Posts tagged motown project

Curiously enough, the atmosphere of tension and excitement is favorable to a good performance. -Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years

Luckily, tension and excitement abounded this week in my Philadelphia debut. Aside from having two concerts with completely different music, I also had to finish up my teaching for the semester, attend my wife’s ordination in Long Island, and prepare for our move to Manhattan this month! Tension and excitement indeed…

This time, the Fates brought me to West Chester University for another iteration of Alicia Hall Moran’s “Motown Project,” a highly original fusion of classical and Motown music that examines race and class vis-a-vis the American experience. The concert was for the West Chester Poetry Conference, one of the largest of its kind in the country. It was a multi-day affair and we closed out the week’s events. It’s an honor whenever I am surrounded by such talented musicians, and I can earnestly say that we really turned it on and ended up performing a truly unique, artistic, and downright moving set. The standing ovation we received was a welcome acknowledgement of our sweat (must have been 80 degrees in the theater at one point!), and it was a blast.  

The next concert was a solo recital for Church of the Holy Trinity in the heart of Rittenhouse Square -the main park area in Philadelphia. It was in an absolutely gorgeous church sanctuary with unbelievable acoustics for guitar. For the first time in my life, I found myself in the rare predicament of actually having too MUCH music prepared for a recital. But, I feel that I’ve finally found a set of music that truly speaks to me on an emotional level, and this allowed me to fully “let go” and focus solely on expressing my love for these pieces. In short, I felt really “on” that day and was completely immersed in the moment. It’s a spectacular feeling. The audience was right there with me and it was a genuine pleasure to share an afternoon of art-making with everyone in that space.

Thank you Philly for such a warm welcome, you’ve won me over. Video from the recital will be coming in the next few weeks. Let me know what you think by clicking on the URL link below. -Thomas


The performances had a certain cliff-hanging quality which you wouldn’t normally get in rehearsed, or even over-rehearsed, performances. I mean, we were actually sitting on the edge of our seats, watching each other like hawks. But that’s what I reckon to be real music making. -Julian Bream: A Life on the Road

This week had me playing in two huge concerts and I must say I’ve had an absolute blast despite all of the stress and hard work. I’m becoming addicted to these unfamiliar musical situations and opportunities to play with other people from the wider non-classical guitar music scene.

The first concert was a fundraiser for the Music Conservatory of Westchester, where I teach. The dean, Jean Newton, invited me to perform with fellow faculty and virtuoso flutist Stefani Starin for roughly 30 highly accomplished people and trustees. After settling on some appropriate repertoire we were able to put on a really enjoyable and balanced evening of music, with Jean and Stefani playing a lovely Bach sonata in between. What was most enjoyable for me though was the set of Brazilian choros we ended with, that had a sort of free and improvised aspect to them that had the audience actually laughing aloud- in a good way! I’d never performed choros before and it was a great experience to play that music and be right there with the audience. 

The next concert was at the renowned Le Poisson Rouge in NYC with the phenomenal singer and composer Alicia Hall Moran and her Motown Project ensemble. One of the greatest things about this project is that it forces one to be creative, spontaneous, and able to make something new every performance rather than simply going and playing your allotted notes at your designated time and calling it a day. There’s room to express oneself, linger, improvise, and genuinely surprise each other. Of course, that sort of spontaneity initially can be terrifying shocking for a classical player, but the fusion of classical lines with Motown and jazz improvisation led to several profound and extremely unique moments of music making and spontaneous audience clapping-along that made it all worthwhile.

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