In June 2016, I participated in the 2016 nief norf Summer Festival as a Performance Fellow in Knoxville, Tennessee. The programming, faculty, staff, performers, and composers have continually impressed me over the last several years and I was happy to be a part of it this year.
Over the course of the Festival, I was involved in seven performances:
• A complete performance of Xenakis’ Pleiades at the IJAMS Nature Centre.
(L to R: NP, Eric Willie, Jon Clancy, Andy Bliss, Colin McCall, Eric Retterer) – These percussionists are amazing and it was an honour finally to play this piece in its entirety with such a great group.
• Pierre Boulez – Derive I
• Charles Wuorinen – Arabia Felix
Both the Wuorinen and Boulez have some unique ensemble and technical challenges. All of the performers sounded great and were a blast to play with. I enjoyed getting to dig deeper into the language of these Modernist master composers.
• Premiere of Jeremy Wexler’s Agitato ed etereo
The festival had 10 Composition Fellows; each had a piece premiered on this concert. I greatly valued the experience of reading the new piece and working with the composer on edits and new sounds before the performance. Often when we do composer readings there is very little time to rehearse and both the composer and performer can find themselves disappointed. Not so at nnSF… the concert was a great success and I look forward to hearing more music by these up and coming composers.
• We closed the nnSF Final Marathon Concert with Xenakis’ Persephassa.
L to R: Jordan Curcuruto, Kevin Zetina, McKayla Phillips, Abby Fisher, and Stephen Downing. Again, the players were amazing performers and communicators. We played this piece in-the-round, surrounding the audience, and with no conductor or click track!
Both Xenakis sextets have been on my bucket list of works to play for many years. I’m still blown away that I had the opportunity to do BOTH in a two-week period of time.
• Lastly, I did play my own piece, A Very Welcome, at one of the noontime recitals and was pleased by the positive feedback and interest in the composition.
One other highlight for me: several of the nnSF performers were in attendance at some of my lecture recitals, when I toured promoting Points of Departure CD, in February. It was very cool to re-connect with these players and perform along side them for two weeks of great repertoire.
This post does have to end, but I’ll say this: if you enjoy playing or composing contemporary classical repertoire, you should consider going to nnSF2017. The faculty and staff are wonderful as are the participants, which are a mix of students, graduate students, and professionals. The University of Tennessee’s music facility is top notch. The atmosphere was very friendly and positive, which made the preparation of some of this repertoire so enjoyable. Check it out here: http://www.niefnorf.org.