Jeffrey Douma on Conducting the Human Voice

Conductor Jeffrey Douma may have grown up playing the cello, but when he was a junior in high school, he heard a really good choir and that, as they say, was that. “The first time I really heard a good choir, I realized how remarkable the sound of an a cappella choir could be,” he says, noting he had always sung but never taken it seriously. “I realized that’s where my heart was.”

“I love orchestral and instrumental music, but I do think there’s something even more direct and emotionally profound about the sound of human voice,” he continues. “It’s very personal and also very mysterious.”

While some might assume that singing is easier to do than, say, playing the trombone, Douma doubts it. “Most people don’t have a lot of ideas of how vocal sounds are produced,” he says. “As I’m speaking to you, I’m creating all these different vowels and consonants. My mouth and tongue are creating a complicated series of small manipulations to create these sounds.” MORE

Published June 15, 2017
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Martin Bresnick on The Passions of Bloom

By Janet Reynolds

Editor’s note: Composer Martin Bresnick has a long history with Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. We did a profile of him last year that you can read.

 Martin Bresnick

This year, however, marks a very special event: the premiere on June 21 of Bresnick’s Whitman, Melville and Dickinson—Passions of Bloom with the Yale Choral Artists. The oratorio, which is inspired by Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, celebrates three American literary icons—Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman—and Yale literature professor and renowned American literary critic, Harold Bloom. We talked to Bresnick about his inspirations for this work. MORE

Published June 9, 2017
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Meet the Festival’s New Director

As most of you know, Melvin Chen has joined the Festival as the new Director. We begin our “Meet The Director” Series with a few questions and answers that we hope will help you get to know him a little.


What was the first work of music that grabbed your attention? Any thoughts of what specifically hit you from that piece? MORE

Published November 14, 2016
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A Chat with Simon Carrington

By Janet Reynolds

SimonCarrington.by.unknownIf you want a musical sampler of choral music, you won’t want to miss the Norfolk  Choral Festival, a concert of music from the Renaissance to the 21st century performed Saturday, August 20. Conducted in part by the acclaimed choral director  Simon Carrington, who leads the Festival’s week-long choral workshop, the concert will feature works by Mozart, Bach, Byrd, as well as 21st century composers Trumbore, Whitacre and Crabtree. Twenty-four professional singers from around the world will perform, accompanied by the Norfolk Festival Chamber Orchestra. MORE

Published August 11, 2016
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A Chat with Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

By Janet Reynolds

RichardStoltzman.byLisaMarieMazzucoClarinetist Richard Stoltzman is well known to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival-goers. He started as a student there in the 1960s and has returned to perform many summers since.

This time around Stoltzman is mixing the old with the new, performing in a Beethoven trio and a piece by contemporary composer Martin Bresnick. (Bresnick directs Norfolk’s New Music Workshop. You can read an interview with him here.)

While Stoltzman is excited to revisit the Beethoven trio, he’s particularly intrigued by the Bresnick trio, which is enigmatically titled  * * * .  “I have minimal knowledge of this,” he says on the phone from a restaurant. “I don’t even know what the three asterisks are for. This is a mystery piece for me.” MORE

Published July 21, 2016
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A Chat with An Unlikely Muse Creator Harry Clark

By Janet Reynolds

Johannes_Brahms_pic_midcareer

Johannes Brahms

Cellist Harry Clark calls himself a “doubler.” But unlike other musicians who play two instruments professionally — itself fairly rare— Clark is a professional cellist and playwright.

As he notes in his website biography, “I know of one banjoist-playwright doubler — Steve Martin.” (Who, some might suggest, is actually a tripler since he’s also a comedian.)

Specifically, Clark has expanded his interest in music to create a series of musical portraits, or staged readings with live music, that portray moments in musical history. He has written nearly 50 of these staged performances since he started, featuring everyone from Tchaikovksy, Dvořák and Satie to Liszt and Astor Piazzolla. His latest portrait, An Unlikely Muse, will be performed at Norfolk on Aug. 13. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Min Jung Kim, Director, New Britain Museum of American Art

By Janet Reynolds

Music Room at Whitehouse

Whitehouse Music Room, Norfolk

The turn of the 20th century was a time when many of America’s prominent families collected art, creating mini-museums in their homes. Ellen Battell Stoeckel and her family were part of that movement, and you have a rare opportunity to see their impressive collection of American art on Saturday, July 23.

That’s when Min Jung Kim, director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, will give a talk in the room in Whitehouse where the art has been displayed for decades. Standing amongst the Hudson River School artists and others represented in this impressive collection, Kim will talk about the symbiosis between this private collection and the impressive collections of American art at the NBMAA. The talk begins at 4 and is followed by a picnic dinner and live performance by the Bretano String Quartet. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Brentano String Quartet
Cellist Nina Lee

By Janet Reynolds

Nina Lee

Cellist Nina Lee has a busy week coming up at the festival. This weekend, she’s performing Friday and Saturday nights, and next Saturday, July 23, the Bretano Quartet, where she is the regular cellist, will perform alone before being joined by Norfolk Festival Fellows, the Argus Quartet, in the iconic Mendelssohn Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20.

It’s a fairly typical week for Lee, who says the quartet, which is in residence at Yale School of Music when it’s not on the road, performs about 60 times annually. MORE

Published July 12, 2016
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A Chat With Pianist Boris Berman

By Janet Reynolds

Boris Berman, piano facultyJoining a quartet, even one that a musician has played with a number of times, can be a delicate dance. After all, the quartet is a finely-tuned machine, each player aware of every nuance of colleagues who have played together for years, even decades. Add another instrument and you’ve got the proverbial fifth wheel.

It’s a dance that pianist Boris Berman loves. “You realize they have performed it on many occasions and I have performed on various occasion,” Berman says of the coming together. “They have their vision and I have my vision. To find the way to creating one and not individual interpretations at the same time is a challenge. It’s a fascinating task. But it’s the challenge that makes it so enjoyable.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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Letters from Argentina:
A Chat With Héctor del Curto

By Janet Reynolds

People often think of rhythm when they call up tango music. But the real heart of all things tango is the bandoneón.

delCurto_playingWe caught up with Héctor del Curto, who will be performing on the opening special event on July 8 (An Evening of Tangos), to learn more about this instrument.

The bandoneón originated in Germany and was invented to replace the organ for use in processions. The bandoneon is a small portable organ that comes from the concertina.

It is also a tricky instrument to play. “The keyboard has no logic. There is no order in the buttons so all the notes are mixed. With a chromatic scale you go all over the place,” del Curto says before ending with a joke. “It was created in Germany — they drink a lot so that’s why the instrument is like that.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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