BRUSH STROKES from Athenia Trio features works for flute, oboe, and bassoon. The program harnesses the impressive versatility of the trio, with six pieces by six different composers, including two commissioned specially for the ensemble: Alyssa Morris’s Brush Strokes, and Robbie McCarthy’s The Blind Men and the Elephant.
Today, members of Athenia Trio are our featured artists in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover more on the musicians behind the collaboration from bassoonist Matthew Morris and oboist Michele Fiala…
What does this album mean to you personally?
Michele: This album is music that I love made with people I love. It was truly a pleasure making music with my colleagues. We came together because we enjoy each other so much. We had the pleasure of commissioning two works on the recording (by Alyssa Morris and Robbie McCarthy) and we had fun discovering all of the other works, which we had not heard before we found the sheet music. We felt like we “owned” these pieces after working to bring them off of the page.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
Michele: I would like for the audiences to feel how much we enjoy performing together. I would like to take them through the entire gamut of emotions: the playfulness of the McCarthy, the dance-like nature of the Grau, the washes of color in the Morris, the rhythmic drive of Thompson and Larsen, and the touching, lyrical moments in each work.
What was your most unusual performance?
Matthew: Playing outdoors is always a challenge. Temperature can create interesting circumstances: music wilts, you’re awash with… yourself… your clothes are soaked, glasses are fogged up, and you learn that your super responsive instrument is responsive to… everything. But I’ll have to say that it was that one summer on the grounds of Ash Lawn Highlands, during the summer Opera that holds a special place in my heart.
Two words… Outdoor Opera.
It was a year of the Cicadas… we’re talking biblical proportions. So, here you are, sweating, Peacocks chiming in during a wonderful duet from La Nozza de Figarro… We hear the words “the breeze gently blowing,” while our own surroundings were more like a sauna. We’re focused on the conductor (opera is a dynamic environment, you’re like a musical Ninja, ready to pounce on the next flutter of an eyelash, spasm of the baton, we’re trying to make Art in a war zone!)
And then the dive bombers arrive, insects the size of your thumb, whiz by your head. Just as you’re thinking “whew, missed that one”…thump!, it hits you in the head! You gather yourself, check back in through the haze of moisture, to focus on the conductor and then all of the sudden “ERRRKKKK!!” happens all around you. Now it turns into RiverDance in the pit as you, and your fellow artists, begin stamping wildly, desperately trying to hit the snooze button on the little alarm clocks being thrown in the pit and the conductor is, herself, dodging the beasts, twitching. All the while you’re dreaming of the calm and serenity of …..I don’t know, a firing squad… fun times…..
When did you know you wanted to be an Artist?
Matthew: I’m pretty sure I was a very goofy kid. But something amazing happened when I listened to music! All of the distraction and fog lifted and I entered a world where I spoke the language and understood the message. It was the days when the Country Doctor would come by the house when folks were sick and see us through the rough stuff.
According to my mother the Doctor would enter the house on one of these visits, see me in my usual spot, parked in front of the stereo rocking away in my pint-sized rocking chair, oblivious to the rest of the world. As she tells it, he looked at her and said, “He hears something that we don’t.” Mom says he could see that music spoke to me with a clarity and depth that nothing else had.
I guess it was and has been the conversation of my life.