Yesterday I had the opportunity of performing at a Funeral-Memorial Service at French Funeral homes in Rio Rancho, NM. This opportunity has been presented to me through a series of networking moments and is shared with my best friend of many years, Therese. This was our 4th funeral since July.
I consider this opportunity an honor as I perform for families in their various ceremonial or traditional moments. During this particular funeral, I was extremely touched by the many stories of the deceased and his love for his family and religion. It was inspiring and touched my soul. I was also reflective in my own spiritual beliefs and desires to be a servant of the people as a musician. Let me describe:
I am a musician. Music is my career and ultimately every gig is a job in which I trade my time and talent for money. I can go on to say that the pay goes towards years of development in my musicality and professionalism, as well as to a knowledge of such ceremonious events. This is very true, yes, this is a job, but what I am proud to bring to the table is not the trade of talent for money. It is truly an honor to bring peace, comfort, joy, reflection, and more to these families with little-to-no-stress on whether the musician will know what they are doing, show up, and when to perform. Therese and I both have a long history of church service, funeral, wedding and other service performances.
The widow at this particular funeral, touched my heart when she smiled at me after we finished playing the prelude. Being able to sing two hymns that she chose brought me closer to my servitude to humanity.
This is a little later than I would have liked to post something in regards to this performance, but has constantly been on my mind. As I’m trying to write more about the experiences I have in performing with some of the finest musicians in the world (literally), I finally get to write about the amazing experience I have performing along side Irish/Folk Singer, Liz Madden.
Liz Madden came into Apple Mountain Music last summer, when I was manning the store for Debra Fortess, who had left to visit her family in Washington. Debra is a wonderful friend and mentor of mine and with whom I’ve had the pleasure of becoming apart of her community at Apple Mountain Music. More about the beautiful circle that encompasses Apple Mountain Music, later. Anyway, Liz came in and by chance happenstance, I was there as well. She was just new to the area and wanted to make some connections and start performing around town. As usual, I referred her to some of the best Irish Musicians I know in town and sent her many loving thoughts as she left.
Later in the year, I hear she is giving a concert at Apple and I clear out the date so that I can see this lovely person perform her music. Little did I know that I would be taking on a bigger task in a few short weeks. I received an email requesting my musical talent to accompany her. After I agreed, I received my first ever performance packet of music that had no music written at all – just lyric sheets and chord charts. Well, I got to work listening and learning and I got to perform an amazing, well-received concert around my favorite people. A wonderful musical bond was born between Liz, guitarist Chris Nolan, Bodhràn player, Dain Forsythe and Myself.
So back to Arts in the Afternoon at the Albuquerque Museum… This 3 hour long concert was given by Liz, Chris and Me. The space reminded me much of the Wednesday noon series from my undergrad days at the Butler Museum of Art. The Marble floors and stone walls provided a very live atmosphere with lots of bouncing points for the sound to travel. The high ceilings made it tougher for people sitting farther away to focus on the music and not the museum noise behind them. This is all part of the experience of performing in this venue, I believe. Watching the workers wheel carts of chairs behind the audience and people leaving to go to the cafe. That was quite a lovely addition to the experience, the cafe provided not only the typical cafe food and drink, but wine and beer for those who wished to imbibe to our folk music!
We had plenty of music for our three hour long session but we repeated some of our favorites as some of our favorite people joined us later in the afternoon. We performed a few new pieces that were hits with us (me) and the audience! Count on Me is a happy tune about friendship in which I get to sing along an octave higher than Liz and brings a huge smile to everyone’s face. Sea of Glass is a beautiful piece in which I get to play a beautiful line, originally scored for an oboe, on my alto flute. It is so easy to embellish the music with my alto on this piece. We will for sure be bringing these pieces back at the Folk Festival!
I did play, what I called, transition pieces for a latin-irish fusion piece: the Piazzolla Tango Etudes No. 4 & 3. This allowed me to show off the alto flute a bit and give a lead in to our piece I Know My Love. During a break, I had a moment to speak with a gentleman who was a Korean War Vet. My heart immediately swelled as he asked about the beautiful flute I played with the deep tone. He had never seen an alto flute and felt so grateful to have heard its beautiful tone. I told him how happy I was that he had been there and that I could share that gift with him. I thanked him very much for all he had done in his life and it took every bit of my willpower to not cry and hug him.
This concert was extremely emotional for me as my life is taking a hard turn. I did almost choke while singing Bring on the Rain with Liz. Especially during ” another day has almost come and gone, I can’t imagine what else could go wrong” considering everything seems to be falling apart around me. Fear not, life will always turn itself back around!
Performing with Liz has been one of the best gifts life has given me in quite some time. I’m looking forward to continuing this bond for years to come.
I am a very busy person. My students know this, my colleagues know this, and my running community knows this. Working for the Philharmonic has been an absolute joy and I have poured myself into creating a job full of organization and knowledge. Being hired as Artistic Coordinator meant filling a position that had not yet been created for the New Mexico Philharmonic. There was no job aide to help me figure out what I needed to be doing or when I needed to be doing it. I’ve spent this season really trying to formulate a schedule and methodology that could potentially be passed down if I ever need to leave this position. This is how I operate in all of my management and teaching roles.
So, with working for the Young Musician Initiative as a head instructor, working for the Philharmonic as the Artistic Coordinator, maintaining my full studio, (oh and that training thing I seem to have acquired over the last 3 years) I’ve been having less performance time on my card. When I get the phone call to perform, if it fits in my schedule (even BARELY, like this past weekend), I pretty much say yes and have my music performance ready a week out because I’m so eager to be on stage!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to perform with Quintessence – Choral Arts of the Southwest on their A Sense of Place program(www.quintessence-abq.org). What a fantastic program this vibrant group of musicians put on! Congratulations to the whole group and the Artistic Director, Matt Greer. His programing makes the audience excited and leaves them anticipating the next concert. I was thrilled to be apart of such a fantastic group.
This weekend we performed Alice Parkers: Kentucky Psalms, a beautiful 4 movement piece for String Quintet and Flute (along with the Choir -but of course I just assumed you knew that). The piece was fun and featured the flute in some very noodle-y passages that outlined the melody of the voices. I prepared the piece at its suggested tempi and was lucky to find out that the last movement was performed at a perfectly energetic tempo , which made the flute line pop out with ease!
I also made my Native American Flute debut in Judith Clouds: Mesa Songs. Now I love playing around on my very basic NA Flute, but I’ve never performed on it. When preparing to play this piece, my NA flute was a bit pitchy (I actually hate that word, but I watched the voice last night and can’t think of anything else – I mean it is their go to phrase for bad intonation and lack of training…I digress). Being an opportunist and lover of ethnic flutes, I took this as a sign that I needed to have a new flute added to my collection. Off to Apple Mountain Music I went and I’m now the owner of a beautiful sycamore High Spirit D-Flute! I thought it sounded like the wind playing in both sanctuaries. Oh! Matt’s brilliant artistic decision to have me perform at the back of the sanctuary behind the audience was a hit. When I spoke to patrons, post concert, many of them hadn’t a clue I was behind them. They figured I was in the wings or balcony (respectively to both church venues) and were surprised to find me right behind them during the applause! I have to say, playing the NA flute was such a great experience.
Although on Saturday I had to dash off immediately following my performance portion of the program, I did get to enjoy the rest of the concert on Sunday. Cello soloist with the NM Phil this weekend, Lynn Harrell, said during his enthusiastic applause to guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein (Assistant conductor of the NYPhil), “We really do have the best career” and I couldn’t agree more. I think being involved in this career in every possible way, I am most definitely the lucky one.