Spring is in the Air, Including Two New ALIAS World Premieres

2013 Spring concert banner

ALIAS’s cellist Matthew Walker and violist Chris Farrell have a lot to be excited about this Spring. On May 22nd, they’ll each be introducing their World Premiere compositions. Both Matt and Chris took a few minutes to tell us why they’re so excited about ALIAS’s season-closing performance.

Q: Matt, tell us about your World Premiere. What excites you the most about this piece?

Matt: I wrote it for a friend, Joe Johnson, who is the principal cellist in Toronto. It was performed as an encore by Joe and Yo-Yo Ma, hence the name, Yo-Yo Joe for two cellos. They played about half of it. Now I get to play it in its entirety. I like to joke that if they had played it fast enough, I wouldn’t have had to shorten it!

Like a lot of the pieces I write, this one has sort of a Latin jazz feel with some blues thrown in. It’s pretty characteristic of how I compose. I love this piece because the idea of Yo-Yo Ma playing anything of mine is kind of fun. It’s a fairly short piece that’s very light and fun, with a little improvisation thrown in there.

Sari DeLeon Reist will be playing the piece with me. She’s a great cellist and a terrific musician. I enjoy playing with her, because in addition to being a great classical performer, she has a good feel for non-classical style like jazz and blues, so we’re having a good time playing it.

Q: What else do we have to look forward to at the Spring concert?

Matt: There will be a lot of variety in this program, including works by Michael Daugherty and Sebastian Currier – a violin/harp duo, and Peter Schickele’s Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, which ALIAS performed at the historic Schubert Club in St. Paul.

And of course we will be featuring another World Premiere by violist Chris Farrell, String Quartet No. 1. We played a small portion of it at last year’s Arts & Flowers and it will be featured in some of our Education and Community Program (ECP) performances this year.

Q: Chris, tell us more about your World Premiere.

Chris: String Quartet No. 1 is my first multi-movement piece of music. I‘ve written some smaller pieces, but I have to say it’s a pretty accessible piece. What I mean by “accessible” is that it is a little more traditional than some of the more modern pieces I’ve played with ALIAS. This piece will show my love for Brahms. But what it will really show is something I wanted to hear in a piece that isn’t being heard by most audiences. At the same time it is something I wanted to listen to, and that hopefully other audiences will want to hear.

Q: What sparked the idea behind this piece?

Chris: It started as an experiment, where I started writing the second slow movement first. I wanted to write something that was thick. That is, there are only four players, but it’s written in a way that it sounds like a lot more than four players. You can’t just start out with a bunch of notes. There needs to be contrast when you add another player and another idea.

I brought in half of the second movement to an ALIAS rehearsal. After Matt and the rest of the group played it, I decided I could work with it. That summer I wrote another movement I thought I could pair with it.

Basically, I took a melody from the slow movement and put it into the last movement. Then I thought I was finished, and I started another quartet piece. But before I knew I knew it, I had written the first movement, so I sort of did it in reverse.

Q: Are you just a bit nervous about performing a World Premiere?

Chris: Performing a World Premiere is a little intimidating because Matt’s already performed his own Premieres and he’s such a great composer. And of course you sort of just put yourself out there for potential criticism. But I tried to compose this piece while thinking in terms of the listener. I didn’t want it too extended. I think it’s accessible.

Q: Matt, the Winter ALIAS concert was almost a full house. Why do you think the ALIAS concerts have become increasingly popular?

Matt: I think it’s because our concerts are always so varied. We don’t usually have a theme, other than we’re all playing music that we love to play. The intent is if musicians are doing something they really love, that enthusiasm will carry over to the audience. It’s rare that someone comes to one of our concerts and doesn’t like at least something we’re playing. It’s a pretty safe bet you’re going to enjoy something, if not everything.

And I think our nonprofit partners contribute supporters to our audience. Our nonprofit partners are keeping 100 percent of the ticket sales, so they really do a great job of getting the word out for each concert. It’s really a great partnership that brings in a diverse audience.

ALIAS Spring Concert
Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 8 p.m.
Turner Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University
Visit TicketLeap for more ticket information.
• Sebastian Currier – Night Time for harp and violin (1998)
• Matt Walker – Yo-Yo Joe for two cellos (2012) *World Premiere*
• Michael Daugherty – Diamond in the Rough for violin, viola and percussion (2006)
• Chris Farrell – String Quartet No. 1 (2012) *World Premiere*
• Peter Schickele – Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1983)
• Nonprofit partner: Moves and Grooves – www.movesandgrooves.org