And We’re Off!

Last night, we kicked off the new season with a fabulous Groupmuse house concert on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Literally steps from Lincoln Center, we performed a program for about 25 people in a lovely, intimate setting.  For those who don’t know, Groupmuse is an organization that helps pair musicians and house concerts hosts.   A big part of Groupmuse’s philosophy is bringing neighbors together through music, so there’s socialization time before, during intermission and after every performance.  Our host, Sheila, had a lively assortment of people.  They gathered for about 30 minutes before hand.  Matt, Suzanne and I were hanging out in the bedroom, which was acting as our green room during that time.  At 6:30, Sheila introduced us and off we went. The audience was close….but honestly, not as close as our concert at 405 Shrader in San Fransisco.  At that performance about 60 people were packed into what had been a storefront, and the greenroom was the space under the grand piano where we stored our cases.   At Sheila’s Groupmuse, we had a bit more space though audience member Joshua could have tuned pages for me if he had really wanted to.

It was a house concert, but that doesn’t mean that we tamed down our programming.   We did start with a lovely and appropriate CPE Bach Trio Sonata, but then segued into Doug Anderson’s, Reverse Variations on Arkansas Traveler (with Jokes!, as the composer says).   An audience member told Matt afterwords that she cringed inwardly and thought “this could be awful” at the proposition of us telling jokes, but was pleasantly surprised that we told them so well.  Proof again that practicing helps!

At intermission, it was socializing time again.  Groupmuse concerts feel a lot like concerts up in rural Lille, Maine, where the intermission can last up to half an hour, because people come from long distances and want to have time to reacquaint themselves with friends.

Then we were back in for an all 21st Century second half. We began with Daniel Lemer’s Who knows? or ¿Quién Sabe?  for those practicing their Spanish.  This is a work by a young American composer, that employs a lot of extended techniques.  It takes turns being super edgy with a lot of harsh squeaks in the strings and multiphonics in the flute, to beautiful, serene harmonies that kind of unfold, not unlike Lux Eterna, by Ligetti.  And it rocks!  Then we gave a very unofficial premiere of Pamela Sklar’s Two Journeys.  We’ve performed the first movement before, but this is the first time anyone besides the three of us have heard the whole work.  This is a haunting and subtle work, and you should just come hear it, rather than have me describe it to you.

Finally, we finished with Eidos II by Jorge Amado, our 2018 8SW Composer Competition winner.   A big contrast with Pamela’s piece.  Joyful, vigorous and a bit primal.   I have to say, it was pretty loud in a Sheila’s apartment.  I wonder what her neighbors thought was going on.

After it was all over, we had a nice time meeting some of the audience members and sipping a little wine –– not to mention some really delicious bread!

Now we are getting ready to head to New Orleans to present this program, plus Siegfried Thiele’s Trio.  We will be working with some composition students at Tulane while we are there too, and of course, eating some beignets
If you want to catch this works, we will be playing them 4 more times this fall.  Check out our full schedule here. And you can read more about Doug Anderson, Pamela Sklar and Jorge Amado in our Featured Composer Section. Just follow the links above or click right here.

Check it twice

The Washington Post recently wrote an editorial saying the Summer is over-rated. It’s possible that’s true. What is summer really? – A time when it’s really hot!!

For many of us, summer is when we envision getting a lot done. We make lists and once made, they are hard to escape.

The “list” is that thing we all do — the “I’m going to be productive and not just lay on the beach” thing we seem to need to do to justify our summer.

Everyone has a list. It may be pragmatic – “Paint the house” “Clean the basement” or more ambitious “learn French”. As a rule, the list is not finishable. If we come close to completing them we just add more to it. Sometimes, we don’t even start them. They just linger, close at hand, as a reminder of all the promises we made to ourselves and others.

I have a personal list and a more pragmatic trio list. From a rehearsal point of view, the trio is on hiatus. Matt’s in Colorado and Suzanne will soon head to Maine and then beyond. But even though we are scattered, there are still things to accomplish and thus, we have a list.

Some things are already done:

Airline tickets to Havana √
Tickets to New Orleans √
Get materials ready for our new Intern, who starts in the Fall (Can’t tell you about him, but will in September) √

To be honest, those were fun tasks, so of course they were completed first.

Others are in progress:

Emails to universities about our 2020 Composer Competition — 300+ emails sent, more going soon
Program decisions for the Fall — 90% there…

There are other things that have been started, but have a ways to go: Learn Spanish (no really) — Sí, pero no habla bonito, todavía.
Emails to Presenters – Oy…where’s that intern?

Is the list a good or bad?
If you use it as a tool – good!
If you feel beaten down by it – bad.

List or no, I’m still in favor of summer. And it’s okay to slack off, at least a little. A week on the beach in Florida, rum drink in hand comes my way soon. No instrument. No nail clipper. And after that, it will be back to work.

And meanwhile, that’s July’s Blog √√

Pop, pop,pppppop

Spring is popping up all over… or in our case, 8SW is popping up, which is definitely better then pooping out.

Over the last season and a bit, we have had two Pop Up concerts, and we’re doing it again to celebrate the end of our 2018-19 season.

The Pop Up concerts happen in a variety of spaces.  So far, we’ve played at Alchemical Studios in lower Chelsea (not sure that is a legitimate real estate term, but let’s go with it) and Shetler Studios in Midtown.  Our next one will be in the Theater district, at a studio we chose because we liked the name. Why studios?  First, they tend to be less expensive than a more formal concert space like Tenri, or one of the halls.  Also, they are smaller and more casual, which is the aesthetic we’re aiming for. And there are so many options in New York. These performances give us a chance to try different places and acoustics in a pretty low risk way.   In the future, we are looking at spaces in the outer boroughs.   (Yes, I’m originally from Queens, so I can say “Outer Boroughs”. I still think of Manhattan as going into “the City”.) Maybe even… New Jersey.  Who knows?

These Pop Ups are short too. We like to keep them to about 30-40 minutes of music.  They are a chance to try pieces out.  With any piece, but especially with new music, it’s hard to know what you have till you trot it out in front of actually living people. With these concerts, we can see what works and what doesn’t — what we need to change or adjust.  And most importantly to us, get direct feedback from the audience about what they heard.

On June 11, we will be playing three pieces.  The first is by NY composer, Pamela Sklar.  Pam is a flutist and composer.  She and Matt spent many years trekking around Maine and Japan performing with the New York Ragtime Orchestra.  I still remember Pam in her flapper dress playing “Whistler and his Dog” on the piccolo.  Her work, Third Eye, is a long way from Ragtime.  We have actually performed this work once before and Pam is currently working an a second movement that we will premiere in the Fall. You can read all about Pamela and her music in our Featured Composer Section.

Then there is the entrée of this little concert – Aribert Riemann’s Canzoni e  Ricercari.  This piece was written in 1961 and has been sitting in our library for a long time, waiting for the right program.  It’s an interesting set of works that has solo, duo and trio movements.

Finally, a little CPE Bach.  I know, not new music, but you know…variety.  And of course we’ve messed with it –– Viola instead of a violin, so a few (maybe a lot) of octave changes, altering the timbre just a bit and no pesky harpsichord to get in the way of that nifty Basso Continuo.

These Pop Ups are free to attend, but, of course, we’d never pass up any donations.  We do have a new recording to fund, and our 2020 8SW Composer Competition. and a few other projects that you’ll be hearing about soon…I guess I know what the next 3-8 blogs will be about!

Want to come to our June 11 Pop Up at 6PM?  Great!!  Drop us a quick email at  Space is a bit limited so we want to make sure we have a chair for you and of course, tell you where exactly the performance is happening.


Welcome to our revamped website!

Having a website that functions on every conceivable platform is a necessity today.  But as we launch this one, it has give me a chance to think back.  When we came together 20 years ago (or is it 21? 19?) the thought of needing a website didn’t exist.  Our first press photos were taken on actual film, with hard copy proofs, and were in black and white (ok, that was a style choice, though it may have been budget…who can remember). We had a hard copy brochure that we would mail to presenters, with an actual demo CD, that Matt would laboriously apply our labels to.

Of course, it’s not just media that has changed.  We’ve grown — yes, older, but also musically.  Recently we applied for a grant and needed to choose recorded samples to include.  It’s been quite a few years since we’ve done this.  I recall having a hard time in the past — every sample had a flaw.   Not something that would destroy a live performance but under the microscope of adjudication could be an issue.   This time we listened to five works from two recent concerts and they were good.  Really good.

I don’t say that easily.  As musicians we are incredibly self critical and always looking to improve but all three of us listened to these excerpts and were actually happy with what we heard. For me, it is a sign of how we have evolved over the last two decades.  I don’t know if we will be around in 2039, and if so, what new media we will have to keep up with, but I do know we will continue to grow and learn for as long as we keep playing.