Avaloch Farm Music Institute

 Our very own rehearsal cabin at Avaloch.

Our very own rehearsal cabin at Avaloch.

We just completed our two-week residency at Avaloch Farm. It's quite an amazing place. It's the only artist colony residency offered to chamber groups in the USA. Composers, writers, and visual artists have several artist colonies or residencies available to them but performing musicians rarely get the opportunity to just practice whatever they want, whenever they want, in their own rehearsal space in a beautiful and peaceful setting. Musicians only need to cover their travel expenses and everything else is taken care of by Avaloch.

There are many groups like us whose members live far away from each other. Any time they spend together is always precious. A typical tour for us includes meeting up 3 days before, rehearsing as much as possible, then drive any number of hours to our first show. Very rarely are we offered the opportunity to get together and take some time to nurture our projects. Avaloch allowed us to take the time to rehearse, brainstorm for the future, relax, and get some administrative work in, all without the pressures of doing this on tour, or having to premiere a piece after only a couple rehearsals.

 Chef Will Gamble made us gourmet dishes for every meal, including amazing vegan creations for Meerenai.

Chef Will Gamble made us gourmet dishes for every meal, including amazing vegan creations for Meerenai.

Avaloch was conceived as an artist colony for chamber musicians modeled after the MacDowell colony by cellist Deborah Sherr and philanthropist Dr. Fred Tauber. 2014 was the second season of Avaloch Farm so the facilities were brand new and every detail was well-thought out. Every chamber ensemble has their own dedicated rehearsal space (some with excellent grand pianos). Each musician had their own room in two-bedroom suites. The basement of the living area had individual practice rooms, a small gym, and a game room with pool and ping pong tables. Three gourmet meals were prepared for us each day by resident chef Will Gamble in the amazing kitchen with its own herb garden.

 We will never forget the bottomless cookie jar and bottomless coffee carafes!

We will never forget the bottomless cookie jar and bottomless coffee carafes!

In some ways these past two weeks were the best working vacation we could imagine. We went canoeing on the lake (on the Avaloch property) with pianist Rosabel Choi and played frisbee with the Asylum Quartet.  We also played a few board games together in the main hall after day-long rehearsals and administrative meetings.

Whenever an ensemble wanted to play a short concert or try out a work in progress, we gathered in the main hall before or after dinner to listen to each other. These mini-concerts were also highlight of our stay. The other groups that were there in the first two weeks of June were as varied as you can image: Asylum Quartet (saxophone quartet), Liber Ensemble (a capella early music quartet), and pianist Rosabel Choi. Listening to these other amazing musicians and such a wide variety of musical styles was such a treat. We were honored to be in their presence and thoroughly enjoyed their company. In the evenings we shared wine together or happily kicked their butts in Taboo and Scrabble.

Performing Isla for flute, vibraphone, and live audio processing (2012) by Ian Dicke at Avaloch Farm Music Institute

Of course Meerenai had a tough time being away from her beloved Lucy. Luckily, Avaloch had a couple of “pups” around to provide some much enjoyed dog-therapy.

 Jessie

Jessie

 Meerenai and Snoozer

Meerenai and Snoozer

We are so thankful that this place exists. While here, we have learned two new pieces that we will premiere in the Fall. We also worked out all the details on three pieces that we will record this August.

 Thank you to Deb, Fred, Will, Diane, and everyone at Avaloch Farm Music Instritute!

Thank you to Deb, Fred, Will, Diane, and everyone at Avaloch Farm Music Instritute!

Show and Tell: Wintery Spring Tour 2014

The week before we started this tour, we named it "Operation Enduring Patience" but luckily, it turned out to be a pleasant (but cold) tour!

February 28-March 8

 Greater Rochester International Airport on Feb 28th.

Greater Rochester International Airport on Feb 28th.

Meerenai flew into Rochester so that we could rehearse before hitting the road for our concerts during Chris’ spring break. We worked on putting together Sol Moon Rocker, a new piece by Zack Browning. We also had a great coaching with composer Ivan Trevino on his piece Things We Dream About:

 After our coaching with Ivan Trevino.

After our coaching with Ivan Trevino.

We feared that this tour would become "Operation Enduring Patience" when we started having technical problems (again) with our midi pedals and the Max/MSP patch for Ian Dicke's piece, Isla. Luckily, with some hardware changes and some tweaking of the Max patch by Ian, we were able to get it to work again! Honestly, this piece has been really difficult to put together because the pedaling and playing is really tricky. Since we both have other pedals (Chris has the vibraphone pedal and Meerenai has her bluetooth pedal that turns pages on her iPad) and we are using midi "pedal" devices that aren't the easiest to work with, this piece takes a lot of time and patience to rehearse. We spent most of our rehearsal time for this piece trying to get the Max patch and pedals to work together. Despite the technical difficulties, we continue to perform this piece over and over again because it's an outstanding composition and it's one of our favorites. We can't thank Ian enough for his many (MANY!!) adjustments to his Max patch for our unconventional midi device setup. Thank you Ian Dicke!!

 Chris' many pedals for the Kent and Oberlin shows.

Chris' many pedals for the Kent and Oberlin shows.

We also got a really great write up in Cleveland Classical about our two shows in Ohio. Many thanks to Mike Telin for a great preview!


Sunday, March 9

Drove from Rochester to Medina, OH to stay with Meerenai’s friend, flutist Kelly Wilson (and family), for our few days in Ohio.

During our downtime at Kelly's place, Meerenai entertained herself with a toy that Kelly's kids generously shared with her:


Monday, March 10

Woke up early to get to Kent State University to load in all our instruments and get set up for student composition readings. We read about 10 compositions from Kent State students. The writing styles and length of pieces were varied. We were particularly honored to have read the first official composition written by one of the students. Reading new compositions can be sort of scary/thrilling but we did our best and had a good time. We always wish that we had more than a few seconds to take a look at the pieces before launching into a reading but we were able to let the composers get an idea of what they wrote and exchange some ideas on notation or sounds.

We had a nice break after the reading to get ready for the evening performance.  The evening performance was well-received and we were satisfied with our performance. Our program for this concert and the next one at the Oberlin Conservatory consisted of:

Echoloquacious by Matthew Joseph Payne
Things We Dream About by Ivan Trevino
Nocturne by Carolyn O’Brien
Isla by Ian Dicke
Limb by Drew Baker
Sol Moon Rocker by Zack Browning (premiered at Kent State!)

We still did most of the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) for load-in and setup, etc but we felt pampered by the assistance from the Kent State faculty, staff and students. Not only did we get a lot of help in loading instruments in and out, Tony Donofrio hung out with us for dinner, Frank Wiley took us out for drinks after the show, the percussion and composition faculty/students helped us break down out instruments and load out. Most importantly, we had 2.5 hours (such a luxury!) to set up and soundcheck for our concert.

Thank you Tony Donofrio, Frank Wiley, and Kent State University for inviting us! Thanks to everyone who came to our concert.


Tuesday, March 11

We got very lucky with the weather this day and was able to take some new photos outdoors in Cleveland. Many thanks to Yevgen Gulenko of Human Artist Photography for the beautiful photos:


Wednesday, March 12

A day of snowstorms didn’t stop us from presenting a workshop at Kendal at Oberlin called “Making Contemporary Music” organized by Larry and Arlene Dunn. We performed excerpts from Carolyn O’Brien’s Nocturne and Ian Dicke’s Isla and showed off some extended techniques and discussed notation. The participants in the workshop had excellent questions and comments which made it a lively discussion and good time.

(Click on the image below for video:)


Thursday, March 13

We had a relatively short setup and sound check period for the concert at the Oberlin Conservatory but we were able to get it done in 1.5 hours! Every piece on our program, except one, required different amplification or electronics so every piece needs to be sound checked for levels to accommodate different halls and sound systems. We don’t have a dedicated sound person or roadies, so we are doing 99% of the setting up of instruments and equipment before our shows.

 With Arlene and Larry Dunn after the concert at Oberlin Conservatory.

With Arlene and Larry Dunn after the concert at Oberlin Conservatory.

The concert at Oberlin went well too but it was a bit more taxing than the one at Kent State because we didn’t have much of a break between sound-check and the performance. A couple margaritas after the show made it all better though. Many thanks to Oberlin flute professor Alexa Still for inviting us!


Friday, March 14

We woke up early to drive to New York in time to catch a performance by Ivan Trevino’s awesome cello-rock band Break of Reality.

Our day off was spent driving 8 hours and catching a friend’s concert. And we wouldn’t change a thing!


Saturday, March 15

While in New York, we split up and stayed with different friends. Although we get along quite well spending almost 24 hours a day together while on tour, it’s good to have a little break from each other too.

Meerenai stayed with a Banglewood friend in Jersey City and continued her tradition of eating as much vegan pizza as possible while in the NYC area. Chris stayed with grad school friends in Brooklyn and caught up with some old friends around the city.

We had another gloriously long load-in and sound check period which started 3 hours before the concert at Spectrum. This time, we had to carry the vibraphone and everything else up a flight of stairs but we did it with plenty of time to spare.

This was our “Happy Hour” show. We planned a program of all LOUD music that can compete with the live music from the bar downstairs.

Program:

Flight of the Bleeper Bird by Matthew Joseph Payne
metalStaind by Adam Cuthbért
Rebonds (part A) by Iannis Xenakis
Things We Dream About by Ivan Trevino
Echoloquacious by Matthew Joseph Payne

Here's a video of Adam Cuthbért's metalStaind from this concert:


Sunday, March 16

By this time, we were eager to play our last show of the tour and get back home to our own beds. 

We were particularly thrilled that two of our composers came to this concert (again at Spectrum). Zack Browning and Drew Baker were able to speak about their pieces before we performed them.  It’s always special when the composer is present.  This was the first time that we met Zack in person too.

Photo with Drew Baker after the show (Drew Baker's Instagram photo):

Our program this night:
Sol Moon Rocker by Zack Browning
Nocturne by Carolyn O’Brien
Long Distance by Steven Snowden
Isla by Ian Dicke
Limb by Drew Baker

We even got a great review in The Flute View:

The first piece performed was entitled “Sol Moon Rocker” by composer Zack Browning, and it contained both interpolations of popular rock songs as well as some fun flute and piccolo playing. Next was Carolyn O’Brien’s piece “Nocturne,” which was by far my favorite, as it was written for the strange combination of contrabass flute and djembe. I was unsure of what contrabass flute and djembe would sound like, but Shim and Jones’ unique instruments complimented each other quite well. The high ranges of the contrabass flute and the djembe’s overtones created a multi-layered soundscape of awesomeness.
— The Flute View

We really wanted to check out the New Music Bake Sale that was also happening this day in NYC but we just didn’t have enough time! Chris had to be back at school in Rochester at 7:30am on Monday morning so we drove straight back to Rochester after the Spectrum show. We got back to Rochester at 3am and Chris made it to school on time. Meerenai flew back to sunny California on Monday afternoon.

Can’t wait for more adventures in June 2014!

3 shows, 3 cities, 7 days, 934 miles!

  Chicago -> Rochester -> Brooklyn

Chicago -> Rochester -> Brooklyn

Since we don't live in the same state or time zone, every concert is essentially a concert on tour. This time, we met in Chicago for a mini-tour.

Nov. 29 & 30 - Met each other in Chicago for a couple days of intense rehearsals.

  Got to hang out a little bit with Sean Connors of Third Coast Percussion.

Got to hang out a little bit with Sean Connors of Third Coast Percussion.

Dec. 1 - Performed with clarinetist Cory Tiffin of the Anaphora Ensemble for the third annual "Sounds of Chicago" concert at the Green Mill.

The program included premieres of:

  • Stitch by Jenna Lyle
  • Nocturne by Carolyn O'Brien
  • Limb by Drew Baker

(We got a nice review for this show from Chicago Classical Review! - "...the varied styles served as a worthy showcase for the versatility of flutist Meerenai Shim and percussionist Christopher Jones.")

Right after the concert we drove to Rochester so that Chris can get some sleep before his class at the Eastman School of Music. During the drive from Chicago to Rochester:

Dec 2 & 3 & 4 - More intense rehearsals in between Chris' coursework and teaching commitments. Lots of technology angst while trying to make a MAX patch work with the hardware we already have. A trip to Guitar Center for a hardware solution to our MAX patch problems.

  Rehearsal set up for Matthew Joseph Payne's Echoloquacious.

Rehearsal set up for Matthew Joseph Payne's Echoloquacious.

Dec 5 - Rehearsals and then our official EP release show at Eastman.

The program:

  • Echoloquacious by Matthew Joseph Payne
  • metalStaind by Adam Cuthbert
  • Isla by Ian Dicke
  • Things We Dream About by Ivan Trevino
  Chris was excited to be able to use one of Steve Gadd's drum kits for this concert at Eastman. (This is just half of our gear in the photo!)

Chris was excited to be able to use one of Steve Gadd's drum kits for this concert at Eastman. (This is just half of our gear in the photo!)

Dec 6 - Drove from Rochester to Brooklyn. First order of business when we got into town was getting some vegan pizza by the slice at Vinnie's.

Dec 7 - Slept in! Another trip to Guitar Center for drum hardware.

Averted minor disaster twice: First, realized that we left a score in Rochester (oops!) and sent a print/bind order to a local FedEx Kinkos. Then, got to Kinko's 9 minutes after it closed and almost didn't get the score...THANK YOU to the Kinko's employee who gave us a break by letting us pick up our order after closing!! 

Loaded in and performed at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music as part of the "Brooklyn's Own" series curated by Daniel Felsenfeld!

Our program:

  • Isla by Ian Dicke
  • Nocturne by Carolyn O'Brien
  • Things We Dream About by Ivan Trevino
  • metalStaind by Adam Cuthbert
  • Limb by Drew Baker
  • Echoloquacious by Matthew Joseph Payne
  Performing Carolyn O'Brien's Nocturne for contrabass flute and djembe at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. (Photo by Jennifer Justice)  

Performing Carolyn O'Brien's Nocturne for contrabass flute and djembe at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. (Photo by Jennifer Justice)
 

Thanks to everyone who came to our concerts. We look forward to more adventures in March 2014!

Feb 2013 Tour Recap

A Recap of our Mini Tour to Florida and Georgia!

(Better late than never, right?) 

 

February 14, 2013

Touring in February can be a little tricky with unpredictable weather in Chicago (where Chris currently resides) but this was the only time when we both had enough days available for a tour. Luckily, we didn't have any weather related issues!  We left our significant others at home and started our tour on Valentine's Day.  We met up at the Jacksonville airport, rented a car and headed to Rhonda Cassano's house. Rhonda was our kind host at the University of North Florida where she is also the flute professor.  Rhonda and her husband violinist Philip Pan were kind enough to let us stay with them for a night as well. 

First stop on tour: Sriracha with a side of food.

There was no time to waste on tour since we don't live near each other.  After an epic A/B Duo company meeting we went to UNF to meet with the percussion professor Charlotte Mabrey who was kind enough to allow us to use many of the school's instruments AND rehearse in the awesome UNF percussion cave. 

 

February 15, 2013 

Woke up early. Chris met an old friend for breakfast while Meerenai did a little bit of teaching. Our first performance of the tour was at Noon for the UNF music students. The energy in the audience and on the stage was amazing.  Thank you UNF for helping us start our tour with a bang! 

Energized from the first show on tour, we started the 6 hour drive to the Atlanta area where we would be staying with percussionist Caleb Herron of Chamber Cartel fame. 

Hanging out with Caleb Herron!

Driving from Jacksonville to Atlanta was mostly uneventful.  We didn't even get pulled over for speeding! :)  You might be surprised (or disappointed) in our driving music selections but we share the same taste in terrible pop music.  (Exception: Chris does not approve of Meerenai's affection towards Clay Aiken.) 

Our next show wasn't until Sunday the 17th so we spent some quality time with Caleb and pianist Amy O'Dell  (also of Chamber Cartel fame).  Some awesomely terrible Karaoke may or may not have been sung and some awesomely terrible alcohol may or may not have been consumed but we know for sure that we had a really fun time. 

 

February 16, 2013

We spent some time putting into motion the big plans that we made at the company meeting we held on the 14th.  We started contacting the 10 composers that we chose for our commissioning project. We held skype or phone meetings with the composers who were available.

 

 February 17, 2013

We packed up Caleb's truck and our car (luckily we got a free upgrade from subcompact to an SUV) with Caleb's many percussion instruments and headed to Poem88, an art gallery in Atlanta. 

Pre-concert A/B Duo face-off at Poem88.

Pre-concert A/B Duo face-off at Poem88.

The concert at Poem88 was great and we were so happy to be a part of the Chamber Cartel show that night. If you're in the Atlanta area, you should definitely check out the new music insanity offered by Chamber Cartel.  

Performing The Art of Noise at Poem88.

On tour we were performing Janice Misurell-Mitchell's piece The Art of Noise, which requires over 20 percussion instruments. Even though Chris brought his own small instruments, he had to improvise and make some changes at every venue based on which instruments were available to him. Meerenai also had to make adjustments on the fly with small complications with her electronics setups.  We learned a lot on tour and have a better game plan for the next tour!

 

February 18, 2013

We woke up too early and started the drive down to Columbus State University in Columbus, GA.  We made it to the school in time for Meerenai to teach a couple lessons while Chris checked out the percussion instruments.  Thankfully Andrée Martin and Paul Vaillancourt, flute and percussion faculty at CSU, were very organized and wonderful hosts.  We had ample rehearsal time in the beautiful Legacy Hall at CSU and all the percussion instruments were ready to go thanks to Paul and his awesome students! 

That's us!

We had a couple more Skype meetings with composers before having dinner with Andrée, Paul and their kids. By the time concert time came around, we were tired but happy. Just being on stage at Legacy Hall will make any performer happy! (It sounds just as amazing as it looks.)

 

Chris setting up for our concert at the beautiful Legacy Hall at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University.

The concert went well and we were very satisfied with our first tour. We had a great time hanging out with Andrée and Paul after the concert.  Meerenai also got to catch up with a classmate from DePaul.  Many thanks to the Vaillancourt kids for letting us take over their bedrooms for the night!

 

February 19, 2013

On our drive to the Atlanta airport we made plans for the next tour.   We were so tired but so excited. Performing and touring is what we really want to do.  We didn't even get on each other's nerves after 5 days.  

What a great experience.  We can't wait to do it again in March 2014!  Stay tuned...

After the last show of the tour.