Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

We had a great time at the James Houlik Saxophone Retreat in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.  As usual, a wonderful group of saxophonists gathered to celebrate our instrument, to grow as players, and to begin new friendships.  The concerts were terrific with our quartets and soloists playing interesting music, and playing it well.  The large ensemble, under the able baton of Jose Riojas, was killer, playing new arrangements from Jose and making that irresistible soprano to bass wall of sound.  We enjoyed a surprise visit from Branford Marsalis who was actually visiting our sister flute retreat, to coach with Stephen Preston, British baroque music expert and flute retreat faculty.  Branford made a cameo appearance performing Chick Corea’s La Fiesta with one of our student groups. It was particularly delightful to hear his beautiful soprano sound when he teamed up with Stephen Preston for a duo performance.  Marc Mellits, a composer whose music is getting a lot of attention from saxophonists, also visited the Retreat.  He spoke to us about his music and about writing for saxophone.  During his visit the premiere performance of his Octet for double saxophone quartet took place, in another solid arrangement by Jose Riojas, the piece having begun its life as a double string quartet.  The New Century Quartet played beautifully on several occasions, and I played a new arrangement, by Jose of course, of Pedro Iturralde’s Pequena Czardas, with the large ensemble, in addition to my performances with pianist Vahan Sargsyan.  Master class sessions presented fine performances of music by Ewazen, Milhaud, Decruck, and Peck, among others.  During one of our technique and topic sessions we had a visit from Dr. Lea Pearson, body mapper and musician’s health expert, for a session on breathing.  I’ve never heard this topic made clearer and I trust that we all benefitted from her important presentation.

ADDENDUM:  In my recent report on activities during the past season I neglected to report the premiere performance of “Arcadian Tone Poems” with the Duquesne University Symphony at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall last November.  This is a delightful piece and you can hear some samples of the four movements on YouTube if you’d like.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE:  Recital with panist Andrea Padova at the SlowFlute Festival in Salsomaggiore, Italy – August 8, 2014.  There is a rumor that the performance will be followed by wonderful food and wine to match  …  it is Italy after all!

I’ll report in again after Italy, and once the new school year is up and running at Duquesne.