by Keith Northover
Greetings, and happy 2nd Anniversary to the Novacane Quartet!
As we move into our third full year, I’d like to document and celebrate our past adventures of the 2015-2016 year and look ahead to what this year has in store for the group.
In August of 2015, we successfully performed our second Cincinnati Art Museum show, celebrating music of Latin America to a crowded and sensational audience. This was our second performance at the Museum’s MUSE concert series - a series that combines the visual arts with music to create an educational, aesthetic experience.
In the Fall, we battled busy schedules, as usual - with Erik sabbatical teaching at the Governor’s School in South Carolina, Sammy and Kylie both starting their doctorates, and me finishing my DM qualification exams...but we managed to perform not one, but two great recitals. In November, we performed on my last recital at IU celebrating the history of the small clarinet ensembles. We performed music of Graupner, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Prinz, Montilla, Bernstein, and Chow. (Youtube). Then, a few weeks later, we also performed as guest performers at Ball State University Clarinet Day, hosted by Professor Elizabeth Crawford.
Additionally, it was with great excitement and celebration that we found out our founder, Erik Franklin, won a spot with the United States Army Field Band. Congrats, Erik!!!
In February of 2016, we were finally able to schedule the New Music for Clarinet Quartets concert that we had been planning for months featuring several exciting new works: a new commission by Brandon Nelson (They Who Decide Fate), the winner of our 2015 Composition Competition, Joe LoCasio (Crossroads), and a few works that earned an honorable mention, including Gary Nash’s Fortitude, Corey Rubin’s Files, Failles, Faux Femmes and Michael Kavanaugh’s Desert Storm. Putting on this concert proved to be a little challenging. Erik found out that he would have to be at Basic Training, so we would need to find a sub and rearrange some of our part assignments. Additionally, we also would need to find a suitable venue, a conductor, and a small chamber orchestra along with the time to rehearse in a busy part of the semester.
Through perseverance, determination, and a little bit of “pizza bribery”, we were able to solve all of our problems and put on a great show! We would like to again thank our friend Patrick Sikes for filling in on “tenor clarinets”, our Orchestra Director Joseph Stepec, Bob Eason our recording engineer, and the many other orchestra members who donated their time and musicianship.
In the Spring, seemingly as a celebratory gesture to Erik for completing Basic Training, we found out that we were invited to compete at the 2016 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in May. Again, despite the adversity of preparing for a major event with every one of us doing a “million things” and living in separate states, we still managed to put on quite a show, giving everything we had to offer musically at Fischoff.
We started our trek by rehearsing as soon as Erik graduated basic training, albeit rehearsals were in three’s due to our various performance obligations that usually prevented all four of us from being there together. Finally, a few weeks before the competition, we were able to all meet and start intensely working. Our repertoire included a mix of standard works we have performed often - including music of Brahms, Debussy, Chow, Prinz, and Montilla - and some new, difficult works by Tomasi, Bozza, and Connesson. In the week before we left for South Bend, Professor James Campbell offered to work with us and gave us a lot of useful information and insight into making our music something unique and solid so that we would be proper contenders.
As a first-timer in a major national music competition, Fischoff was a very interesting experience. Only 12 wind groups advanced to the quarterfinals, which were the first of a full weekend of live performances. We were last to perform on day one and our program, chosen by the judges, included excerpts from all of our standard repertoire. At dinner that evening, celebrating a great performance, we found that we indeed advanced to the semifinals and were scheduled to play third early Saturday morning! We had picked our semifinal repertoire before going to the competition, so we already knew what we were going to play, and the only new work was the challenging and fun Funk by Connesson. At the semifinal performance, we had a great run and a lot of fun performing.
Part of our experience included performing a house concert at the home of a lovely couple in South Bend. They invited many of their friends from the Synagogue to their beautiful home and had a party to end all parties - with plenty of delicious treats and beverages for all. They packed into the huge living room to hear us perform. The backdrop for our stage was a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to a giant lake! Talk about picturesque! The audience loved our music and wished us well for our final round - fingers crossed! - the next day.
Sadly though, we found out later that night at the awards social that we were not one of the three to advance to the Finals on Sunday. The finalists and winners were the WindSync (Gold) and QuinTexas (Silver) woodwind quintets and the Lineage Percussion Trio (Bronze).
Although we did not place in the finals, we feel it is still a tremendous accomplishment that we not only made it to Fischoff but also to the semifinals. In my research of the past few years, only a select number of Clarinet Quartets have ever made it to Quarterfinals at Fischoff. Bravissimo to my fellow Novacane members, and I look forward to doing even better next time!
Looking Ahead - 2016/2017
As we enter into our third year as a group, we have a lot of exciting things coming. In the next year, we plan on creating informative videos about the clarinet family and recording various pedagogical clarinet quartets. We are also currently developing and planning a tour of Indiana and several themed recitals. Lastly, we are going to reapply for various competitions and conferences to continue our goal of re-crafting the image of the “Clarinet Quartet” as a highly valued aesthetic experience. Despite any adversity and challenges we have had as a group by being separated in geography, we have always overcome and exceeded our expectations, and I look forward to see what happens next! Onward and upward, Novacane!