Rojak reviews the Spring and looks forward

July 05, 2016

It’s been a little while since our last communication. Not to worry--ABQ has been busy not dormant! There is so much more to having a chamber music group than rehearsing and gallivanting around the world having fun. Much of what we’ve been doing has been behind the scenes work. We’ve wrapped up the recording portion of our next CD, written some grants, received a few fantastic new pieces, worked with our new PR firm and management on securing a formidable future, and had a new photo shoot to work on our 21st Century branding.

Where to start--how about what I haven’t mentioned? We had a little tour in April that took us to Muncie, Indiana and Mobile, Alabama, the 2 M’s as we could refer to them (but don’t.) Ball St. University in Muncie is a top Midwestern school which is about 75 miles east of Indianapolis. A few years ago, Matt Lyon won the position of tuba/euphonium professor there. Matt became a good friend while he was a student at the Aspen Music Festival and was a fantastic participant in our chamber music program. It seems like the top item in his academic agenda was to get ABQ booked for a residency as soon as he could secure funding. We were able to spend a couple of days there giving classes and performing a recital that was met with wonderful enthusiasm. I got to raid Matt’s exceptional wine collection and we shared a 1998 Sassicaia, one of the greatest Italian red wines, for dinner. I brought a very welcome package from Murray’s Cheese of Greenwich Village and we had a memorable Muncie evening.

Our trip to Mobile was a return visit for ABQ. We had been there as guest artists a mere 5 years ago for the same USA (that’s right, University of Southern Alabama) Brass Chamber Music Honors Festival. Dr. Peter Wood is the trumpet professor, editor for the International Trumpet Guild publications, organizer of the festival, and an all-around good guy. Visiting Mobile in early April after a strange and mostly chilly New York winter was a quick trip to paradise for us. Trees were in bloom, the air was warm and dry, and we had a little extra time between coaching sessions to get downtown for some classic Mobile seafood at Wintzell’s Oyster House. As we were finishing our delicious meal, we were surprised to hear the woman at the next table say, “You boys aren’t from around here, are you?” She explained that she could tell by the way we were eating! “You have to get your hands in there—you’re too polite when you eat those oysters! Take them and suck all the juices from the shell—next time you’ll know better.” Interacting with the woman and her mom, a lifelong Mobilean (Mobilite?) for 85 years or so, we had one of those wonderfully spontaneous moments that can make touring so great. 

In addition to our new works by Kenneth Fuchs and Eric Nathan, we also just received a new piece from John Zorn, who had written us a wonderful piece this year called Pulcinella as part of his suite, “Commedia dell’Arte.” That suite was premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in January the day after our one major blizzard this winter. Zorn likes to challenge performers and Blue Stratagem will be a treat to work on. We’re pretty happy, though, that it won’t be premiered until October! 

In May, we reconnected with Matt Dine for an afternoon photo shoot. Donning many outfits, poses, a couple of locations, and posing like the serious brass chamber ensemble we are, we hope to have some great new pictures for your enjoyment, studio walls, living rooms, and billboards. One of our last shots was on the walkway above 65th St which connects Juilliard to the rest of the Lincoln Center campus. With Matt down below dodging taxis and buses, we managed to get a good number of shots before the Lincoln Center security ordered us to leave. I guess being faculty at Juilliard only goes so far without a permit.

Our latest recording project will be getting more publicity from us as the release date approaches. That’s getting more imminent as we finished the recording sessions at the Academy of Arts and Letters recently. The album will include four ABQ commissions, ones that have been incredibly powerful and successful for us.

Jay Greenberg’s Quintet was the final of our four pieces from the Jerome Foundation emerging composer grant. We played it on our Australian tour, which was the first major ABQ tour for both Louis and Eric. The piece is incredible and means a lot to the current personnel. 

Juilliard came through with another commission for us to follow the success of Joan Tower’s Copperwave. This one is from Sebastian Currier and is filled with powerful emotion in a 16 minute journey titled Cadence, Fugue, Fade. 

Rob Paterson’s Shine is a rhythmic, energetic 4 movement piece with a gorgeous slow movement tucked in the middle. 

Completing the disc is another gem from Eric Ewazen, a large one this time. Eric has written a piece that bids adieu to exiting members of ABQ while welcoming the new ones. Canticum Honoris Amicorum is scored for 3 trumpets, 2 horns, 2 tenor trombones, and 2 bass trombones so the old and new musicians can play side by side as the torch is passed. Ray Mase and David Wakefield performed and recorded the piece with us and it was wonderful to have the legacy meet the future! Mike and I had our students join to round out the ensemble, but we’re not leaving yet.

Next season is shaping up to be busy and full of adventure. In September we will spend a week in Sao Paulo, Brazil working with hundreds of underprivileged children; in November we will return to Asia for concerts and classes in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. In between those we’ll have some domestic touring in addition to concerts at Juilliard, the Miller Theatre and the Guggenheim, all right at home in New York.

ABQ is not only alive but thriving, energized, and looking forward to staying at the forefront of chamber music. Hope you’ll be coming along with us!

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