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.
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.
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.
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.
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.