I didn’t mean to turn this ‘blogging’ into a regular thing, but it’s starting to become that way. We just finished three world-premiere performances of Eric Ewazen’s “Triple Concerto for Trombones and Orchestra”, and I had to take a few minutes to sit and organize my thoughts. This is probably more a self-serving exercise than a publicity generator, as I’ve always found it helpful to write out my thoughts following a monumental experience — I’ve just never shared them before! This may be completely futile, as there really are no words to describe the feeling of this past weekend. But, I’ll give it a shot anyway.
First of all, we in Buffalo are exceptionally fortunate to have the people supporting us that we do: the community, patrons, board members, Marketing and Development teams, JoAnn Falletta, Eric Ewazen, and my orchestra colleagues. I can’t imagine many, if any, other orchestras where the trombone section could say, “Hey, how about a triple trombone concerto?” and have it taken seriously. Not only was it taken seriously, but people made it happen! We pitched the idea once, and from there it took off. The bulk of that credit goes to JoAnn Falletta, who’s passion for new American music and pride in showcasing individual members of the BPO was the driving force. Eric Ewazen was so enthusiastic about this project that he gifted the concerto to the orchestra — no small gesture in these tough times, or any times. Our Marketing team, most notably Kate Mockler, reached out to just about every media source in WNY and beyond to create publicity. We had radio interviews, newspaper and journal interviews, a TV interview and performance, and I had the whole front page of the Lifestyle section in my hometown newspaper — all thanks to Kate’s tireless efforts and ingenuity. The whole Marketing team is to credit for the shear number of audience we had the whole weekend. I had heard from one executive that this was our highest selling weekend of the season so far. Add to that a celebratory Martini Mingle thrown by our Development team after Saturday night’s concert, and you can see that it was a complete team effort. I find it to be incredibly inspiring, and also a tremendous honor to have been in the middle of it all.
There were many moments on stage that I had to choke back tears of joy and emotion – I’m not ashamed to say it. Walking out on to the stage, first noticing the approval of your colleagues and JoAnn’s welcoming smile, then turning to see a very full Kleinhans Music Hall, is quite an encouraging and humbling experience. Hearing the first notes of the piece was surreal each time, as they had only lived in MIDI file format previously, and the realization that this reality was almost too much to keep my embouchure focused. Eric gave us so many wonderful opportunities to sing with our instruments; as a trio, duettists, and soloists, that any apprehension I may have had in preparation simply melted away when given the chance to show the audience what the trombone can do. Sure, I was nervous, but I’d be worried if I wasn’t! One of the greatest validations came at the end of the first concert, when Eric rushed backstage to tell us that between each movement, he could hear audience members whispering, “Those instruments sound beautiful!” or “I didn’t know the trombone could do that!”.
Of particular note in this concerto is the second movement, which is a pastorale dedicated to the memory of Scott Parkinson. I never had the chance to meet Scott, but I now feel like I know him through his friends, family, and archive recordings I have heard. His family was in attendance the entire weekend, and that certainly made it all the more special. This movement is exceptionally powerful, and I know there were many teary eyes in the hall — including my own. Even if you didn’t know what the music was about, you can feel it. I believe this is some of Eric’s most beautiful writing, and I can’t wait for more people to hear it. The way he employs the colors of the orchestra, and brings the trombones in and out of the texture is quite breathtaking. On more than one occasion I had to remind myself that I had a job to do and refocus on the music in front of me.
It’s odd to be sitting here Monday morning, and not have this piece on my agenda for the day. It’s been a 2 1/2 year anticipation, and a few months of regimented individual and trio practice, but I’m looking forward to letting it sit for a few weeks. That’s not to say that I’m tired of the piece, no no, but I’m looking forward to rediscovering it when we begin preparations for our performance at the Eastern Trombone Workshop in March. I’m sure we’ll find new things in the piece, or simply come back with an even more mature approach. There has been talk of a few more projects and guest solo (trio?) opportunities, so we look forward to playing this piece many more times.
And to answer what has been the most popular question this week, yes, this piece is being recorded with the BPO and should *hopefully* be released sometime next year. If you check this site, or if we’re Facebook friends, trust me, you won’t miss it!
Lastly, but closest to my heart, is my appreciation, admiration, respect, and gratitude to my colleagues and friends Jonathan Lombardo and Jeff Dee. It is a pure joy going to work with these gentlemen everyday, and I am constantly impressed and inspired by their musicianship, dedication, and desire to improve on a daily basis. I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to be here, and if I did, they would remind me! They know me well enough to anticipate this question, but what’s our next project, guys!?