Archive for May, 2012

Day 8 + Day 9 – Alba, Italy

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Day 8

This morning we did not have a composition workshop, as our next new speaker, Mark Cook, wouldn’t be arriving until later in the day. Instead I planned to meet with Forest Toby (Earlham College) to find our way to the music shop in order to find out what percussion instruments we could possibly rent for the Klezmer performance on Saturday. We did find the store, but it was unfortunately during ‘siesta’, a time period during the day in which all of the stores close. This afternoon’s concert was a nice mix featuring a piece by Mark Cook (whom was in the audience), Stravinsky’s famous Octet, and the Creation of the World by Darius Milhaud. The Evening Concert was put on by a violin duet with a piano accompanist. The two played a handful of violin duets as well as solos by Frolov, Schubert, Brahms, Massenet, Saint-Saens, Sarasate, Shostakovich, and Monti. The concert quickly tied for my favorite thus far. The two were amazingly in sync with each other throughout calling for a standing ovation and two encores!

Day 9

Today Jacob Smart (IUE) and I got up a bit early in order to grab some wi-fi before lunch. After hitting the usual communal cafeteria, we headed to our composition workshop to hear Mark Cook give a very in depth discussion about his career and compositional processes. He was able to give a lot of insight into how to press past ‘composer’s block’ and better understand our own musical drive. Today’s afternoon concert featured a Brass Ensemble performing pieces by Rossini, Ewald, Dukas, Mahler, and Vivaldi. For dinner, we ate at Hemingway which served a delicious two course meal with a couple of choices. I chose a salami plate which actually featured slices of various meats, and for my second dish, an alfredo pasta with ham and peas in it. The evening concert featured lengthier chamber music by Mozart, Kuhlau, and Schubert. The Shubert piece was easily thirty minutes alone, though, of course, performed wonderfully along with the others.

Day 6 + Day 7

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Day 6

Sunday….the day of rest….is what one would normally think, but, Sunday at an international music festival means more concerts! We awoke for a morning concert at Chiesa di San Giuseppe. This concert was put on by Eliza Garth on the Pianoforte performing 20th century works by Debussy, Cage, Cowell, and Satie. After this concert we had no composition class as the campus building was closed on Sunday. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I rested until the midday concert that was also at Chiesa di San Giuseppe. This concert was a flute ensemble performing a wide variety of works including the notable ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ by Rimsky-Korsakov. It’s not very often that you get to see bass and contra-bass flute in concert, so I found it very enjoyable. Afterward we had dinner at the Vin Café, which was a notable experience, because, as I went to pay the bill for our table the café music was playing Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield which is most definitely not what one would consider ‘popular music’ but is a piece that I enjoy thoroughly nevertheless. For the evening concert, we made our way to the Chiesa di San Domenica for the chorale concert. I was really looking forward to this one, as I found out that they would be performing a couple of pieces by Eric Whitacre, whom I really admire. Sure enough, the concert turned out to be my favorite thus far and Cloudburst by Eric Whitacre even brought tears to my eyes. A standing ovation warranted three brief encores that were simply ‘best of’ moments of the concert. It was a grand performance indeed.

Day 7

I slept in this morning until shortly before our composition lesson. On this day, Robert Gibson spoke to us and showed us a handful of his pieces. I learned very quickly that I really liked his style of composing, mainly his affinity for strong, yet short pieces. After the lesson, I went to ‘the flagship’ and grabbed a toast (which, in Italy, is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and some acqua naturale (water). After this, we prepared for the afternoon concert at Chiesa della Maddalena, which featured the Siren Woodwind Quintet performing works by Bozza, Poulenc, Ligeti, and Robert Gibson (yes, the same one from earlier). Afterward a few of us and several of the St. Mary’s students went out to a pizza place in town. Naturally, I had to order something unusual and so my pizza had pepperoni, ham, salami, mushroom, and egg on it. I hadn’t heard of egg on a pizza before, but, it sounded good and I was not disappointed. The evening concert consisted entirely of movie music performed by classical guitar, flute, and string trio. It was yet another great variety of music to add to the already wide selection in the festival.

Day 5 – Saturday, May 26th

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today was a busy day for me! I awoke for breakfast followed by lunch and as per usual, our composition lesson. Today our lesson was conducted by Dr. Elliott Mckinley (our professor). He showed us some of his recent works, again, followed by insight into the compositional process. Immediately afterward, I met with the Klezmer group to plan our addition to the Saturday concert. Unfortunately, we had no direct access to any percussion instruments, so, on Monday, Dr. Forest Toby and I planned to meet at a local music rental store to see what we could do. In the meantime, I was tasked with writing out some percussion parts for the three pieces we would be performing. Afterward, I quickly changed in the hotel and made my way over to the Chiesa di San Giuseppe for the Siren Quintet’s reading of our pieces. Disappointment followed as there was apparently a terrible miscommunication to the group. We had sent in our pieces months ago and they had just been handed to the group at the beginning of the festival. They were told it was to be an unrecorded sight-reading, where it was actually meant to be a recorded performance. After a lot of start and stop readings, the quintet informed us of the miscommunication and apologized greatly for the incident, offering to record for us again sometime. After dinner, we proceeded to another concert at the Chiesa di San Domenico for a Baroque concert. With wonderful pieces by Handel, Albinoni, Vivaldi, and Bach, the concert proved to be another beautiful success, followed by a fun encore featuring a pizzicato twist on a famous jazz piece.

Day 3+4 – Alba, Italy

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Day 3

Today I was able to sleep in a bit before getting up to join part of our group having breakfast at La Brazilera, which from here on will be referred to as ‘the flagship’ as we usually meet or hang out there. After hanging out and chatting for a bit, we headed to lunch at the communal cafeteria. (For reference, breakfast is often seen as a very light occasion, consisting of only coffee and a croissant.) The cafeteria was just what one would expect. It was very similar to your high school cafeteria, where you take a tray and move down a line selecting your items. After lunch, we walked to St. Mary’s College where we attended our daily composition lecture, today listening to Dr. Peter Farmer present some of his works, followed by constructive discussion. After the lesson, we had free time until the 9pm evening concert at Fondazione Ferrero. The inaugural concert featured singer Hilary Cole. Her standing ovation earned her three extra encore performances.

Day 4

There was a similar basic schedule for the composers this morning. Breakfast, lunch, composition lesson at 1pm. However, today we listened to St. Mary’s composition professor, Dr. David Froom talk about some of his works and lend some constructive criticism for the group. I also met privately with Dr. Froom to talk about a couple of my own pieces, looking for some general advice on the compositional process. His suggestions proved helpful in aiding with some last minute changes to the piece that would be performed the next day by the Siren Woodwind Quintet. For the evening concert, we saw the St. Mary’s College Men’s Quartet, followed by Brian Ganz performing an all-Chopin concert on the Pianoforte in the beautiful Chiesa di San Domenico. After the concert, Max, a student from St. Mary’s pulled me aside asking if I was a percussionist. I told him that I was and he proceeded to invite me to be a part of a Klezmer performance on Saturday, June 2nd. I was thrilled to accept, as I was itching to actually perform during the trip.

Day 2 – Italy

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I awoke slightly earlier than my two roommates (thanks to the extra couple hour nap that I had taken the day before) so I utilized the time to write up Day 1’s blog. As we neared our 10am meeting time, we made our way to la brasilera for a quick bite (as is customary for breakfast in Italy) and coffee. After chatting and hanging out for a couple of hours, we went to lunch in a cafeteria lunch room style venue. We lined up, grabbed trays, and chose from a good selection of meals. Once we finished our lunches, we met at St Mary’s College at 1pm for our Music Composition Class. We talked with David Froom, composition instructor from the St. Mary’s College of Maryland, about composition as a whole and stylistic approaches as well as the details of our recordings (which will be produced by him) that will be made later in the week for the pieces that we wrote for the Siren Quintet’s concert. Once this class ended, we were free to spend time in town for the rest of the afternoon/evening as the festivities for the Alba International Music Festival wouldn’t be starting until the next day (Thursday).