As I enjoy the gradual change from summer to autumn in Barcelona, one of my favourite times of year here, with the days not so excruciatingly hot, the nights still balmy and some of my favourite Catalan celebrations on the horizon, I have been thinking back on my summer and I wanted share some of the highlights from my time in North America.
It was a very full two months along the west coast of Canada and the USA, traversing almost 4,000 miles stretching from San Francisco to Vancouver Island, Portland to Los Angeles, and finally east to Kansas. Filled with a healthy balance of performances at festivals, recitals, masterclasses and time with friends and family, the tour consisted of 17 concerts, two birthdays, a world premiere and an artisan beer festival.
To look at a few photos of the trip, go to the Gallery Page.
Music By the Sea at Bamfield
One of the main highlights again this year was my return for the third consecutive year to Music by the Sea at Bamfield, a musical extravaganza held over 9 days, with 11 concerts performed by 23 musicians. Set in a truly stunning location on the western coast of Vancouver Island, the concert hall features a scallop-shell shaped roof which flares out to the Pacific Ocean with a sheer wall of glass. The superb acoustics and spectacular views of the sun setting over the mystic, bold Pacific Ocean right behind the performers, made each night truly magical.
It was yet again a fantastic festival; I enjoyed meeting new musicians and reconnecting with some old friends from previous years. I performed in 8 of the 11 concerts and played solos, duo and trios ranging in style from the baroque composer Gaspar Sanz to contemporary Australian composer Ross Edwards to the great Argentinean Astor Piazzolla. When I wasn’t playing, I was enjoying the excellent performances; Marc Destrubé playing Mozart with Marc Ryser, Chris Donnelly’s solo piano version of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, Benjamin Britten’s Quartet and Felix Mendelssohn’s string octet.
Working towards a World Premiere
Watch the world premiere performance of Durwynne Hsieh's
Portrait of Professor X
It’s always exciting to work with living composers, to be a part of the development of a new piece of music and working with Bay Area composer Durwynne Hsieh (pronounced "sea") on a new work, “4 Pieces for Cello and Guitar” written for me and Hannah Addario-Berry was no exception. Guitar and cello is a surprisingly overlooked combination and I am very happy to say that Durwynne’s piece is a truly excellent addition to this cannon. The 4 pieces are designed to be played either individually, or as a suite. It is rare that pieces can work in this format - both as stand-alone works and in the context of a larger suite - but given the difference in style, texture, mood and character of the 4 pieces, it worked well in both settings.
Four Pieces for Cello and Guitar:
Portrait of Professor X
This piece is based on a friend and colleague of Durwynne’s - a seemly stern and “pompous windbag” of a man who’s actually quite nice and gentle and friendly once you get to know him. Both elements are captured in this driving, energetic piece; at times quirky others replete with beautiful soaring melodies.
2.37 Minutes at the Widget Factory
This is a depiction of the assembly line of a widget making factory. Numerous machines and processes can be heard (including some kind of spray painting apparatus). A shiny, finished widget appears in the middle before the process starts again, until the power is disconnected and it comes to an abrupt stop.
A beautiful, tender piece of music, often utilizing the texture of pizzicato cello with the gentle plucking of a guitar.
This piece is called recycled rondo because the A theme was originally written for an online cooking show - that asked for the music but never used it. Durwynne thought it a shame to have a good theme go to waste! A great energetic, almost jazzy way to end the suite.
The videos of the other movements will be posted shortly. Stay Tuned!
New CD released
August 1st was the official release date of my new solo CD Blackwattle Caprices. This is the first of three projected recordings to be released through Cala Records and I am delighted with how our first collaboration turned out.
This new CD features a diverse program of music for solo guitar by Isaac Abléniz, J.S. Bach, Ross Edwards, Joaquín Malats, William Walton, arrangements of popular songs by Toru Takemitsu and my arrangement of one of my favourite songs of all times - I'm Still Here, by Tom Waits.
The CD was recorded this past January in the UK with John Taylor, with whom I worked on my two previous releases Stélé (my solo CD from 2004) and Songs from the Forest (Australian Guitar Duo’s 2012 release). For more, or to listen to samples, click here.
The physical CD is available for purchase through my website and from Cala Records and as digital downloads through iTunes. The CD can also be found on Spotify, Amazon and countless other places online.
Watch the promo video!
Oregon Brewers Festival
For my birthday this year we drove down to Portland to catch the final day of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Each year the festival boasts over 80 craft beers from all over the US, some even made especially for this festival. Rogue (a local Oregon brewer) made a Beard Beer, brewed with a yeast created from the Brewmaster's beard!
Having missed the festival by one day last year, I made sure my trip to Portland this year included a day at the Beer Festival. The day was well spent sitting in the sun along the banks of Willamette River, doing my best to sample as many of the 80 different craft beers as I could. It was my birthday the previous day and I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate this milestone than sampling beers with Laura, my brother Gideon (who’s birthday we had celebrated just a couple of weeks earlier and pictured hard at work with me trying to decide what beer to taste next), my brother-in-law Joe and his three year old daughter Elliott.