Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert Spring's warm-ups

Some clarinetists are naturally gifted with the ability to tongue fast, while others may have to work a little harder. And then there are some who blow everyone out of the water -- like Robert Spring. In this video, Spring explains and demonstrates his daily warm-ups which consist of long tones, Klosé scales, Langenus arpeggios, and tonguing exercises. As his warm-up routine progresses, Spring continuously increases the speed to the point where he reaches a single-tonguing speed at the metronome marking of 240 beats per minute! Warm-ups in the video are also outlined in a supplementary article and staccato exercises found on the Clariperu website. Much appreciation goes out to Clariperu for producing such a great video and to Robert Spring, who lends inspiration to many clarinetists!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gary Gray interview from LA Chamber Orchestra blog

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has just released the last portion of a five-part interview with Gary Gray. Professor of clarinet at UCLA and former clarinetist with the LACO, Gray speaks with interviewer J. Robert Bragonier about his long and successful career, including his experience with the saxophone and jazz.

In case you don't make it over there, we'll give you a shortcut to a video of Gary Gray performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Grammy Award Orchestra last February. Also check out Gray's website - it includes several articles and information on his teaching methods.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Transposition Chart

Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra is well acquainted with joys and pains of transposing the clarinet parts. In efforts to help alleviate such stress, clarinet enthusiast Graham Nasby devised a transposition chart which outlines techniques to apply when sight-transposing. Organized to facilitate quick reference, each pitched-clarinet part is given with tips for transposition, such as moving key signatures up or down, and adding or subtracting sharps or flats to the original key. Clef adjustments are also notated in the chart. A list of the parts notated are divided into two sections: Ab piccolo, Eb, D, C, Bb, A, F basset, Eb alto and the lower clarinet family of Bb bass, EEb contra-alto, BBb contra-bass, and Tuba (C bass clef). In the chart, conversions written in bold font signify more frequently used transposition, while the less frequent transpositions remain in regular font. A few of the "rare" transpositions have yet to be completed, and Nasby has omitted an entry for A bass clarinet transposition. Nonetheless, this easy-to-use guide can help the orchestral clarinetist sight-read parts until transposition becomes a learned skill.

As a side note to Nasby's web site, the "Misc" link contains general information on the clarinet family, concert band instrumentation, and numerous musical jokes (some good and some bad!).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

ClarinetFest wrap-up; looking ahead to 2010

Hopefully everyone has made it home safe and is beginning to recover from ClarinetFest 2008 in Kansas City. Before we left yesterday, we were able to catch most of Guy Yehuda's concert of solo clarinet music (which was great), as well as the University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble. The clarinet choir premiered one original work as well as four arrangements. Matt Johnston's arrangement of Holst's Second Suite in F was a real standout - with percussion added, this piece is a fantastic approximation of the original that would be a real joy to play. Though the arrangements were technically demanding even for a college group (especially the Mendelssohn Scherzo), they were all very well done and collectively make a great addition to our clarinet choir repertoire.

We already knew that the 2009 festival would be in Porto, Portugal; in Kansas City we found out that the 2010 ClarinetFest will be held in Austin, Texas.
So, as ClarinetFest 2008 came to an end, we decided to take a look to the future by talking with Richard MacDowell, professor of clarinet at the University of Texas at Austin.
Looking even farther to the future, we also learned in Kansas City that ClarinetFest 2011 will be hosted by Julia Heinen at California State University in Northridge, CA (in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley). Jane Carl set the bar high with her fantastic job of organizing the festival in Kansas City, and we look forward to the many ClarinetFests yet to come!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kansas City: Day 4

Getting off to a late start this morning, we arrived at the "Lesser-Known Works for Clarinet" recital in time to hear Eric Mandat's Folk Songs. Gregory Oakes pulled off the extended techniques with ease, including the difficult movement in which the performer must blow across the upper joint to produce a flute-like sound.

Next we were off to the ICA business meeting, where we were invited to formally introduce the Clarinet Cache column and blog to the board and members in attendance. At the meeting, we had the pleasure of hearing from Antonio Saiote about ClarinetFest 2009, which he will host in Porto, Portugal. Also discussed were the recent election results of ICA officers for the upcoming year, and much thanks were given to Jane Carl for her work organizing the festival, and to the current officers for their contributions to the organization.

The afternoon concert of recent works for clarinet, clocking in at over two hours long(!), had an assortment of styles and performers represented. One highlight was Belgian clarinetist Stephan Vermeersch playing v.runchak.b.clari@net (2004), a work by Volodymyr Runchak which depicted the life of an e-mail message. Following Vermeersch was Garry Evans (pictured below), with the Sowerby Sonata and Robert Jager's playful new work Aphorisms. Kathleen Jones ended the recital with a premiere of Divertimento Caribeno 2 by Sonia Morales (sister of Ricardo Morales).

The last concert to be held at the Unity Temple was an evening of jazz with Stephane Chausse and Paquito D'Rivera. The mellow, delicate playing of Chausse was sometimes obscured by the drums, but this was probably due the church acoustics rather than any fault of the performers.

Chausse's very satisfying performance could have only been topped by Paquito D'Rivera himself. Indeed, upon taking the stage, D'Rivera remarked, "I told him don't play so good... now I have to work double!" After a few tunes with the talented rhythm section, the audience was treated to a surprise when Chausse and Larry Combs took the stage with D'Rivera.

Combs, Chausse, and D'Rivera performed an incredible rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia." We thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and so did the rest of the audience - they demanded an encore performance from the three clarinetists as well as a second encore from D'Rivera. Overall, it was a fantastic event to end the series of evening concerts.

Kansas City: Day 3

One of the best parts of the shuttle bus ride is passing by the Nelson museum, where one experiences a warped sense of dimension when viewing these giant badminton birdie sculptures. ....But where's the raquet?

Friday morning began with a potpourri recital highlighting local talent in the Kansas and Missouri area. Both new and standard pieces were presented in a variety of ensemble instrumentation. One definite crowd pleaser was a performance by Allison Storochuk of Scott McAllister's piece, X3, arranged for clarinet, violin, and piano. Cheryl Melfi's excellent performance of Chen Yi's Chinese Ancient Dances brought an exotic element to the recital, with its pitch bends and microtones. Due to the overlapping of concert schedules, we weren't able to attend the clarinet music from Brazil, but other festival participants gave it great reviews.

Warming up the subsequent audience in the Spencer Theater, the clarinet duets of Jonathan Cohler and Howard Klug alternated with Robert Spring and Jana Starling. Klug and Cohler began with a premiere of Simon Sargon's Birds of a Feather..., which the audience seemed to really enjoy. Each piece seemed to be exponentially more virtuosic than the last, building to Spring and Starling's thrilling performances of works by Libby Larsen and Roshanne Etezady.

The night concert on Friday consisted of standard works for clarinet and orchestra, plus a premiere of a Charlie Parker tribute work by Antonio Fraioli. Though each of the performances was stellar, the standout seemed to be Michael Wayne's flawless rendition of the Weber Concertino.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Kansas City: Day 2

Thursday was jam-packed, a day full of great concerts. Although the event organizers have done a fantastic job of programming this year, we can't make it to everything, so feel free to comment and share your ClarinetFest experiences!

The day began at 9 AM with some electronic clarinet duos: the World Woodwind Duo (Dwight Frizzell and Thomas Aber) and Clarion Synthesis (Gerry Errante and D. Gause). The works on this program each used electronics in slightly different ways, although they were all composed within the past six years. Several works were interactive, keeping Gerry Errante busy with foot pedals, Max/MSP cues, and microphones.

The electronic extravaganza continued later with the session "Making Multimedia Manageable" with Mary Alice Druhan. After a short presentation about the issues of performing on multimedia works (synchronizing your part with fixed electronic accompaniment, programming effects pedals, working with visuals) Druhan gave an excellent performance of three multimedia works. Especially notable was "A Dream Fantasy" (1973) by Merrill Ellis, an electro-acoustic pioneer who left a lasting legacy at our very own University of North Texas. Quite a lot of work went into putting on this piece - the film projections were adapted to VHS, the slides were converted to PowerPoint, and the audio tape was transferred to CD (not to mention the extensive percussion setup). Well worth the effort, this twenty-five-year-old work still holds its own with the multimedia works of today.

The exhibit hall was somewhat of a zoo, with people crowded in narrow aisles - some even continued to test instruments as the fire alarm was going off!

The afternoon featured a concert of new works from Latin America, with Kathleen Jones and the D2 clarinet duet. Jones and several of her colleagues and former students at the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico played Klarinet 3.2 by Alfonso Fuentes, in which each movement of the duet series was written specifically for her to play with each person. Rounding out the Latin program, Colombian duet D2 played lively rhythms native of their country. Two of the programmed pieces were written by one the clarinetists, Mauricio Murcia.

A few other highlights from the day for us were Paolo Beltramini's performance of the Francaix Tema con Variazioni, and Evan Ziporyn on bass clarinet performing David Lang's Press Release.

The evening concert of all-star clarinet ensembles was a real treat. Francois Houle performed his own clarinet quintet Of Spheres Unbound, along with Bonnie Campbell, Roger Cole, Eric Mandat, and Evan Ziporyn. The five were placed in different locations on the stage and balcony for a compelling antiphonal effect. Ziporyn (who had a very busy day!) also performed in his own clarinet quartet Hive, a very well-received piece involving a great deal of trilling used to somewhat minimalist effect.

The Chicago Clarinet Trio of Wagner Campos, Larry Combs, and Julie DeRoche closed out the program with works by Bermudez and Combs himself. The concert finished much earlier than Wednesday night so that everyone could get to the "post-concert entertainment" sooner, according to Combs.

We're looking forward to what today brings, and wish everybody a happy Fourth!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Blogging live from Kansas City!

For all of you who are here with us in Kansas City, and all who wish to follow along with us here at Clarinet Cache, we bring you live daily reports from ClarinetFest 2008. We can't make it to every event, but we'll give you our take on the conference, and we'd love to hear about your experiences as well.

We arrived in the afternoon to begin the round of concerts with the tribute to Fred Ormand. Jane Carl, artistic director and host of the festival, welcomed everyone to the concert and spoke about the accomplished career of Fred Ormand. The opening piece, Ponchielli's Il Convegno, showcased the polished tone and expressive phrasing of Ormand's former students Michael Wayne and Alucia R. Scalzo. This refined sound was characteristic of all the recital performers who were students of Ormand at varying points in his career. David Shifrin, who studied with Ormand at Interlochen at age fifteen, reminisced about performing the Poulenc Sonata "when the ink was still wet" in 1965, two years after its premiere. A display outside the recital hall depicted Fred Ormand's career as clarinetist and teacher, complete with a guest book for attendees to write personal greetings and memories.

We also had a chance to check out world music trio SAFA, which featured Francois Houle on clarinet, with percussion and a Persian stringed instrument. This improvisatory concert included extended techniques such as multiphonics, microtones, and even a song in which Houle played two clarinet simultaneously (pictured below).

A severe thunderstorm moved through Kansas City around dinnertime, but those who still made it to the evening concert were not disappointed! Clarinetes Ad Libitum are a clarinet quartet like you have never heard - the group included a percussionist and performed entirely from memory, often using theatrics and dancing to accentuate the music. They played in a variety of styles, from ragtime to Celtic to Brazilian traditional music. Each piece was so engaging and impressive that it could have been an encore performance!

Although they were a tough act to follow, bass clarinet quartet Edmund Welles (who we recently blogged about here) was up to the task. This group definitely rocks harder than any other clarinet ensemble you've heard. Imagine listening to a piece entitled "Asmodeus: The Destroyer, King of the Demons" in a chapel while lightning flashes through the stained-glass windows. Quite the experience! Quotes from rock tunes and Weber licks could be heard from time to time in the metal-inspired original compositions by Cornelius Boots.

The storm had still not let up after the concert, and unfortunately a shortage of seats on the bus left many huddled under umbrellas and taking cover at the Unity Chapel until nearly 11:00 PM. But overall, it has been a great first day here in Kansas City, and we look forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!