A teacher once said that every performance is a rite of passage, and this one was definitely so for me as it included Ernest Bloch's Baal Shem - Three Pictures of Chassidic Life, a three-movement work in which the composer sought, in his own words, to depict "the Jewish soul". It is by no means an easy work, technically, musically, or in terms of both physical and psychological endurance as it is filled with many moods, colors, and levels of intensity. I have only heard this work performed live ONCE (this was in 1997 at the Shepherd School of Music and the performers were Kenneth Goldsmith and Jo Anne Ritacca), but I have over the years remembered the sheer intensity of that performance and the "keyed, vibratory link" between the performers and the audience that day.
That link is a vital one - and just as vital as that exists between onstage collaborators, which showed itself on Sunday afternoon as after the weighty ending of the "Vidui" (Contrition) we launched attacca into the "Nigun". Unrehearsed, spontaneous, definitely surprising, but uncannily RIGHT for that moment. Can that be reproduced? I have no idea....but it WAS recorded.
In addition to working with a new collaborator - about whom I will speak later - one of the most wonderful things about this weekend was the opportunity to work with Reggie O'Farrell, a recording engineer whom I have known since 2004 when we both lived in Houston. When we met, in December 2004, I was preparing excerpts for an international orchestral audition and one of my housemates said, "Oh, call this guy - he lives just down the street."
I'm tempted to say "and the rest is history", but that would be a bit unfair to this mild-mannered and quietly ambitious soul. At that time Reggie had set up a recording studio in his home, and months later started recording an album with a band called The Western Civilization. That album, Letters of Resignation, is a treat and I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to "The Medic", which is one of the most beautiful songs that I think I have ever heard.
Eight years later, Reggie is now living in Austin, Texas, where he is the owner of The Womb, a recording studio "founded on the basic principles that the recording process should be comfortable, creative, and transparent." So, I guess it's true: life DOES have a funny way of bringing people and situations together. All you have to do is watch, and listen for your cues. Glad that I caught this one, and so grateful both to have had the assistance of such a creative young man and to catch up with said young man, who just happens to be a great friend.
As this week includes the end of many concert seasons, I do promise that there will be much more soon. Until then...