It’s time, once again, to jot down all of my bits of news in another one of these updates. It’s really been an interesting year so far and I am enjoying some very fulfilling new experiences. Freelancer life isn’t easy, but I do love that each week brings something different; new music, new colleagues, new places to play and new ideas to play with. As always, I am trying hard to put my whole heart and self into everything that I do, which is, of course, difficult at times – it’s something that I’m constantly grappling with, maybe will do forever – but I find it can make some meaningful sense of everything in the end, so I suppose this is the ‘good’ type of self-challenge!
Anyway, here’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.
I can’t wait to play with the wonderful True Concord Voices and Orchestra again. This is a group of musicians who put real music making right at its core. During each concert, I always have the feeling that what is happening in any moment on stage is the most important thing for each and every musician – the music really matters! For this cycle, we are playing Beethoven’s Mass in C major and Choral Fantasie, and Brahms Rhapsodie with Solo Alto. Really recommend catching one of these concerts if you can, all info found here.
It was so exciting to join the Arizona Opera Orchestra in the last few weeks, and I am thrilled to be playing with them again for a run of an interesting new opera, commissioned for the Arizona Opera Company, called ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’. With music by Craig Bohmler and libretto by Steven Mark Kohn, this opera is an adaptation of a novel by Zane Grey, set in Arizona. I’m looking forward to getting back in the pit, where the musicians create a world of their own and every note, sound, entrance and small rustle matters! All ticket info here.
Although I’ve heard a lot of elitist complaints about the fuss going on surrounding this 250th birthday year of Beethoven, I am personally using it as an excuse (not that you need one) to play as much of him as I possibly can. It must be said, therefore, that the year would be totally incomplete for me without a performance of the formidable Kreutzer Sonata fit in there somewhere. It feels like a looooong time ago, in the sense of time and distance, that I last played this music for my final Masters’ recital in Salzburg, but it is somehow still there in my fingers. I’m so excited to perform this in Tucson with a new colleague and for a new audience. Concert is free but all details listed here.
Sometimes, the books on your TBR list are ones that you have heard a lot about, been recommended, or are ones that you have been meaning to read forever. Sometimes, they are none of these things and are simply books that you picked up on a whim. The book I am currently reading is one such book, called ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’, by Michael Chabon. It came out in 2000 and won the Pulitzer in 2001, so it’s nothing new, but so far I am really enjoying it. It is about two comic book artists who form a partnership in New York, one of them having just fled Nazi-occupied Prague, and their journey to creating their own story and it’s art. I find the writing style really effortless and the storytelling is believable and compelling – there is a real mix of fun and light-heartedness woven through a serious story that is filled with atmosphere and interesting characters.
I also wanted to mention ‘The Namesake’, perhaps the most well-known novel by Jhumpa Lahiri that I also just recently finished. Her collection of short stories called ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, was one of the best things I read last year, if not ever. This novel, obviously different as it was a full novel and not a novella, was a great story about cross-cultural challenges, family and relationships, living and finding a home within a society that is unfamiliar in every way. I would say that it was definitely a page-turner and very enjoyable – you really do become invested in her characters – but it just didn’t have the sparkle and genius that I thought her short stories had. Interestingly, I read that The Namesake was originally written as a short story that was published in the New Yorker a few years ago, and I am wondering if perhaps it worked better in that style…
There is an interesting wave of multi-genre creative media going on at the moment; I see more and more that established publications and organisations like The New York Times or the National Gallery are turning to outlets such as Instagram or YouTube in an effort to share micro-stories or engage perhaps a younger audience, and I find this movement to be refreshing and generally a positive thing. I wanted to mention one such account that I am really enjoying at the moment. I recently stumbled across a YouTube series created by New York Magazine called ‘How I Get It Done‘. Each video is a short snapshot into the life of a particular woman, each from a different field of work/different background/different financial practice etc. The featured woman takes you through her day, how she structures her routine and daily tasks while incorporating her main life values and goals. If you are nosy, like me, or just find the lives of successful women intriguing, you will love this series. My particular favourite was the one spotlighting Liana Finck, an illustrator for The New Yorker.
With time to kill in Phoenix recently, I thought I would have a look in the city’s Museum of Art, and actually found their collection to be really interesting. The museum has a nice variety of 20th century European and ancient Asian art, and actually quite a large selection of works by female artists, which is always nice to see – I got to see a dramatic Kahlo painting (which ones aren’t dramatic though…) and also some by Georgia O’Keeffe, amongst others. But what I loved most, perhaps because of where in the world I currently live, was the number of paintings of the American Southwest by various American artists. I discovered one new artist in particular, called Thomas Moran, who’s work I completely fell in love with. He was commissioned to create paintings of the Grand Canyon, where he first visited in 1873, and it was these works that allowed the people who lived on the country’s east coast to see for the first time what this epic place looked like. It is so interesting to me that, in this way, art and artists influenced how people could see and recognise the beauty in their own country! Moran was especially inspired by John Turner – he actually went to England so that he could meet Turner and study his work – so his paintings of the Grand Canyon feature a very ethereal Turner-esque beauty… I haven’t seen the Grand Canyon (and other Southwestern landscapes which Moran also painted) portrayed like this before – usually, they inspire paintings that are bold in colour and almost harsh, reflecting the natural character of the Arizona desert, so I find Moran’s work to be incredibly special and unique.
The season for hiking in Arizona is just now in it’s most optimal – not yet too warm for the more physically challenging hikes, but still very mild and sunny, so we are trying to get out on a new trail at least once per month. This weekend we summited Blackett’s Ridge, which is a trail in Sabino Canyon Park. I loved the trail, which does get steep, particularly near the top, but has plenty of nice lookout spots to catch your breath and drink some water. Unlike Picacho Peak, which really gives a sense of accomplishment at reaching the top, I found Blackett’s Ridge to be more all-about-the-trail, although the views from the top are also stunning. It was a perfect Saturday morning hike, coming in at just over 3 hours, and working up your appetite for a good lunch.