Interview with Kenji Bunch

We're excited to be playing the music of American composer Kenji Bunch this month. We got his CD Boiling Point and fell in love with the piece Drift and decided it fit perfectly on our DREAM program  Much to our surprise, when we got the music, it was not written out in traditional notation! We thought you might like to know more about how this works, so we've put together two blog posts about AUGENMUSIK (Eye Music).

Bob Chamberlin from Webster University is going to share a short history of Augenmusik, including links to recordings in our second post, but first, we're going to hear from Kenji Bunch himself. We contacted Kenji on Facebook and asked him a few questions about his creative process with Drift.       

Drift by Kenji Bunch. All images used with permission.  

What inspired you to write a graphic score?       As a performer, I've worked with a lot of graphic notation, from my years as violist in the Flux Quartet to my time as part of the performing composer collective Ne(x)tworks, a group that specialized in music of the New York School, the avant garde movement of John Cage and his contemporaries.  Writing graphic scores seemed a natural extension of this work.

What came first, the musical ideas or the desire to use this type of notation? What's the story behind this composition? 
I was commissioned by the Spoleto USA Festival to write a trio for clarinet, viola, and piano.  For whatever reason, at the time I was working on the project, my schedule only allowed me to sit down at my desk and get to work rather late at night.  After taking the necessary time to settle down and focus, so that I was actually ready to get good work done, I would be so tired that I'd literally be falling asleep while composing the piece.  I realized that some quality musical ideas were drifting away into my subconscious mind, and if I was able to recall any of them later that night or the next day, they wouldn't be exactly the same.  

Then it occurred to me that there was potential for some interesting exploration about this notion of memory and transformation.  In essence, the material in this piece develops not through the traditional compositional tools, but through the performer's ability to recall what he or she heard earlier in the work.  Any "mistakes" in this recollection would be embraced as development of the material.  And ultimately, the piece serves as a metaphor for the process of grief, which is really a confrontation and reconciliation with the idea that memories are inherently ephemeral, and can't be preserved without some kind of inevitable alteration.

The music literally Drifts away sometimes. 

 Did you experiment with and discard different ways of writing the same material? Did you rearrange the order of the material or movements?    I actually tried valiantly to write this piece using traditional notation.  This was a commission for very accomplished performers, but not necessarily for people who would be accustomed to performing off of drawings.  I was concerned the graphic score would be a distraction that could keep the piece from being taken seriously.  Ultimately, though, I realized it was really restricting me to write the necessary bar lines and rhythms, and it ended up looking way more complicated than it sounded.

Do you use this type of notation often?      I think my first graphic scores were back in 2002, when I was writing for a band called Nurse Kaya that I had with some friends.  I've used non traditional notations a number of times since then, but probably about 85% of my music is written the normal way.

What challenges does this type of notation present to you as the composer? What rewards does it offer you as the creator of this music that traditional notation doesn't offer?      First of all, we need to recognize that every form of notation, including the standard one in use for hundreds of years, is a graphic score.  Music written down in any fashion is a graph, depicting sound frequencies (pitch) over time.  There are other variables (dynamics, articulation, etc.), but all scores are expressions of a graph.  

With this in mind, it becomes possible to see that for certain techniques, traditional notation may not always be the best choice.  What I've found with pieces like "Drift" is that the notation, while at first kind of bewildering, actually makes it a lot easier for the performers to make music.  It enables listening rather than counting, and connecting and responding with each other, rather than trying to anticipate someone else's rhythms or assert your own.  It can be very freeing.  Especially in the case of this piece, which makes room for some gently guided improvisation for the three musicians. 

Check out Kenji's website >     (and buy some of his music!)

Isn't it interesting to learn about the process behind creating music? Which of the images are you most excited to hear? Do you think you'll be able to tell what we're playing in the concert? 


We discussed how long this passage should last in rehearsal a few times. In the end, it just happens the way it happens! 

Initially this page probably scared us the most. The first time we played it it was a disaster, but it's amazing how it always works out.

We'll be performing Drift three times in November: 

We've been selling out at The Chapel Series - don't wait to get your tickets! Advance pricing and online sales end at noon on day of concert.  buy tickets now > 

You asked for a matinee concert, and you got it! Join us in this beautiful sanctuary. Free will donation suggested.  view details >

A cozy venue for a great concert.  view details >


Creating a MOSAIC

Our concert this week is called "MOSAIC". Every piece on the program is by an American, and each piece truly unique.  We're really excited about the blend of old and new on this program and the breathtaking variety of style. From traditional classical, modernist mastery, jazz, blues and folk - it's all in here! Learn a little more about the music from the musicians themselves in this post. October 19, 8:00 pm The Chapel Venue - tickets include 2 drinks. $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Online ticket purchase click here.

October 24, 7:30pm Chamber Music Series Danforth University Center, Washington University - in the Goldberg Formal Lounge free

MUSICIANS Jennifer Gartley, flute Dana Hotle, clarinet Adrianne Honnold, saxophone Elizabeth Ramos, violin Laura Reycraft, viola Stephanie Hunt, cello Christopher Haughey, bass

JOAN TOWER Petroushskates (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano)


Dana "I about fell out of my chair the first time I heard Petroushskates I loved it so much. It is so colorful and vibrant. Joan achieves these bright, shimmering, brilliant colors with just these 5 instruments, almost exactly the same colors the composer Stravinsky gets with a full orchestra. Stravinsky's famous ballet, Petroushka, is one of her sources of inspiration for this unique piece. The other source, figure skating, seems completely at odds with her first source: an iconic ballet by a Russian master, but somehow, she makes it work! I love the tension that these two seemingly unrelated ideas create in this short piece. I'm excited to finally play music by Joan Tower, one of the great American composers of the 20th Century, and one of the first female composers to really "make it". She was the Conductor in Residence at the St. Louis Symphony in the '80s, so she has this great St. Louis connection as well."

Jennifer "The Tower never lets up, I can never stop counting even for a second. In practicing this work, the rhythmic element is just so challenging, but the effect should be a mix of the ultra complicated coupled with a feeling of effortlessness... which doesn't completely make sense until you hear it."

AARON COPLAND Piano Variations (solo piano)


This is not your everyday piece of music. This is not your everyday composer. One of the most popular American composers of all time, you get to hear a side of Copland you may not have heard before in his Piano Variations (1930). This piece put him on the map as a very serious artist. This music is "ART" in the highest sense of the word. It falls into the category of "Modernism", which basically means a style of music in which a composer is trying to break out of the traditional ways of using melody, harmony and rhythm, often times failing to create anything lasting. But not Aaron, he succeeds brilliantly. This music is bracing and angular, representing the incredible changes in society in the early to mid 20th century. Think machines, technology, urbanism - expressed in a very elegant and concise vocabulary. We've rented a brand spanking new Yamaha Concert Grand piano for this concert, and Nina is going to show you everything it can do with the Copland!

MASON BATES Life of Birds (flute, clarinet, violin, cello)

Jennifer "I have been intrigued by Mason Bates for a few years and I first heard about him in his role with the New World Symphony in creating these really cool electronica/classical crossover concerts that were held in clubs late night. After a little bit of research, I found that he also composed acoustic works and this work just seemed to fit perfectly with our programming. I like his approach to narrative within a work, and even though flute players sometimes get a little tired of being compared to birds, this new approach by Bates really caught my interest. I can't wait to play this, it has been on my wish list for a couple of years."

Dana "Life of Birds is amazing. It's playful, jazzy, modern and soulful all at the same time. we had a blast rehearsing it at a Very Open Rehearsal at STLCC last week!"

Mason is on Facebook and Twitter (follow links to connect with him)


EVAN CHAMBERS  Come Down Heavy (violin, saxophone, piano)

Adrianne "Evan Chambers, the composer of Come Down Heavy, is a contemporary American composer and a traditional Irish fiddler. As you might imagine, he often unites the contemporary and the traditional in his music, and Come Down Heavy is no exception. The piece starts out with a blues-styled line in the saxophone part but quickly evolves into a more avant-garde imagining of the melody utilizing the extended range of the saxophone and rhythmic complexity in the ensemble as a whole. At one point the instruction to the performers in the score says "Cataclysmic", which I've never seen in a piece of music!

Throughout the first movement, the piece goes back and forth between these bluesy folk tune melodies and a more modern representation of those melodies. The second and third movements of the piece are more traditional, with the second movement featuring a beautiful melody performed by the fiddle and the third movement featuring the saxophone. Finally, the fourth movement, "Drill Ye Tarriers" employs different types of dance forms and ends with a frenzied flourish in the form of a tarantella. [a tarantella is an old Italian dance form that has to do with spiders, you can read about it here] Throughout the piece Chambers uses traditional Irish, Scottish and even Italian folk ideas, a nod to both his own heritage and to the varied heritage of America.  This piece can get pretty wild, but just keep listening! You're never far from another folk tune. "

GEORGE GERSHWIN "Someone to Watch Over Me" (saxophone, string quintet) An American Classic, sweetly arranged for sax and strings. Check out this beautiful rendition by the incredible Ella Fitzgerald. [youtube=]

This program is presented in partnership with The American Arts Experience, and partially funded by The Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

STLCC Students ROCK!

by Dana - be sure to scroll down! The St. Louis Community College has invited us to present a Very Open Rehearsal on their Meramec Campus on Friday Oct. 12. We are thrilled to be involved with this young energetic community. Dr. Jerry Myers, Director of Choral Actives/Assistance Professor of Music at STLCC says,

It is a goal of the STLCC Meramec Music Department to expose our students to quality musical experiences, whether in the classroom, rehearsal, or through guest artists. While it is important for our students to see performances by professional musicians, our focus is on teaching students the process of learning music. The Very Open Rehearsal allows us to exposes our students to professional musicians, but also gives the students the opportunity to witness a professional-level rehearsal. Further, our students will be able to interact with these musicians and discuss the rehearsal process with the guest artists. I cannot think of a better music education experience!

We can't either, and we're excited about being on campus on Oct. 12th at noon! This event is free and open to everyone. It's in Humanities West, Room 102, which is across the hall from the Theater. Please join us!

As part of this project, we asked Micheal Swoboda's STLCC Graphic Design class to create posters for this event in a unique cross-discipline collaboration. We are thrilled with the results! Do you have a favorite? We could pick one so we printed a few of each!

One-Week Design Challenge
Chamber Project event Posters
24˝ x 36˝ ; typeface: Gil Sans
Working in groups of three and using the supplied text—
research the mission of the organization, listen to the style
of music to be performed, and conceptualize multiple ideas
to create one or more dynamic posters that will entice the 
community to attend the event.
Graphic Design 1 and II, Monday / Wednesday 6:00 pm to 8:50 pm
Class Participants
John Chihak
Karrie Columbus 
Chris Conant
Blake Estes
Emily Feldewerth
David Harris
Adam Scott 
Carly Troxell
Willa Allen
Merrick Felder 
Brian Grass 
Irfan Mirza      
Steven Nash
Ashley Schepers 
Peggy Triska
Michael Swoboda, instructor

October by the Interval

It's October, it's fall, it's a great time of year.  The weather has been fantastic, and the arts are in full swing here in the 'Lou.  Here at Chamber Project, we're really excited about our biggest month of the season! Our kick off concert in September was fantastic. We had a packed house and a great performance. We're keeping the energy up with three events in October! We are really excited about our October program, called "MOSAIC", for many reasons.

First of all, the music is fantastic. This is an all American program, and truly brings together the past and the future of music in America. More on the Music in a post coming soon.

Second, WE GOT OUR FIRST GRANT to help fund these events! Thank you to the Missouri Arts Council (a state agency) for the funding! (Yes, I'm supposed to say "a state agency" in conjunction with "Missouri Arts Council", those are the rules.) It's a small Project Grant to help cover costs and aid in some marketing for all three events (2 concerts, one VOR) in October. It's awesome to get our first grant, hopefully the first of many!

Third, we are participating in The American Arts Experience with our October 19 concert  (at The Chapel) along with some of the best arts organizations in town. Our September concert at The Chapel almost sold out  - so get your tickets early! (click here)

Fourth, The St. Louis Community College has invited us to present a Very Open Rehearsal at their Meramec Campus on at noon on Friday October 12. We are really excited about engaging with this vibrant student population. One of the STLCC design classes is working on poster(s) for the VOR - we'll share them here when we get them! It is open to the public, and free - so come on out.

Fifth, Our MOSAIC program features Adrianne Honnold, (saxophone). She teaches at Washington University and they've asked her to bring us back to the DUC Chamber Music Series on Wednesday October 24. 

Sixth, We've got this awesome poster we're putting up around town - look for it.

Mosaic Poster

Seventh. Well, I just wanted to get to seven so I could introduce this cool website where you can listen to the Musical Intervals, which are labled as 'seconds', 'thirds', 'fourths' and on up to 'sevenths'.  Intervals are the distance (low to high) between notes. As I made this list, I was thinking about the intervals. Most people don't know about intervals in music, but now you do. Some intervals get along, they're "consonant", others disagree, they're "dissonant". Which ones are which? Can you tell? Our MOSAIC program uses some very interesting combinations. Goof off for a moment and enjoy this site!

We'll have more about our MOSAIC program, and each of the events coming up in October soon!

There's a BEAR on STAGE!


A short photo essay by Dana. We kicked off our season this past Friday to a packed house at The Chapel!

We began the day with rehearsal at 10:00am. We hadn't seen each other since our marathon weekend of rehearsing Labor Day weekend. Two weeks without rehearsal is an eternity to musicians, but that's the way it worked out this time. We came into The Chapel to rehearse and found this:


Why was there a giant bear playing the piano Jerry Lee Lewis style on stage? We have no idea, but we took it as a good omen.

We moved the bear to a more comfortable listening position, and commenced rehearsal.

Bear under piano

We had a few visitors stop by during rehearsal - one took some shots for us.

Rehearsing Beethoven


After rehearsal we got the chairs arranged for the concert. One of my favorite things is being in a venue when it's empty and know how transformed the space will be in just a few hours time.

setting up

We had record online ticket sales - and many more who braved the crazy traffic (we heard they closed Hampton it got so busy!) to make it to the concert.

The concert gets underway!




The audience loved it - we got an enthusiastic "Standing O".

Standing O

Standing O2

Did you notice the bear during the concert? We think he enjoyed it too.

Thanks to everyone at The Chapel for volunteering their time to make this event happen! It was a spectacular way to kick off our season!


We kick off our 2012-2013 season this Friday with a program we're calling "Youth".  Here's a little post about the music and the musicians, and what the musicians think about the music. MEET THE PROGRAM:

Youth Poster

R. STRAUSS      Till Eulenspiegel - Einmal Anders! TANN                 Duo NIELSEN            Serenata-Invano BEETHOVEN      Septet Op. 20

Till Eulenspiegel is one of Richard Strauss' most famous works for full orchestra. It musically tells the story of Till Eulenspiegel - The Merry Prankster of German folklore which dates back to the Middle Ages. Till stirs up trouble in a market, harasses the monks, flirts with the ladies and mocks the academics - until he gets caught. This clever arrangement (Einmal Anders means, 'Another Way") for quintet (violin, clarinet, horn, bassoon and double bass) captures the very essence of Stauss' original composition.

Laura and Adrianne will be performing Hilary Tann's Duo which directly contrasts the playful boisterous Till with smooth long lines weaving between the viola and the haunting sound of the soprano saxophone. The "youngest" piece on the program provides an intimate encounter with these two instruments.

Carl Nielsen's Serenata-Invano (Serenade in Vain) tells the story of youthful love. A young man hires a band to serenade his love - I won't give away the end by telling you what happens.

After intermission (time to grab another beverage!) we bring seven musicians to the stage to play the amazing Septet by perhaps the most famous of all composers, Beethoven.  Beethoven was bursting onto the scene as a young man (19!) when he wrote this joyful, energetic music. Featuring the violin, the Septet is rounded out by 3 more stings; viola, cello and bass, and contrasted with clarinet, bassoon and horn. It sounds like a small orchestra!


Kyle Lombard, violin

When asked what his favorite piece on the program was, Kyle said "So, if I had to say my favorite piece, it'd be the Strauss...because it gives our listener a taste of what his coloring for full orchestra was like, without the 90 piece ensemble. Music which provides entertaining characters that the audience can easily recognize is just purely more enjoyable for both performer and listener alike."

We've given Kyle about 10,000 notes to learn for this program, and every one sounds brilliant. Kyle is from Kansas City, and has lived on this side of the state for quite some time.

Dana Hotle, clarinet

Dana says this about Youth, "I am really excited about this program! The combination of pieces is just fantastic. They're all really fun to play, and I know the audience is going to love it. The Beethoven just sparkles with positive energy. The Nielsen is new to me, and the first time I heard it I couldn't believe how beautiful the combination of clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and double bass were. There is a moment in the middle where it slows down, and it's just gorgeous."

Dana is a co-Artistic Director for Chamber Project and is a hometown girl. If you're lucky you'll meet most of her family at this concert.

Tricia Jostlein, horn

Tricia is playing with us for the first time. She's a recent transplant to St. Louis - so be sure to welcome her! She says this, "I'm particularly excited to play Till Eulenspiegel-Einmal Anders.  It's pretty incredible that five instruments, through shear force of personality, can carry a piece originally written for a huge orchestra.  This is a wonderful ensemble of players and we've had a lot of fun putting this concert together."

What she doesn't tell you is that Till Eulenspiegel begins with one of the most famous horn melodies ever written - she basically kicks off the concert and sets the stage for the musically hilarity that follows.

Adrianne Honnold, saxophoneAdrianne Honnold, recently back from touring Europe with the St. Louis Symphony, has this to say about the Hilary Tann Duo, "This piece has three different moods that make for an interesting journey; plaintive, aggressive and hopeful."

Adrianne performed at the World Saxophone Conference this summer in Scotland - she had quite an amazing trip! (Take a close look at her hands during her performance, there's something new on one of them...)

Melissa Mackey, bassoon

Melissa Mackey returns to perform with us for a second season. Melissa suggested we play the Beethoven Septet, it's one of her favorite pieces to play.  Melissa is the Associate Professor of Bassoon and Music History at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She wrote a short blog post about the Beethoven Septet on her own blog - check it out!

The bassoon is featured quite a bit in this program. It's a great chance to check out this very unusual, and very cool instrument. Melissa's bassoon is over 100 years old!

Tony Innaimo, cello

Antonio Innaimo is joining us for the first time, but if you've been to the MUNY , you've heard him play - he's the Principal Cellist of the MUNY Orchestra! When not sweltering his summers away here in St. Louis, he lives in Florida. Tony says, "It's such a joy to work with such consummate chamber musicians, performing such fine works!"

Laura Reycraft, viola

Laura Reycraft, co - Artistic Director of Chamber Project is back with us after a little time off last spring to be a new mom! We're thrilled for her and happy to have her back. Here's what she has to say about this program -

"I love playing the Beethoven-it is so fun!  The viola part alternates between accompaniment and melodic material, acting sometimes as a second violin and occasionally as a bass instrument.  The fresh energy and enthusiasm is palpable throughout the 6 movements, although I think my favorite is the last movement with its extremely serious opening and then light fast section.

The Tann has grown on me as I have learned it through listening to a recording and practicing.  The dissonance created between the two instrumental lines is complex and interesting and more melodic that I first thought."

Christopher M. Haughey, bass

Christopher Haughey is joining us for the first time. He grew up here in the St. Louis area, and has recently returned to join the United States Air Force Band of Mid American located at Scott Air Force Base. They keep him busy performing in three ensembles! We're glad he had the time to work some chamber music into his busy concert schedule!

Come to the concert and meet all of these great musicians!


September 14, 8:00 pm at The Chapel Venue Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door (cash/check only) $4 students. Tickets include two drinks: beer/wine/soda. purchase tickets online here


"Art forms begin to die when they become bound by tradition rather than inspired by it; when they become deaf to the shout on the street; when they grow static as contemporary life gains speed and draws away; when they  become too refined, abstract and refuse to touch the ground." - Eddie Silva*

We couldn't agree more. This is why we started Chamber Project. As young passionate practitioners of an old and storied art form we feel its life, vitality, and tremendous energy. We want to share this with our community - for the people and for the art form itself. We want to let people in on the depth and breadth of the emotional, intellectual and even spiritual enjoyment that Classical Music has to offer.

In a time when we are bombarded with music everywhere - at the gas station, at the grocery store, from ring tones of the person behind us in line, it seems that our ears have become less attuned and less sensitive to music. How can we, as musicians, offer music to our audience in a fresh way?  In a way that doesn't just keep up with contemporary life, but becomes a part of it?

Inspired by the tradition of chamber music being performed in intimate social settings, we are experimenting with concert formats, and even more boldly with rehearsal formats. Opening the door for people to experience music in a personally relevant way is something we're passionate about. So next week we offer our second Very Open Rehearsal.

Roussel Pic

The V.O.R. is your chance to work with us as we explore music we are learning for an upcoming performance. Our first V.O.R in January was fantastic. The audience feedback during and after the event was incredible. There aren't really any rules - we play, we rehearse, and you ask any question that comes to mind (about the music that is), and we answer it. We get feedback about what we're doing in a truly useful way. In January, the audience helped us decide how slowly we should play the slow movement! You can watch a short video from the event at the end of this post. If you want to read a little more about what a V.O.R. is exactly you can read our post  A What? A VOR? from January.

On Wednesday March 14 Jen, Laura and Valentina will be having a Very Open Rehearsal of  Albert Roussel's Trio in preparation for our performance at The Wine Press on March 23.

Very Open Rehearsal Wednesday March 14, 7:00pm The Tavern of Fine Arts 313 Belt Avenue 63112 free/free parking all welcome

The Tavern of Fine Arts has new art on the walls this week- we can't wait to see it, we hear it's really amazing!

*Thanks to Eddie Silva, blogger for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for the inspiration for this post! The quote above was from "Celebrating The Ballets Russes" which I found in my SLSO program this weekend. You can read more of his writing on the SLSO blog.


Intimate Songs

As you might know, we don't print detailed program notes for our concerts, preferring to converse with our audience during the concert. We know our audience to be a curious bunch, so once again we want to bring you a little more perspective about the music here in our blog. On Thursday February 23rd, we will present the program we call "Intimate Songs". This concert features an unusual assortment of instruments; voice, viola, saxophone and piano. This program was such a huge hit with our audience last year, we wanted to do it again. The musical selections span over 120 years, from the height of the Romantic Era in 1884, to modern living composers in the last decade. The program contains a rich, deep spectrum of styles and emotions; from a lullaby written for dear friends expecting their first child, to a powerful work that reflects on the events of 9/11.  If you want your music experience to be more than toe tapping computer generated beats (which are great from time to time - no offense to the dub-step lovers!) this is the program for you!

I asked the performers to answer a few questions about the music in this program and compiled it.  First, the necessary info: Who's performing and what will they play? Then the musicians' thoughts and feelings about the music.   At the end is a glossary of musical terms that come up in the musicians' answers the average music lover might not be familiar with.


Debra Hillabrand, mezzo-soprano Adrianne Honnold, saxophones Larua Reycraft, viola Peter Henderson, piano

JOHANNES BRAHMS l Two Songs op.91 (1884) mezzo-soprano, viola, & piano I. Gestillte Sehnsucht        II. Geistliches Wiegenlied

LORI LAITMAN l Living in the Body (2001) based on poetry by Joyce Sutphen - female voice & alto saxophone I.    Burning the Woods of My Childhood     II. Living in the Body      III.  Not For Burning IV.  Lost at Table     V.   Bring on the Rain      VI. Crossroads

LIBBY LARSEN l Sifting Through the Ruins (2005) mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano I.   A Listing II.  To the Towers Themselves III. Don’t look for me anymore (from the wailing wall at Grand Central Station) IV. Untitled V.  Someone Passes

PAUL HINDEMITH b Trio op.47 (1928) viola, tenor saxophone, piano I. Erster Teil           II. Zweiter Teil: Potpourri

Tell us a little about this program. 

Peter (piano): It's a great pleasure to collaborate again with friends from the Chamber Project and with the talented singer Debra Hillabrand. I'm grateful to be revisiting three beautiful pieces with them this month on the "Intimate Songs" program.

Libby Larsen's powerful song cycle Sifting Through the Ruins skillfully balances musical contrast and repetition in setting texts drawn from personal responses to 9/11. Reflective and visceral by turns, Larsen's music makes a tremendous emotional impact.

I'm also fascinated by Hindemith's Trio op. 47. Hindemith's trademark counterpoint is on display throughout the work, but what amazes me the most is the tremendous rhythmic energy sustained. Aside from the Arioso, a duet for saxophone and piano near its beginning, the entire piece is electric. The second part ("Potpourri") begins in a high energy state, ratchets up the tension in a whirling fugato, and ends with a truly manic, Prestissimo coda. Apart the extreme concentration in its style, Hindemith's Trio features an attractive touch of whimsy. We hope that you enjoy this unusual and vibrant program!

Do you have a favorite piece or musical moment on this program? 

Laura (viola): I really love the lyricism and expressiveness of the Brahms songs.  The second Brahms song is a cradle song and I can imagine rocking a child to sleep, especially at the close of the song.

brahms maunu

Sifting Through the Ruins [Larsen] is very effective in the way it draws the audience in emotionally. Susanne Mentzer, the mezzo-soprano who premiered the Larsen, privately collected the texts used in Sifting Through the Ruins from memorials around New York City as part of her quest to understand the events of 9/11. The third movement of the Larsen is the pinnacle of the work.  It really gets to the heart of what the piece is all about - searching for a lost loved one and the process of grieving and moving on.  The voice of the missing gives permission for the living to do so.

Debra (voice): Really, Sophie's Choice?  You're going to make me choose between my children?  Well, if I must, would have to say the Larsen.  Simply because during the performance, the audience becomes so involved and inspiring.  Their reactions and silence add to the intensity.

In the "Sifting Through the Ruins", the transition from the second to the third movement is bone chilling.  The end of "To the Towers Themselves" has grown into the loudest wail

libbylarsen headshot

we've heard yet, and then "Don't look for me anymore" begins with a solemn, lone sounding of the viola.  It almost takes my breath away before singing the weary text [that follows].

I'm always inspired by extremes and intense growth in a musical phrase. In "Geisliches Wiegenlied," [Brahms] the lullaby grows in intensity as the mother becomes worried about the wind.  She asks the roaring wind how it can so angrily bluster today, then exclaims "O rauscht nicht also" (oh roar not so).  At this moment, voice, viola, and piano all reach the climax of dynamic and intensity.  I get chills every time.

Adrianne (saxophones): I came across Laitman's "Living in the Body" because I knew of one of her more well-known works for alto saxophone and soprano voice entitled "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" which was performed at a saxophone conference at Northwestern University back in 1998.  The piece turned into somewhat of a "hit" amongst saxophonists, but we weren't able to program it for Chamber Project with Debra because the range was too high for a mezzo soprano.  I'm so glad we came across this work of Laitman's instead.

I think it's cool that both the poet and composer of the work are women who are living and working in the arts today.  As a saxophonist, I've only had a handful of opportunities to

Lori Laitman

perform with vocalists over the years so this is a fun and unique experience for me.  Also, Debra and I have enjoyed bringing to life the subtle nuances, the humor, and sometimes even the sadness that is expressed through the text and so adeptly through the music that Lori Laitman has composed.  Kathryn Mary Drake, DMA voice student at LSU had this to say about the piece in her doctoral dissertation:  "The saxophone adds to the rather bleak texture, creating a distinct atmosphere of nostalgia and often creating musical imagery to further describe the meaning of the text."

This is not the kind of piece you hear everyday...glad to be presenting it here in St. Louis again!

Is there anything you disliked or were challenged by on this program?

Debra: Anything that I didn't like initially, I tried to figure out how the composer was using the music to convey the goals and/or emotions of the character.  Once I figured how the composer was using the seemingly disagreeable music and I had character-driven motivation, I didn't find any parts that I really disliked.

Because the Laitman is for voice and saxophone only, the harmonies are not as obvious as a piece with piano or multiple instruments would be.  As a singer learning a piece, I listen for the harmonic progression to help me find my pitches and lead me where I'm going.  I had to dig a little deeper when learning "Living in the Body."

Adrianne: The Hindemith definitely ranks up there as one of the hardest pieces I've ever performed because of the rhythmic complexities inherent in his writing.  Totally worth it though!

hindemith and benny

Laura: The last page of the Hindemith is the most technically difficult for me, but the whole piece challenges the trio to play faster, louder and more brilliantly.

The opportunity to play the program again is fantastic.  I think that letting the Hindemith sit and age for almost a year is exactly what we needed to play it even better this time, even though it is still difficult after all of this time!

Does any of this music create a story line for you?

Debra: Since I almost always have text to work with, the story's framework is usually apparent.  The biggest joy I have in preparing songs is discovering the characters' journeys and emotions within the framework.  I love discovering how I think the composer feels about the character by analyzing the text treatment and text painting. The discoveries are endless!  These discoveries reveal a very specific story for each piece which I love conveying to the audience.




To learn more about the Two Songs by Brahms, and their touching and tragic origins, click here

IN CONCERT:  Thursday February 21st, 7:30 pm Washington University Danforth University Center Goldberg Formal Loung free


coda: the ending section of a large piece of music. Is usually set apart from the rest of the work somehow. In this case, the Hindemith, it's by the tempo - the music speeds up in the coda (this is a common coda thing to do).

counterpoint: A type of musical texture. A musical texture is the way the various 'lines' of music are layered. Counterpoint is one of the more complicated textures in which two more more melodies compete for the attention of the listener. The music tends to sound very 'busy' and intellectually stimulating.

fugato: a more specific type of counterpoint loosely modeled on the formal structure of a Fugue. This will contain "imitative counterpoint". A simple example of imitative counterpoint is the Round. (Think:  "Row Row Row Your Boat".) Basically, one instrument 'states' the melody, and others jump in with the same melody while the first is still making it's statement.

harmony: two or more notes sounding at the same time. Some combinations are common, others are not.

harmonic progressions: Also known as chord progressions. The order in which harmonies are played. There are very standard progressions that you have heard thousands of times. In classical music, creating unusual and effective chord progressions is a huge part of the music.

musical phrase: a section of music that has a distinct beginning, middle and end. Much like sentence structure.

pitches: notes

Prestissimo: very, very, very fast

text painting: Loosely refers to the way that the meaning of the words being sung is reflected in the way they are put to the music. If the word is "high" - the note sung might be a very high pitch. (also called 'word painting')

Another First!

When you start something from nothing, as we have with Chamber Project, you have a lot of "firsts" along the way. Our first concert, our first write up in the paper, our first dollar, our first fundraiser. The mix of scary and exciting and rewarding is difficult to explain, but it's quite an experience! Last Thursday, on a bitterly cold and windy night, we had our first ever Very Open Rehearsal. We were more than a little worried that the weather would scare people off, but it didn't! We had a great crowd!  We set up the room to get as many people as we could as close as possible to us.  Another first this night was that we had never, ever, played the music together that we were about to play in front of a crowd of people. This felt a little like showing up to play a formal concert in a swim suit. Just wrong. We got our first question before we even started to play, which loosened us up a bit.  We played through the first movement, had to stop once and restart. It was a little ragged. We had tons of great questions from the audience, and the improvement made in the music was  fantastic.

We put together a little montage of the event and put it up on youtube (another first!). Enjoy!


Rehearsing with an audience was an amazing experience. It forced us to focus more, we took bigger risks musically during the rehearsal than we usually do. It was really fun to laugh and play with the audience. The positive response from the audience was overwhelming. We will be doing this again! Thanks to The Tavern of Fine Arts for having us!

This Saturday we perform the music we rehearsed at our VOR in our concert called "Combinatorics".  The program is full of energetic, spirited music, including one of the great chamber works of all time by Poulenc for oboe (we're using soprano sax), bassoon and piano.  All of the music has a connection to France.  It will be about an hour long.


Saturday January 21, 3:00 Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts St. Louis Community College @ Forest Park 5600 Oakland Ave. free, free parking, kids 8 and up welcome


Jennifer Gartley, flute Dana Hotle, clarinet Adrianne Honnold, saxophone Melissa Mackey, bassoon Nina Ferrigno, piano


5 pieces for trio (1935) Jacques Ibert

Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon (1924)
Charles Koechlin

Sonate for Flute, Clarinet and Piano (1907)
Maurice Emmanuel

Three Pieces for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon (1925) Walter Piston

Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano (1926)
Francis Poulenc


post by Dana MAGIC. What is it? Is it real? Where is it? How do we get it? I'm not talking about card tricks and stunts, although those are great too. I'm talking about real Magic. 

What is it?   It's that moment, that moment when suddenly something extra is there. Something you can't at all explain in words, a feeling, an awareness that is somehow more alive than other moments.

Music has the potential to create these magical moments. Musicians dedicate their entire beings to getting just the right formula of work, rest, practice and patience to create these moments for themselves and their audience. And every musician will tell you, that you just never know when it's going to show up. You just never quite know when all of a sudden, the sounds you are making with your instrument will  just come alive. Sometimes you can feel it coming, you know it's going to be a good night, other times, it takes you by surprise. You know it, the audience feels it.  It's addictive. It can be elusive. It's why aging millionaire rockers keep touring, it's why athletes are superstitious, it's why near deaf musicians won't retire, it's why people return again and again to hear live music. But still, what is it? 

Magic moments happen with varying intensity and duration. Some are breathtaking and life altering events, others are little sparkles and glimmers. Some are passive - the light hitting a loved ones hair just so, others are active - like making music or laughing with friends. For me, these moments somehow transcend the ordinary sense of time. It's like they've always been there and always will be there, there's a sense of continuity of history and future and present.  It's thrilling when I am creating the moment for myself and the people with me through music. It's also thrilling when they catch me by surprise, during a lesson with a student, talking to a friend. They can happen anywhere, but the one thing they all have in common is that you have to be aware of them.

I've decided that magic is created by focus and awareness. It's a moment when we're not listening to the to-do list in our head, or the worries that this or that need to be done. We're in that moment and only that moment without judgment, without urgency, with simplicity. We luxuriate in the space of the experience.

snowy garden

This time of year it seems that the whole world is striving to create magic, with force. With money, with colorful lights. What if the magic doesn't come? Expectations for its arrival are high. I've learned, by being in the business of musical magic, that you cannot force it into being. I've learned that a good portion of the magic is enjoying the journey towards the event. You can only set the table for it, and invite it in. The setting doesn't need to be perfect, and in fact can be full of mishaps and accidents. But the intention needs to be clear and the invitation made. Then it's time to breathe deep and be open to whatever happens next, without judgment or worry.  Perfection is not a requirement for magic to appear, but your willingness to open yourself to its many possibilities is.

We hope your holiday season if full of magic, peace and love. We'll be back in 2012 with magic of our own to share with you!

-Dana, Jen, Laura and Adrianne

bringing down the wall

posted by Dana One of the reasons we began Chamber Project is that we passionately believe Classical Music can be enjoyed by anyone. We felt we could find a way to break down some of the imaginary boundaries that isolate Classical Music from popular culture. To bust the myth that you have to have some secret knowledge or privilege to understand and enjoy Classical Music. We love it, and we're just people like everyone else! Music is Music - it's all made of the same stuff. It's available to anyone, and we're striving to develop a concert format that opens the door to anyone willing to give it a chance and walk in. We think we've found a pretty good presentation that's inviting and fun, and we're always thinking about how we can go further.

This past week, we presented our program, Stings Attached, Thursday and Friday nights.  In both concerts, I felt that we accomplished our mission of opening up the joy of live music for our audience. I began the evening by putting a frame around the music we were presenting - providing context for the audience to build their listening experience on. We do this for all of our concerts. For this program it turned out that the best way to talk about this music was through a mini history lesson about how through time, the way people value personal self expression and dramatic emotional energy in music has changed. Some Eras like the drama, others don't.

I could feel the rapt attention of the audience (as performers, we have a strange 6th sense about how the audience is feeling). Both nights, they loved getting this information. I could feel the energy, I could see it in their faces as I spoke. They were eager for this information, and as the music started, the energy carried through.

At intermission, we mingled with our audience. At The Chapel I had a great conversation with an amateur clarinetist about pieces for clarinet, and he tipped me off to a composer I should look into.  At The Tavern I continued a conversation that had started before the concert began with a table who had been in for dinner as I was warming up. As it turns out, our mothers both played clarinet in high school! I handed out ballots to all of the tables at The Tavern at intermission, making contact with pretty much every person in attendance. This was a very happy surprise for me, and I plan on doing it again!

For us, conversing with our audience is just as rewarding as performing for them. Our audience is getting the hang of this too - it's not everyday someone walks off stage and right up to you and asks you if you're having a good time! It gives them an opportunity to ask questions about the music, about the instruments, about us. And we get to ask them what they think of the music, what brings them to a concert, what is their relationship with music, what is their story?

We are going to continue to come up with fun and new ways to connect with our audience! We hope you will be there! We play a 30 minute set at the Women in the Arts Conference on Saturday November 12 at 2:30 on the UMSL campus. It's free and we are in the JC Penny Conference Center. Our program will be a reprise of last years 'Superwomen Explored", a program of music composed by women.

We hope to see you there!

Inside Scoop on Strings Attached

posted by CPSTL. 

This week we perform our program we're calling Strings Attached. If you've been to our concerts, you know that we don't print stuffy academic program notes for you to read while listening to the concert. We don't want you to feel like you need to multi task - we want you to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.  We get up and talk to our audience about the music, giving them information that enhances their listening experience, then we play the music. We started this blog because we know our audience is curious to know more about us and about music. So we thought we'd start a new approach to program notes that will give you some insight into the musicians mind!

We asked our musicians some questions about the music in this program, and compiled their answers to give you insight into how we feel about the music, and why we're so excited to play it for you this week.

Occasionally, we musicians use musical words to describe music that no one but musicians understand, but we forget this and use them anyway.  As the words come up, they've been underlined and there is a little tiny dictionary at the bottom you can reference if you wish. We also use the last name of the composer to identify the piece we're talking about.

musicians Hannah Frey, Violin Laura Reycraft, viola Valentina Takova, cello Jennifer Gartley, flute Dana Hotle, clarinet Nina Ferrigno, piano

program Trio for Flute, Viola & Cello by Albert Roussel Sonate for Flute, Clarinet & Piano by Maurice Emmanuel Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (violin, viola, cello, piano)

Musicians warming up

NINA    "As I head into this exciting week of concerts with Chamber Project, I've been thinking a lot about the Mozart E-flat Quartet that ends the program.  It is a piece I have played before although not for a number of years.  Actually, not since the summer after I graduated from high school when I was seventeen!  My music is a kind of time capsule of fingerings, phrase marks, dynamics and instructions which compel me to remember my past experiences with this great piece.  At one point in my music the cryptic mark of simply 'Donna' appears encouraging me to remember a friend who was such a part of that experience and, apparently someone I needed to watch for a cue!!  It has been really fun revisiting that time, but also great to discover just how differently I perceive this piece now.  Even before Chamber Project rehearsed for the first time, I was busy erasing most of the markings from long ago.  I just don't move my hands in the same way or hear these Mozartian phrases in the same way.  This piece seems so much more joyfully personality driven than it did years ago to an earnest 17 -year old about to start a career in music.  I hope you enjoy these performances as much we will enjoy playing them!"

What is your favorite piece on the program to play?

LAURA    “Mozart is fun to play and has a sunny and not too serious character. I like the Roussel more and more as we rehearse it, the tunefulness is becoming more apparent to me.”
VALENTINA  “I perform on two pieces on the program. Both are very different and interesting in their own way. The Roussel Trio is getting more and more interesting as we untangle all the strange and unusual voice leading and harmonic progressions. I am starting to realize that everything on the page makes a lot of sense, even though for a first time listener it might be a bit abstract. The Mozart Quartet on the other hand is purely enjoyable for the players and listeners alike. The music is light, beautiful and accessible. I hope everyone has a wonderful time at our concerts this week.”
DANA    “I only play on one piece in this program, but I am really excited to hear the Mozart. I caught a little of the rehearsal yesterday and it sounded great. I love the way Mozart writes for piano in chamber music, and I love hearing Nina play Mozart -so this is going to be good!”
HANNAH   "Mozart:  Of course I love Mozart.  I always love playing Mozart.  He is a genius, and one of my favorite composers to play.  When you play with piano, intonation is easier, because the piano is always right.  No arguments."
Is there a ‘magical moment’ for you in this music?

LAURA  “I really love my part in the coda of the 3rd movement of Mozart.  It is so joyful and carefree at that moment.”

DANA   “The second movement of the Emmanuel is so interesting, the way there is this ominous "boom boom" in the low piano, and these slow melodies weave around, talking to each other, with the 'boom boom' randomly pulsing underneath. It's erie and strange and really cool. Nina thinks it's just way too weird, but I like it.”

Does any of this music tell a specific story for you?

DANA    “All music can tell a story, but one that came to me right away when I listened to it was in the first movement of the Emmanuel. It sounds like a beautiful dream, cheerful, everything is going fine, and then, out of nowhere these weird harmonies surface to remind you that this is really a dream, surreal like a dream.  Some of the stories I've learned about how the pieces were written are very interesting. Mozart was commissioned to write three piano quartets by a famous music publisher (we are playing the second one). After the publisher got the first one, rumor has it that he hated it so much that he paid Mozart to NOT write the second one! Perhaps Mozart had already written the second one, we don't really know, but we have it, and it's fantastic. It's too bad he never wrote the third. I have to say the the second one is a bit nicer than the first. It's also really interesting that Roussel wrote his Trio in 15 days. I'm pretty sure the collective practice time of the three people playing it this week greatly exceeds that. It's hard!”

JEN  "The third movement of the Roussel could be described as a "rondo," which means the same theme keeps returning over and over again.  But in this case, it seems like the rondo theme keeps getting lost and then all of a sudden it will appear out of nowhere, and you will know where you are musically."
What is the most challenging aspect of this program for you?
LAURA   “The Roussel. He writes in a difficult register for the viola in several passages, and their are many dissonances which are hard to tune.  I began preparing the Roussel about a month ago.”
VALENTINA    “The Roussel Trio has some tough passages for cello. I have a couple of really high solos and it has been fun trying to figure out the intervals and the harmony. I do like the challenge very much.”

JEN   "I am honestly more attracted to super passionate music and people and subtlety is sometimes not my strong point.  But I HATE movies like "The Notebook" that are emotionally manipulative intentionally.... so the restraint of this program is a nice challenge to both sides of my personality. The Roussel is a tough piece, the harmonies take awhile to fit into your ear and it is a surprisingly complicated piece of music, all of the parts are very intricate and are woven together meticulously.  If you miss even the slightest tie, it throws off the entire rhythmic continuity."

We hope you enjoyed hearing a little of what we think and feel about this music! Is there something else you want to know? Just ask! We'll share more insight to the music and the composers in our concerts, We hope to see you there! for more info!
MiniMusicDictionary harmony: two or more notes sounding at the same time. Some combinations are common, others are not. dissonance: a type of harmony where the notes sounding together produce a ‘crunchy’ or ‘disagreeable’ sound. Usually defined as ‘unstable’ harmonies in music lingo. Traditionally followed by consonant, or pleasant and stable harmonies. harmonic progressions: Also known as chord progressions. The order in which harmonies are played (e.i. dissonance followed by consonance). There are very standard progressions that you have heard thousands of times. In classical music, creating unusual and effective chord progressions is a huge part of the music. voice leading: describes the way in which individual parts or 'voices' interact, creating and embellishing the progression from one chord to another. interval: The distance between two notes.
intonation: playing in tune
tie: an aspect of rhythm, when two notes are 'added' together. coda: A musical epilogue of sorts. The ending section of a movement.
Did we leave something out? Just ask! There are no stupid questions!

Musicians tuning

Opening Weekend Retrospective

What a great opening weekend we had!  Thanks to everybody who came out for our Folk Freedom Concert, both at the Chapel and then our encore performance at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Don't forget to mark your calendars for our next scheduled concert series, though we may have a surprise or two for you beforehand.  Be sure to follow us on twitter, like us on facebook, or subscribe to this blog to stay the most up to date!

"STRINGS ATTACHED" Thursday, November 3 2011, 7:30pm The Chapel: A sanctuary for the arts $12/4 Online ticket purchase coming soon. Friday, November 4, 8:00pm The Tavern of Fine Arts suggested contribution: 10$ gratitude contribution: 20$ - includes food and drink gift

Some pictures from our concert at the Tavern of Fine Arts on September 10:

IMG_0469 IMG_0471






Hope you can join us next time!  Visit City in a Jar to read a nice review of our first concert as well.