Thursday, March 31, 2011


Last week we performed a preview concert of our upcoming northeastern tour program at Spelman College's Sisters Chapel. I last played there many, many years ago - and frankly I had forgotten just how rewarding the acoustics are! During the performance I was hearing other musical parts in a new light, with flattering reverb from the hall. How beautiful each of the other instruments sounded, more beautiful than usual... the flute was more shimmering, the dark yummy tone of the clarinet more lush, the gorgeous singing vibratos of the strings more vocal... it was a real treat. And clearly we all responded musically. In the Foote Piano Quartet, phrases were shaped and treasured with especially tender care, new nuances were added and heard and repeated back to each other. It was like a new journey with an old friend. I often think of performing like driving a car on a journey together, knowing you have a destination together, but excited about the new details you can notice for the first time or in a different "light", as if it's sunset rather than midday or misty rather than full sun. Or vice versa. One never quite knows what one will see and experience and - dare I say it - feel during the performance journey. Sometimes we spend so much time self-critiquing and scrutinizing, striving for precision and clarity and consistency. But that night at Sisters Chapel, inspired by the beautiful and luscious acoustics, I actually forgot about precision as number one goal. I relaxed into the moment of enjoying the performance journey. The feeling was so welcome  and reminded me deeply why I began performing chamber music 35+ years ago and why I am still lucky to do so today. All because of acoustics. Thank you, gorgeous Sisters Chapel at Spelman.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

KSU Students were our practice audience!

Yesterday it was a treat for us to play on stage in the beautiful Bailey Center at Kennesaw State Univ. for a large group of orchestra students!  Seated on stage with us, the students heard introductions to our Harbison Songs, followed by a full performance, then Gandolfi's Canzona Nova. We really enjoyed our numerous and enthusiastic questions and comments from the students - and we were tickled that they seemed to especially enjoy the Gandolfi! (Almost every student voted it as "very enjoyable"!) It was really great to get to take our two commissioned works to share with curious students!!  Three Chamber Players serve on faculty at KSU - Christina, Cathy and Liz, and I taught there for 3 years a few years back, helping to expand the chamber music program. I must confess I miss the frequent interaction I had with college students for a total of 9 years - 3 at KSU and 6 at GSU. Teaching at a university is a huge addition to one's schedule of busy performances, but it is so rewarding to spend quality and memorable hours teaching and coaching. Congrats to the KSU School of Music during these booming days. And thanks for letting us come and practice performing big chunks of our Tour Program.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Putting it all TOGETHER!

In October we performed Arthur Foote's gorgeous piano quartet and we played a couple of movements at a soiree about the same time and another movement was soiree'd earlier in March. We premiered Michael Gandolfi's new piece in November at Spivey Hall ... and we really haven't played it since. John Harbison's Songs America Loves to Sing was last performed in 2007 - and premiered in 2004 and toured to Paris and Rome in 2005 summer. So last week we revived the Harbison, then on Friday more Harbison and Gandolfi and then today we worked on 3 of the 4 Foote movements. So now we're trying to juggle all the works at the same time and have everything peak at the right time. THREE WEEKS from tonight we'll be performing in New York at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall ......... :)))))))))))) (That should be 7 grins for our 7 ACPers going on this tour.) We're looking forward to two performances this coming Monday (for KSU music students) and Tuesday (Spelman College's Sisters Chapel, 7:00 pm, a free concert and all invited.)  Man, do I go on and on with these blogs, sorry. BUT these are exciting days during this exciting 35th Anniversary Season. Have I said that I'm excited?! Hope YOU are able to join us Tuesday eve Mar 22nd at 7:00 pm for our free Northeastern Tour Preview Concert at Spelman! Then maybe you'll be excited too. *wink* -- Paula

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rehearsal Boo Boo

Wouldn't you know?! First rehearsal of Harbison today, I go to the ASO Reh Hall to make it easy on the others, who'd just finished an ASO rehearsal there in the morning, I'm warming up doing my abridged Hanon, one colleague enters saying that three others are at my studio - the Octagon - waiting on me / us at my house. So we jump in our cars and 15 minutes later, we finally begin our rehearsal, not exactly in the venue we had originally planned, but we do begin it. Despite the late start, and after apologies all around, we run through the Harbison and it sounds like we performed it twice last week, rather than last a couple of years ago. This is what happens when you work with first rate players at the top of their game. Such a pleasure... :)))))))   Harbison? CHECK!  Next... Gandolfi tomorrow! AT THE OCTAGON for sure!

First Harbison Rehearsal Today

For days I've been revisiting our fabulous commissioned work by John Harbison - Songs America Loves to Sing. 10 American tunes like Amazing Grace, Aura Lee (Elvis' Love Me Tender), What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Poor Butterfly, St. Louis Blues, We Shall Overcome, even the Happy Birthday tune... you get the picture! And I've listened again (it's been a long time!) to the ACP CD recording... whew, it's good! Now to also give a good, accurate and impassioned performance LIVE... that's the challenge for performers on a stage as opposed to a recording studio with multiple takes and complex editing capabilities afterwards. Can't wait for our first rehearsal this afternoon, leading up to Tuesday's live concert at Spelman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It's on my mind today, commissioning, because I'm practicing and refreshing John Harbison's Songs America Loves to Sing (2004) and Michael Gandolfi's Canzona Nova (2010). Both are ACP commissions. And today I've been talking to a composer member of the Atlanta School, hammering out details for another big commission to come in 2013 or 2014... Look forward to announcing that officially as soon as it's set in stone. Meanwhile, when I work with a living composer and can ask why he/she wrote such and such and if doing it this and that way instead would also be acceptable (because it works better on the piano or because the balance is better with the other instruments, etc etc)... often, even usually, they say yes. It makes me realize that maybe Schubert or Beethoven or Copland or Stravinsky would also sometimes say "yes, fine, go for it." But we performers study study study the score, digging through notes and searching for the compositional key to interpretation or the psychological inners of the composer's mind, trying to be dutiful, knowing that almost always the best performance results from the sincerest allegiance to the score. But then we find inconsistencies, mistakes in the score. And the composer has long since grown silent or lives in a distant land. In the end, one's sense of what is beautiful, what is art has to come into play. After all, when we walk out on stage, the audience are not sitting there glued to the score, they are listening to the aura or the lack thereof. A rambling blog... such are the back and forth inner trials and tribulations of putting together an interpretation and then performing it. At least sometimes we can actually ask the composer and get an answer. Then we have to see if we can love the answer we are given... Fortunately I am convinced by the answers I've received from my questions of Harbison and Gandolfi.

New to Blogging!

Hoorah, There is so much to share about the Atlanta Chamber Players! And now I can! Hope you have SAVED THE DATE of Tue Mar 22, 7:00 pm - Free Concert Preview of our upcoming Northeast Tour at Spelman College's Sisters Chapel. We'll be playing Harbison, Gandolfi, Foote - the exact same program we'll be playing in Boston and New York City the first week of April. Join us one week from tonight!