimulus of fellow students, no schedule to follow, lack of money, and pressure of entrance auditions for the next degree. As a foreigner, she has no support system and must provide her own stability and motivation. The result of this is mild depression and reculsiveness. So my pep talk to her included the phrase:”Inspiration doesn’t come knocking at the door, you have to get out and find it”!

I don’t know to what extent this is true. And I don’t think it helped, but we’ll see how she does this month with the auditions.

It is however good that I remember these words for myself. As I mentioned in my last post, my husband needed to kick me out the door to attend a concert of “Plush Music Festival” at the Loft. I’ve been house bound except for the necessary teaching, meetings etc. Missing many good concerts. It was time for some inspiration and I found it! Last night’s concert opened with Simon Nabatov (piano) playing Herbie Nichols. Boy does he rock! And I am sad I don’t play a harmony instrument – what lushness…. And power – the sheer volume of it, but never harsh or grating. On the flip side, the second set featured Hayden Chisholm and his quartet playing original works. I’ve never heard a sax player play so sustainedly quiet. What subtlety and color!

When you leave a concert thinking: “oh dear, I’ve got a lot to learn”, I think you can say it was worthwhile.

Recording session 25 Dec

I like this blog venue, I can publish those funny pictures that are kinda cool, but you just don’t know where to put them. They’re not “official” enough for the website, and certainly don’t belong hanging on my wall.

My piano partner Lyosha just sent me the best of our session from 25 Dec. 2008. It turned out to be a really mellow session, almost minimalistic. I was in a strange frame of mind. In the western world, it was Christmas Day. In Russia, which goes by the old calendar, it was just a working day. Not that it makes much difference to me. There are basically no holidays for musicians anyway.

So it was a steeley gray and very cold day in St. Petersburg. We’d just arrived at Babushka and Dedushka’s two days ago, with our 4-month-old in tow, and I was still recovering from the trip. One of those “vacations” which is not a vacation. Family trip, plus had a difficult program to learn for a concert on Jan 9th in Cologne so no time to really slack off.
But I always find time to play with Lyosha. He’d just bought his new grand piano, and his new at-home studio was now set up and ready to go. So armed with extra woolen socks, my husband and I set out to the session.

Here’s a take from the session, Lyosha titled it “House on the Lake”. Quite minimal but it has something, I think:

House on the Lake

Here is a photo of our concert that we played at the GEZ a few days later. Don’t have the recording of that yet, am curious! That’s Vladimir Shostak on bass and Nikolai Rubanov on bass clarinet.

Real-Life Professional

It’s the first day of a project and you have that tell-tale itchyness in you chest: you know for sure that some damned flu bug has found a temporary home in your warm, moist bronchial passages, just the very ones you rely on to play the flute. My body temp. went down to below 35 C that night and I called in sick the next day with a fever of 38 C. But then the dilema: do you find a replacement for the gig NOW, or do you take the positive attitude “I’ll be better for a day of rest”. Stupid me, I’m always the optimist. After the free day, still ill , too late to find a replacement and a concert on the morrow, I just had to do it no matter what. And relatively drug free since I am still breast feeding.

So Saturday morning, still feverish, I boarded the train for Berlin. Just a dress rehearsal, concert, and night train home. Do-able. Even with a coughing fit that delayed the second half of the concert.

But my sorry story is not the highlight of this memorable evening of Berlin’s Ultraschall Festival. The night before the concert, our wonderful soloist of the evening, soprano R. Hardy stepped out of the airport in Berlin and broke her leg in two places below the knee. She came to dress rehearsal, casted up and sitting in a wheelchair, ready to throw in the towel. Or not quite just yet…. it actually went well! There aren’t many singers who could manage K. Ospald’s “und es regnet” even with their legs in one piece! But she is amazing. So we decided to go ahead with the piece – we even discussed and arranged that our conductor would wheel her out on stage and how we would all “bow”.

After much ado – we are more than a little nervous and tossing around the phrase “Break a leg” – the big moment arrives. The lights dim, the festival director himself goes on stage to explain the accident, we enter and await the conductor and soloist. Thunderous applause as she is wheeled carefully in, right leg immobilized, sticking out straight in front. The conductor manages to park her, but while looking for the brake lever, accidently loosens the lever that held her right leg up. The leg takes a dive, we all let out a gasp***. But it seems no harm done – Ms. Hardy even made the joke “I wanted to write on the bottom of my foot (which the audience could see, as her right leg was extended pointing at them) “YES WE CAN” ” The audience loved it.

Afterwards, we asked if it had hurt, when the lever was released and her leg fell down. She just replied “Oh never mind”.

I could only gape in wonder.