Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clarinetfest 2014 Part 1

On July 29th I left Ryan and the kids yet again. This time for a trip that had been planned a good year in advance - to head to Baton Rouge for the International Clarinet Association's annual Clarinetfest. The Northwest Clarinet Choir would be playing at the conference. I found it rather amusing that the first time I was attending this conference would be once I'm no longer trying to make a living in music. But I was excited because, hey, a hotel room to myself for four days and (before the unexpected Utah trip) it would be my first time away on my own since Gareth was born.

Several of us in the group were all booked on the same flight into New Orleans that day, and those of us from the same general area rode to the airport together. We got into New Orleans around 5 pm, got our luggage and our rental car and got to Baton Rouge and were checked into the hotel on LSU's campus by 7. The conference didn't start until the next day, so there wasn't much else to do aside from going to dinner. We chose to go to a restaurant just off campus, The Chimes. We delved right into the regional food, trying duck and sausage gumbo, hushpuppies, and sweet potato waffle fries. It was all delicious, but after a couple days it became very clear why this part of the nation has a serious obesity problem. Fried food everywhere. Delicious, but not very healthy. Sure, The Chimes offered a couple of vegetarian friendly options, but the one that a person in our party ordered apparently left a lot to be desired. A couple of us decided pretty quickly that we'd run to a store for food (the rooms all had fridges and microwaves) so we wouldn't have to eat fried food every meal of every day.

Registration for the conference started Wednesday morning, but events didn't start until noon. After getting registered I went with our Eb player to do a little sightseeing in the morning - the Old State Capitol.

Old State Capitol exterior

When you enter you find yourself facing this spiral staircase

View above the staircase

The State Senate Chamber
They also have the USS Kidd, the new state capitol and a few other sightseeing things in the same general area, but our Eb player has been having some health issues and neither of us wanted to push her too much. So after a thorough self-tour of the old capitol we headed to a grocery store and then back to the hotel.

The first item on my agenda at the conference was a lecture by a former member of our group on Burnet Tuthill and a performance by our director of Tuthill's Clarinet Quintet. Tuthill's father was the architect of Carnegie Hall and Tuthill eventually became an influential music educator in the south, as well as a composer. The performance by my director/teacher was excellent (I don't often get to hear him play while not also playing myself). Afterward I went to another hall to listen to a couple of clarinet choirs. Unfortunately, only one of the two choirs slated to perform actually did. Sadly, some members of the Baylor University choir were in a car accident on their way to the conference, leaving 2 dead and 2 seriously injured, so their choir did not perform.

At this point I was getting a bit nervous about how my reeds would perform in the drastically different climate, so I opted to skip the early evening performances and lectures and head to my room to try out reeds. I ended up resorting to an old, soft reed because everything that had played wonderfully in Seattle now sounded like it had a layer of fuzz over it. Several of us went out to dinner together at a diner across the street from The Chimes where we ate more unhealthy food, and then we headed back to campus for the evening concert, which was filled with amazing performances by well-known artists. The Finzi concerto was delightful to listen to (I've never heard it live before) and I enjoyed the Penderecki as well. Black Dog isn't really something I aspire to play, but I definitely recognize what a difficult piece it would be, and it seemed to be well-done. Overall, just so much fun to end the day by sitting and listening to a couple hours of superb clarinet playing.

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