On Friday, I worked at Curtis from 8 AM to 11 AM, did a few errands, picked up my rental car, and headed up to Bethlehem for the first weekend of the Bach Festival.
I had every intention of doing more Curtis work when I got to my hotel, but until I had dinner, worked on reeds, and got ready for the concert there just wasn't enough time.
People in Bethlehem love their music, exemplified by the interesting sonic experience walking from the hotel to the church. In 10 short minutes, I heard a brass band playing patriotic tunes, an alternative rock band (with two female musicians!), and a Suzuki violin class all doing outdoor performances.
The Friday night Bach Festival concert opened with the joyous Cantata 119 -- French-overture style, lots of loud, low notes and double-dotted rhythms. I had a fun time goofing around backstage with Tom Goeman (assistant conductor/organist/pianist) and Ben Butterfield (our distinguished guest tenor) before going back onstage to sight-read the choruses on Cantata 1.
After the concert, I was hanging out on Facebook and my old friend and fellow musician Brent Fisher was "checked in" at the Hotel Bethlehem for a weekend getaway. A few Facebook comments/messages and a quick drive across the bridge and we were catching up on the past ten years over drinks. Brent and I go way back to high school when we did all of the PMEA District, Region, and State Festivals together.
On Saturday, I slept in, practiced more, and then made my usual stops in downtown Bethlehem: The Attic, Designer Consigner, and Johnny's Bagels, where the cashier asked me about my oboe d'amore case: "Is that a band instrument?" "Yes, actually, it's an oboe. I'm with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem for the festival." "Cool!"
Then came the B Minor Mass. I have a different favorite movement each time we do it. Going in this time it was the horn/two bassoons/bass solo. After the performance it was the Agnus Dei, which we do with the unbelievable countertenor Daniel Taylor:
After the performance, a lovely couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kert Kadyk, came up to me and told me that they met at the Bethlehem Bach Festival in 1954. They are both Temple music grads like me!
Then I apparated back to Philadelphia and somehow managed to be at Verizon Hall by 8 PM for The Philadelphia Orchestra concert of Strauss, Korngold Violin Concerto starring Hilary Hahn, and Mahler 1. My sister and brother-in-law were in town for the concert and we had a nice visit over post-concert drinks and brunch Sunday morning.
After brunch and more practicing was the Curtis Grand Season Finale Gala (photo by Chuck Sterne) at the Kimmel Center. It was the best gala since I started at Curtis and was also the most successful fund-raising effort, grossing more than $400,000. Thank you to all of our sponsors and attendees!
The Curtis Orchestra outdid itself with its all-Wagner program. Say what you want about Schonberg, but it's no surprise that that's where music went at the turn of the 20th century after Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss. There was no place left for it to go; chromaticism was bursting at the seams. The orchestra was joined by Heidi Melton -- who has the loudest and most beautiful voice I have ever heard come out of a human being!
Eric Owens was the other featured soloist. In addition to being a superstar at the Met, he is an oboist and also a Temple alum! At the post-concert reception, I asked him how he got back into shape to play oboe at the Aspen Festival, and he said, "A little each day." I asked if he had any reed advice. He said it's important to know when to "leave well enough alone" with the reeds instead of trying to make them perfect right away with "just one more scrape." Rather than obsessing, usually when he would come back the next day they would be fine.
This week is going to be another busy one: Round 2 of The Bach Festival this Friday and Saturday, a repeat of last weekend. Please join us! I'll also be raising money for Curtis, including representing the school at the Arts and Business Council Annual Awards and helping throw a party for the Curtis Crescendo Club Contributing Members on Thursday.
I am really lucky that these are my jobs and I am inspired by the singers in the Bach Choir and the generous volunteers and supporters of Curtis who do it for fun and out of kindness and a love for music that we share.
I told one gala patron about my crazy double life and this crazy weekend and he said, "You'll do much better in development than you will as a musician." That may be true, but I can't see my life any other way. For me, it's all about the music and I don't even have jobs so much as a way of life and passionate drive that is about supporting music in any way possible.