Q&A: One-on-one with ALIAS’ multi-instrumentalist, Roger Wiesmeyer

From the English horn to the oboe to the piano to the harpsichord, Roger Wiesmeyer’s multi-instrumental talents are in high demand both at the Nashville Symphony and at ALIAS Chamber Ensemble. And when he’s not performing with ALIAS or the Symphony, he volunteers his talents for multiple benefit performances, including a recent concert celebrating Mozart’s birthday at Edgehill United Methodist Church, where he had the opportunity to play his first Mozart piano concerto.

Roger recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his upcoming World Premiere performance at the Winter concert.

Why are you so excited about this year’s Winter concert on February 16th?

I’m excited to premiere “The Sonata for Oboe and Piano” by composer John Marvin. It’s a marvelous piece. I’ve known John for several years. I participated in another premiere piece for him and he writes beautiful music. He’s a former oboist and he really understands the instrument and its special characteristics and abilities. In addition to his technical mastery, he “spins a tale”. He has a narrative gift that leads the listener, really takes them on a journey.

What instrument will you play in the piece? What’s the most challenging part about the Sonata?

I’m playing the oboe for the World Premiere, and I’m playing piano for another piece that I played with Zeneba at our first ALIAS concert, Henry Cowell’s “Homage to Iran”. Cowell’s piece is for piano, violin and drum, and it’s also a marvelous piece. I mean how often do you hear of a piece for piano, violin and the drum? It has a sophisticated primitivism.

The most challenging part of the premiere is that it includes both oboe parts and piano parts that have lots of notes that weave this very expressive musical fabric. The pianist and I are learning the notes as individuals. Learning how they fit together is what we spend our rehearsals doing. It is very sophisticated writing and at the same time speaks directly to the listener. I’m very lucky to be playing with a fantastic pianist, Arunesch Nadjir. We’re having a wonderful time playing together.

Is there a bit more pressure to excel at this performance, knowing you’re the co-star in John Marvin’s new World Premiere?

No, not at all. I embrace and I love playing great music. It doesn’t matter if it is someone who wrote the piece yesterday or 100 years ago. It’s great music and it’s fun to do. This is especially the case in a situation like ALIAS, where Zeneba lets us put it together, so we don’t have the added pressure to make someone else’s musical ideas sound good. These are our ideas and it’s easier to sound convincing if I feel a sense of ownership.

The proceeds from the February 16th Winter concert will go to Park Center in Nashville. Why is this non-profit partnership special to you?

Park Center is a day drop-in facility for adults with mental and emotional issues and the Nashville Symphony has an on-going relationship with them. I frequently play piano for the members if I want to “warm up” a program. I love the staff and the members there. They are so welcoming and enthusiastic and are so in touch with their feelings that the music brings up for them. It is really one of the great joys of my life to share music with them.

What future projects are in the works for you and ALIAS?

I am always at Zen’s beck and call for whatever she envisions for the group. She has the vision thing going on! I just sit back and enjoy the ride…