Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year

Yes, Happy 2014!!

A blog is difficult to keep current. I look some of these posts from the past couple of years and I want to start over from scratch! So a little house cleaning is in order and it will happen.

In the meantime, 2014 is here and the Washington Saxophone Quartet is looking forward to concerts that will celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. We will kick off the year with a program on February 7 at the Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia.
For details/tickets you can go visit their website: http://www.wolftrap.org/Barns/Discovery_Series.aspx
The music ranges from a piece from 1879 by Caryl Florio, the first originalAmerican work for saxophone quartet and a work by Jean Baptiste Singelee ... likely the first original composition for quartet published in 1857.
Lot's of other music is on the program, which can be seen at the Wolf Trap website.

We'll be in Florida in March for a couple of concerts in Fort Myers.

There are often changes and additions throughout the season so keep in touch and we look forward to seeing you at the concert!

Visit our calendar for details at www.wsaxq.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Christmas CD

It's a busy time...playing many good programs and we've just released our new Christmas CD, "Tis the Season: Celebrate with WSaxQ."
We're very pleased with the sound and the selections. It's been years in the making, planning on what to record and how we would record it! That doesn't seem like a huge decision, but when you have 4 opinions about these things, it takes time...and it did.
The result is an album of seasonal music, with old favorites and new surprises, 26 selections…including Greensleeves,
The Coventry Carol, Dances from the Nutcracker, There is a Flower, I Wonder as I Wander, In the Bleak Midwinter,
On Christmas Night, Sleepers Wake!, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I Saw Three Ships, The Holly and the Ivy,
And All in the Morning, and many more.
We're also very pleased to have recorded it locally at the Airshow Studio in Tacoma Park, MD with Charlie Pilzer, engineering and master. That experience was great.
So we look forward to performing a bit of it at our next concert on Dec. 4.
More later...

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June...

This is a time of planning, a time for discussions about what to perform and what kinds of programs will be best for certain venues and situations. Discussions always center around how the music will be perceived, with the underlying assumption that we (the quartet) already like the music in question.
I just read an interview with the members of the American Brass Quintet, and ensemble that recently celebrated it's 50th Anniversary! A great accomplishment. They continue to do well and have carved out a combination of teaching/performing/recording that would make any group envious.
Our saxophone quartet is celebrating its 35th Anniversary.
The sound of a brass quintet is better known than that of a saxophone quartet. In fact, the sound of a brass group doesn't really get confused with any other group. Saxophones need to make a stronger presence, because the sound they make is not well known. Indeed, many people hearing a recording of a saxophone quartet for the first time, often think they are hearing some other combination of instruments. It is a sound that is regularly confused!
So, with all that in mind, the saxophone quartet has an added concern. If potential audiences and venue presenters have never heard a saxophone quartet before, what kind of music is best suited for that situation. It all seems very basic and simple, but the reality is that opinions and attitudes are not often based on logical premises. Many people make decisions without ample information, and in the case of a saxophone quartet, the process of whether to book a quartet is often mired in misconceptions.
What would you like to hear? Do you like familiar sounds or new sounds? Is contemporary music the most important thing in programming? Have you ever heard a saxophone quartet before?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Better Late Than Never

I know that there are many, many, people much better at this than I. I knew that when I started this BLOG! But it's time to bring things together with the new year and set a schedule for writing...and get some needed feedback, if there is any, from those who are also concerned about the future of the Classical Saxophone.
I've been making a mental list of the things that need to be done for students and teachers:
1) High School and College Students, look ahead and make sure you want to be a classical saxophone player. If you do, then make plans for forming a saxophone quartet. Find out more about the music, listen to recordings and talk to groups that are out there. Also, start going to recitals by saxophone quartets and talk to people who attend about what they heard, and what they liked and perhaps didn't like. After you've formed your group, GET OUT THERE AND PLAY FOR PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT. Don't just perform for other musicians and worse, other saxophone players! Yes it's helpful to get feedback from your colleagues, but if we ever hope for classical saxophone to be a part of the serious music world, we need to get out there and create audiences.
2) Teachers - High School and College - please make the saxophone quartet something more than an addition to the curriculum. The quartet is the only way for most classical saxophone players to make their future. Sure, there will be exceptions, but most players will not be hired to perform in solo recitals and concerto performances. It hasn't happened over the last fifty years, and it's not likely to happen any time soon. The quartet is critical and what we need is Critical Mass!
Teachers, particularly at the college level, can make the biggest difference. Schools like Northwestern University, University of Michigan, Michigan State, University of Southern California, Eastman School of Music, and others have produced award winning, wonderfully, talented quartets. After they graduate, they perform for a while and then many of these groups fade away. WHY? As long the classical music business is fueled by groups that are represented by Artist Managers, the saxophone quartet will not be included in the mix! At this point, there is only one saxophone represented by a New York agency, and that's the New Century Saxophone Quartet. Good for them. But for all the other talented young quartets, we need more than that. Think about it.

More later. Please chime in and respond.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Musical/Radio Tastes

WSaxQ recently sent CDs to some 30-40 stations. It is our new CD "Different Times, Different Places." The music ranges from Bach transcriptions to original works for saxophone quartet. Initial response was good from a few of the stations, and e-mail exchanges were positive, but since the mailing, which was almost 2 months ago, I'm not sure the CD has been played. In fact, it's not likely you'll hear a saxophone quartet very often on the radio.
It is a curious thing? I do a lot of listening on-line, and for the most part, programming is not too adventurous or even bold. There are some bright spots, including the CBC, but for the most part, music like ours is not likely to be heard on classical radio stations.
Before you say to yourself, "sour-grapes," my comments/thoughts are not only focused on our CD, but the thousands of CDs by groups and individual artists of all kinds in the classical music field.
It is an increasingly narrower spectrum of music that gets played. And I really can't figure out why. There might be a sense that listeners will flee from recordings that are too different. Even so called accessible music doesn't get aired.
There is no question that the core music that is being presented is wonderful. This music is, in every conceivable way, classic and deserves to be heard. It has stood the test of time.
But there is so much more that goes unheard. The only way this will change is if radio listeners and music lovers demand to hear more music and broader repertoire. This is something that needs to be done.
You thoughts...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Two Concerts Worth Mentioning

We performed in Arizona on Friday, Mar. 26, which included a couple of school clinics. Basically successful and fun, although a bit disappointing to hear that one of the schools, (a middle school), was closing at the end of this year. The band director seemed lucky enough to move to the high school for next year. And then that evening we performed for a fine audience with many people hearing the saxophone quartet for the first time. Always a treat! Sold out out CDs!! None to carry back on the plane!!!
Then on the way home I was taken down again after talking with a former student who now lives and teaches music in Arizona. He missed the concert but we were able to talk and get caught up things. We talked about his future and his wife's, who also teaches music. They are expecting their first child this summer. Great news, however their jobs are in jeopardy if a budget bill does not pass. Things are not going well there in Arizona, and throughout the country for music and arts education in general. We need to stay tuned to this. Please read about it and find out as much as you can in your local school district and then perhaps you can do something to help keep it alive and well. These young people are the future!

Tuesday night, March 30, we performed at the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA. It was a delightful day...clinic in the afternoon with the students and a concert at night. Very good house and again, some new listeners to the saxophone quartet. Always great to initiate new ears to the sound. Knowing some in the audience, I can say that the age range was pre-teen to 92, and every age in between. Reception followed to meet people and talk about the music. In the music world, being able to communicate right away with the members of the audience is critical.

We musicians have to keep up the momentum for new performance ideas and always look for ways to build the numbers for those may be hearing something for the first time. They're out there. We just need to find them and keep them.

You're thoughts?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Concert/Master Class at Longwood University

This past Sunday afternoon, WSaxQ performed at Longwood University. It was our third visit in the last 12 years or so and we had a great audience, even though the Olympic Hockey final game with USA vs. Canada was at the same time. While that sort of thing shouldn't make a difference, we still wondered.
We were hosted by Charles Kinzer, the Dept. Chair and saxophone professor. His wife, Lisa, who teaches piano and other classes was there as well. We particularly enjoyed their comments, which included the power of music to communicate. One of the sections of the program, which we have been presenting this season, features the pairing of Michael Nyman's "Song for Tony-1" and the "Adagio" by Samuel Barber. These are both very emotional pieces, one intentional and the other has evolved after it's composition. Nyman conveyed very directly and vividly, the anger he felt after the death of a close friend. It is a piece constructed in such an energetic way that after the nearly 4 minutes of performance, there is a sense of exhaustion for players and listeners alike. The Barber is very well known, but never seems to stop evoking deep feelings. Audience response has been very good and encouraging. Some are able to convey exactly the way they feel, while others just allow themselves to "get lost" in the sounds.
The language of music is something our group has been exploring with very young listeners as well and the range of thoughtful emotional response has been nothing short of remarkable. As scientists say...there is some evidence that we are "wired" for music very early in life.

Later Sunday night we conducted a master class and heard some very good playing from the saxophone students at Longwood. Lisa Kinzer played piano (at the last minute) and did a wonderful job of collaborating with the saxophonists. Again, in the process of hearing various pieces and talking about the music, the subject of communicating with the instrument came up, over and over. Music does that so well, it makes you wonder why music teaching budgets are in jeopardy all over the country. It is so vital to education in general. We heard very promising group of students, many of whom plan to teach. We hope that whatever happens in their careers, that they will keep music in their lives. They are off to a good start.

More later...Phoenix, AZ on March 26th