Sunday, January 24, 2010


This weekend our quartet (WSaxQ) had a wonderful collaboration with Jane Franklin Dance. In fact, it was our third occasion to work with her company. Very creative choreography.
We always have a good time working with the dancers and in the process of performing, gain a deeper insight for our music as well. In a sense, the added visual element helps us to hear new things in pieces we've been playing for some time - a long time in some cases - and gives it a fresh perspective.
For a saxophone quartet, it's offers us a new audience of mostly dance fans. So they frequently say how much they enjoyed hearing a new sound.
For this past weekend we split the program with Jane's group so our group and her company each had a chance to present sections of the program alone as well as together.
We're always open to new collaborations with artists. Next week we are planning to perform with an organist at a church recital.
More later...

Conversation Follow-Up

The orchestra-in-question in the previous post is the Grand Rapids Symphony. A very good group with a fine reputation. I was troubled by the conversation I had had with the young saxophonist who wanted to play Bolero, so I wrote to the orchestra. I received a prompt reply with an explanation about the cuts in the music. To be fair, it was more than just the saxophone parts...which I learned in the reply from the orchestra's GM..."In our Cirque de la Symphonie program entire sections of Bolero were cut to accommodate the time requirements of the Strongmen's routine."
I'm glad (in a way) to find that out.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Troubling Conversation

This past weekend (Jan. 15/16) in the Washington area, hundreds of saxophonists gathered for the annual Navy Band Saxophone Symposium. For 2 days, saxophonists from all over the world perform for each other and the public (it's all free), as well as lecture about all sorts of saxophone things, and talk. Lot's of talk. There is plenty of time to talk and meet new people and renew acquaintances. For me, the chance to hear new works for quartet is always a treat and also hear fine young college groups that hopefully will stay together after graduation. There are performances in multiple venues at the George Mason University Campus all day long.
However, I did have one troubling conversation with a young player who is finishing his doctorate in performance. We lamented some of the same things from different perspectives...his looking ahead, and mine, looking ahead with many years behind me. I urged him to keep his quartet together after he and fellow players finish their degrees in the coming months. His group plays so well, it would be a shame not to hear more of them in the years to come. When we talked about options after school I mentioned how orchestras are not hiring saxophonists to player those few parts in the repertoire, such as Ravel's orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition" and Ravel's "Bolero." Both are frequently performed works with fine parts. But alas, to save money, the orchestra will give the parts to a clarinet doubler already in the orchestra. At this point the young man said, "his local orchestra went one step further and cut out the soprano and tenor saxophone parts all together from "Bolero" because they couldn't afford it and didn't have someone in the orchestra to play it."
"Just cut it out!," I said. To which he said, that "he even offered to play for free," but they wouldn't or couldn't do it for various reasons.
Just edit Ravel, if you can't afford a full compliment. I want to get to the bottom of this.

I should say that that I have written to the orchestra-in-question, to find out the details. So I offer this without attribution at this time. But I'm looking forward to an complete explanation. Times are difficult, but editing a major work is a bit too much.

More to come...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saxophone Quartets

I did a little survey of saxophone quartets on YouTube and found some very good performances by young groups, many in the United quartets playing in recital. Good performances and very good repertoire. Many of these saxophone quartets have continued after college and some have won prestigious awards in chamber music competitions. A great example, is the New Century Quartet which won the Concert Artists Guild prize some years ago and managed to parley that into something beneficial. Most of the time, many young groups will do well in competitions and then not get the kind of performance schedule that a group needs to keep going in the years to follow. They disband and that's the end of it.
Most venues out there just don't generally support the saxophone quartet when they are making choices for their seasons.
The process of finding an audience for the saxophone quartet is many faceted. One way it can happen is through recordings, which in turn creates an interest in the sound that people hear. Radio stations can play an important role in this process. After that, recital venues have to take a chance and hire saxophone quartets to fill out their line-ups. Our quartet (WSaxQ) has been fortunate to perform at the Barns at Wolf Trap as well as other venues in the Washington area. Basically, venues in every city around the country need to make an effort to hire a saxophone quartet that they would enhance their programming.
It will happen...