Facing the Music

Are you a musician that should be practicing? Are you in between practice sessions or rehearsals and just need to unwind and let your mind wander? Or do you just need a swift kick in the pants to inspire you? Well, sometimes you need to stop procrastinating, stop dodging and just face the music, literally.

Berginald Rash and the Chamber of Music

Since coming to the Royal Irish Academy of Music and embarking on this journey as a Recital Artist, I've been fortunate enough to meet some really incredible people, musicians, artists with whom I get to collaborate daily. The story of how all of this came about isn't very long but suffice it to say that it was birthed from what could have been perceived as a setback that later revealed itself to be a step forward. With the strong support and grassroots help of my teacher, John Finucane, I found myself encompassed by great musicians looking to learn and perform beautiful chamber music. This is that story and how I stumbled into the “chamber of music.”

John Finucane, principal clarinet RTE National Symphony Orchestra

It started with a simple wish, to perform John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango, Ned Rorem’s Ariel, Bartok’s Contrasts, Beethoven’s Septet, Schubert’s Octet, and Libby Larsen’s Slang. From this list of six I inherited the trios of Beethoven, Milhaud, Khachaturian, and Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat while sadly losing Bartok’s Contrasts (at the moment I’m working to find a pianist with the time and prowess to tackle this massive work. I have until Christmas to do so. The clock is ticking if there are any takers *wink wink* *nod nod*). So from 6 we get 10.

As my program includes only two other artists, one of whom being a soprano who was scheduled to make her solo debut with the Hibernian Orchestra under the baton of my teacher, it seemed only fitting that we meet, collaborate, and together descend into the chamber of music. So, to the eleven I added Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock, Spohr’s Six German Songs, and Vaughn Williams’ Vocalise.

Well, not to be out done member of my studio, one in particular, thought it would be “gas,” that means cool in Irish lingo, to pull together Poulenc’s Duo for two clarinets, a piece we play around with but on which we do not receive coachings, so this grouping is moreso for fun and musical enrichment than educational rigor. However, because of the serious potential and musical hunger from the clarinetists in my studio I thought it would be fun to do something that’s both fun and musically rigorous and that would require some serious coachings so I pulled together two of my studio mates to learn and perform Richard Bullen’s Garden of Forking Paths for B-flat, E-flat, and bass clarinets. This trio is amazing in its conception and design and I’m really looking forward to learning it and gently crying myself to sleep, asking myself why after rehearsing it. It’s. Intense. For those following along, that now brings my total of chamber music works and groups to 15, what in my mind seems like business as usual, perceived by others who hear it as lunacy, bravery, and luck.

To me it’s been really fascinating and exciting to see how all of these groups came to be and continue to progress through rehearsing together and discovering a mutual understanding for the musical whole. With coachings starting in December I’m really excited to see what greatness our coaches pull out in each of us to help us better realize the impact and beauty of each of these works. I’m especially looking forward to the new music coachings with Dairine Ni Mheadhra. I’m not extremely familiar with her work, but from what I’ve been able to gather, it’s sure to be as much a master class in the works as it is in performance practice, artistic commitment to difficult music, and the integrity of its delivery. I’m cheesing from ear to ear! Now the next bit of business will be to schedule some Vivre Musicale concerts showcasing these works here in Dublin. Wish me luck!