Bolero in Mexico – Hazel Malcolmson

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P1110724-2 (6)My husband lives full-time in Mexico City.  As this past summer approached, I realized that if I decided to forego the opportunities that came my way in Boston this summer, I could experiment with some ideas I had relating to music, I could build a stash of reed blanks, I could get to know my husband’s hometown a little more intimately, we could make some repairs to our apartment and buy some furniture (we have been surviving with just a bed, a couch and a grand piano down there…), and, perhaps, I could even improve my (embarrassingly bad) Spanish!  I ended up doing all those things and more.  It was such a good summer.

My mom’s little dog, Chloe (a five-pound Yorkie), ended up joining us for most of the summer in Mexico.  She and I were stopped several times a day on our walks – passersby adored her.  I would do my best to understand all of their questions and come up with some answers, on the fly, in broken Spanish.  They were so kind and encouraging, I started to feel more and more confident using my Spanish as the weeks went by.

One of our frequent exchanges was with our downstairs neighbor, an Italian man with a small dog, Teo.  Teo and Chloe would sniff at each other while he implored me to keep all the doors and windows open so that he could hear me practice.  Wow, I thought.  What a difference in comparison with what you expect (and, from time to time, experience) from apartment building neighbors in Boston.  His favorite thing to hear was the bassoon solo from Ravel’s Bolero.  He would sing it to me as we stood on the street corner, chatting with the dogs.  I would always think of him whenever I turned the page to start in on that solo.

He may have been especially lucky (or unlucky), as one of my projects this summer was to re-explore and redevelop my musicality.  I had been feeling that in my return to music, after spending a number of years away, much of my energy and attention had been on technical matters (such as intonation, rhythm, and physical techniques), rather than musical matters.  Earlier in my musical life, my strength had always been in my musicality, and while it was never entirely shelved, that strength had certainly been neglected in my return.  To uncover and redevelop that skill was not easy.  I realized that I had developed such strong habits of monitoring my technical (and much more easily verifiable) skills, that it was quite difficult to approach the music from the other, more musical, end of things.  To uncover the full scope of my musicality again, I realized that I needed more space – more space in my practice habits to allow my ideas to come to the surface, and more space in my life so that I had time to reach deep inside to tap into the source of the emotional energy that suited the music – a practice I had been engaging in only haphazardly in the past few years.

A key piece of my work this summer was taking time off.  I maintained a rigorous schedule of practicing and reed-making, but I only exacted that work five days a week.  Ordinarily, I maintain this pace six days a week (or seven days during those really busy weeks).  In my time off, we had several “Mexican lunches” with my husband’s cousins – affairs that begin vaguely between two and four in the afternoon and wrap up sometime between seven and nine, depending on how each person feels.  The food is to die for:  homemade ceviche, sopes (wonderful Mexican snacks, with a thick, hand-formed, corn tortilla-like base covered with different combinations of chopped vegetables, meats, black beans, cheeses, and salsas – perhaps you could think of it like a Mexican bruschetta), Caesar salad (originally invented in Mexico, who knew!?) with freshly made Caesar dressing, pork or steak or whole fish grilled to perfection and paired with homemade salsas, followed by a bit of dessert, and accompanied with wonderful Mexican beers, wines and tequilas.  One such lunch brought us to a beautiful home in Cuernavaca.  I felt like I was in an Architectural Digest.  That lunch led to a spontaneous decision to spend the night with family in nearby Tepoztlán and enjoy an amazing morning at the market gathering food for our next “lunch”, then in the pool as we waited for guests to arrive and finally enjoying our lunch, including the locally grown items we had purchased at the market that morning.  That weekend was the highlight of our summer and epitomized my goal of taking time for myself.

I saw my downstairs neighbor the morning that I was leaving to return to Boston.  The night before, we had just experienced the first big earthquake, that caused so much damage in the southern part of the country.  My neighbor was with his wife and Teo and I was walking Chloe.  This was the first time that I had ever met his wife.  She was so lovely and spoke for a long time about how much they had enjoyed listening to me play.  They begged me to keep the doors open (we have an atrium that where all of the apartments on our line share an open, vertical space that is warmed by the sun through the skylight at the top and extends all the way to the ground floor).  I gave them the bad news that Chloe and I were leaving later that day, but that I would be back as soon as I could make it.  Thankfully, our building seems pretty solidly built and had survived that earthquake (and even the second earthquake that has wreaked so much havoc in Mexico City) without any major damage.  I will be there for Christmas with my bassoon and my music in hand, ready to bring a little light into the lives of those around me, especially my downstairs neighbor.

P.S. As I was preparing this blog, I learned that my neighbor’s dog, Teo, had recently passed away.  I am glad to make a place here where he can be remembered by those who loved him.

Ten Years – Lawrence Isaacson

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7878-LAs we approach our 10th anniversary, it’s amazing to look back at what has been accomplished. Only 65% of arts non-profits last beyond a few years so it is surprising to all of us that we’ve made it this far. (https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Research-Art-Works-Harvard.pdf) To get here, we achieved a lot; creating and marketing two different names, establishing ourselves in two home bases, and putting on a wide array of performances. By the numbers: 13 orchestral concerts, 20 chamber concerts (many of them repeated), 20 in-school presentations, 5 side-by-side opportunities with youth orchestra, 27 Fellows graduated or currently participating, 23 entrepreneurial classes presented to our Fellows, and well over $1,000,000 raised to pay our musicians and vendors. But how did it all start?

In 2007, when I had some free time on my hands – which is always dangerous – I decided to start an orchestra in the Boston area. First, I bought a map, and circled every town that already had an orchestra. Next, I made a 20-mile radius circle around each. Then I looked at demographic data for the towns that were not served, and ended up picking an area with a level of education and median income that I felt could sustain an orchestra. Thus began our first iteration, the Neponset Valley Philharmonic, based in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

It seemed like such a good idea. A well-educated community in need, with the ability to support a semi-professional orchestra. As it turned out… when you pick an area because it has no arts organizations, there could be a reason why. I loved the people down in the Neponset Valley, but we had trouble getting the kind of support we needed to keep operating in that community. So, in 2012, we decided to make the move to Boston. We had numerous meetings about who and what we wanted to be, and ultimately changed our name to Symphony Nova.

Starting in 2014, we created a Fellowship program that fulfilled our original mission to support up-and-coming artists. Our goal is to help recent graduates from music programs around the country by giving them the opportunity to bridge the gap from school to their career. We offer high-level orchestral performances, chamber performances, educational classes, and the opportunity to create concerts from scratch (with the support of our staff).

As we enter our 10th season, we are looking to the future. We have a 5-year plan that will take us into 2022 which includes adding more Fellows, programming more orchestra concerts, growing the Board, and increasing staff support.

We look forward to impacting more lives – musicians, audience, Board, and staff – and are excited to see what the next 10 years hold for us. Starting a non-profit is one of the most difficult things I have ever taken on, but it is also one of the most rewarding. See you in 2027 for the next update!

Help Emerging Artists

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picture1You and I know creating music is not just about playing the right notes. What I love about making music, and about the Nova experience, is the chemistry within the group. The final product you see is truly made of individual ideas coming together to become one through many discussions, laughter, and passion.

Symphony Nova’s collaborative creativity, and the artistry you experience at our concerts, is truly unique among orchestras and ensembles. We put creative decisions in the hands of talented emerging artists, and give them the skills they need to pursue their creative endeavors at Symphony Nova and beyond.  Read More

Tascha Anderson

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imageMezzo-soprano Tascha Anderson has received praise from audiences on both the east and west coasts. A native of Montana, she is hailed as “emotionally rich” and, “a brassy mezzo with flair.” Ms. Anderson was most recently seen in the world premiere of Evan Mack’s acclaimed American opera Roscoe at the Seagle Music Colony. Other recent roles include Lady in Waiting (Macbeth), Olga in the Boston premiere of Elena Langer’s Four Sisters, Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Isabella (L’Italiana in Algeri), Mother Goose (The Rake’s Progress), Bianca (The Rape of Lucretia), Mrs. Pasek (The Cunning Little Vixen), and Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus). Read More

Beethoven Serioso Quartet

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img_0101Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, also known as “Serioso”, was composed in 1810, which is thought to be the “middle period” of his career, between his early and late works. This piece is unique in not only its compactness, but also in the extreme changes in harmonic structure and mood from movement to movement. Beethoven experiments with ideas from both the classical and romantic periods.
Although it is respected now for its experimentation and uniqueness, Beethoven was not so sure it would be so easily accepted in 1810, and he wrote in a letter that it was “…written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public”. The piece then premiered in 1814, but was not printed until 1816.

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Respighi – Il Tramonto

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img_0099Il Tramonto is considered one of Respighi’s greatest masterpieces, written for mezzo soprano and string quartet/string orchestra in 1914. It is a setting of the poem “The Sunset”, by P.B. Shelley, which is a story of young love cut short by tragedy. Resembling a smaller-scale opera, it is clear that the music was influenced by some of the great opera composers, such as Monteverdi and Puccini, mimicking the recitative and arioso styles that were typical of early opera. Read Shelley’s poem below!

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Haydn Sunrise Quartet

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img_0100Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 4 was composed in 1796/1797 as one of six string quartets which were dedicated to the Hungarian Count Joseph Georg von Erdody. Published in 1799, these six quartets were the last set Haydn  composed, and are often considered to be Haydn’s greatest. No. 4, written in four movements, is often called “Sunrise” because of the ascending theme in the beginning. These quartets were distinct in the fact that they did not conform as strictly to sonata form, and there is clear thematic continuity through the pieces. “Sunrise” demonstrates this with its frequent changes in character and mood and constant reference to the main theme, whether it be an explicit reference or a derived melody.

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Weill: Symphony No. 1

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An early work of Kurt Weill’s, the 1st Symphony evokes a wide variety of characters in its short span, from a broad, reverberant opening, to intimate, expressive chamber music between solo instruments. In 1921 Weill composed music for a competition to collaborate with the playwright Johannes R. Becher, then later reworked that music to fit the scale and instrumentation of this symphony. Although the piece unfolds in a single movement (traditional symphonies have four movements), its episodic nature suggests that each section belongs to a particular scene in Becher’s play. The dramatic context of each “scene” of Weill’s piece is unknown, but the audience is invited to imagine what might be happening on stage if it had accompanied a play. Read More

Nova Alum Wins Job at Major Orchestra

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xi-zhangFormer Nova Violist, Xi Zhang, is making her professional debut with the St. Louis Symphony.

Zhang, a graduate from New England Conservatory, began her career with Symphony Nova in 2011 and performed as second viola in the orchestra until 2014. She very much enjoyed the experience of working with different conductors and playing at various events, while getting the opportunity to learn more repertoire.

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Le Tombeau de Couperin

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maurice_ravel_1925“Le Tombeau de Couperin”, by Maurice Ravel, was originally composed from 1914-1917 as a piano suite in six movements. Each movement was intended to evoke a specific memory of a close friend who had died fighting World War I. Ravel paid hommage to the baroque composer Couperin by imitating the style of a baroque dance suite. Later on, in 1919, Ravel omitted two of the movements and produced a version of the piece for orchestra. Read More

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