April 29, 2017
I have just returned from a ten day trip to San Fransisco, California where I was working on guitar duo project with Aleksandr Tsiboulski. As I’m based in London and Alex is in Adelaide, we thought California would be a mutually inconvenient place for us to put our heads down for a week and prepare a concert program for a performance and recording. We have a remarkably similar background so forming this ensemble was an obvious choice. We are both from the former Soviet Union, both grew up in Adelaide, started guitar lessons with Andras Tuske, studied at Marryatville High School, studied in Canberra with Tim Kain, and both moved overseas for postgrad. Although we’ve known one another for years this was our first experience working as an ensemble. I found it particularly interesting hearing Alex so closely across a variety of repertoire, playing familiar music, sight reading, recording, performing, and enjoyed the subtleties of his taste and application of ideas that he used to teach me as a student. He was passionate about widening our range of expressive nuance, exploring bigger & brasher sounds, more spontaneity with tempi and dynamics, and seeking to keep the audience on their toes. For this program we eventually settled on two Keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, Joaquin Rodrigo’s Tonadilla, Philip Houghton’s Three Duets and Wave Radiance, Marco Pereira’s Circle of Strings, Doug de Vris’s The Hummingbird (and famous Cardoso Milonga as an encore).
We left USA with a new concert program under our belts, a video recording of the show, and strengthened friendships in San Fransisco. We’re planning our next concert series for March 2018.
I thought I would briefly share some thoughts that emerged from trying to organise this across continents. There might be something helpful here for anyone else attempting a similar project.
1. Regular communication before the meeting itself is crucial! Since face-to-face rehearsal time is so limited and the concert dates are fixed, it is important to focus the time you have on the ground on actually play together (rather than discussing admin details etc). This also helps to encourage one another to go the extra mile in individual prep.
2. Taking time to talk about your vision for the repertoire/ensemble well in advance. Perhaps set up a spreadsheet on the cloud where you can track repertoire ideas, try to listen broadly, and have time to refine your shortlist. It is very powerful when both players are equally one board with the repertoire.
3. Discuss performance details in advance to reduce stress on the ground. For example, what to wear, how to arrange sheet music (loose sheets, on backboards, Ipad etc.), talking between pieces, using a tuner on stage etc. I didn’t organise my music in advance and it meant we lost some crucial practice time in the finals days while I was rushing about trying to find a photocopier, sticky tape and cardboard.
Do you have any experiences with long distance ensembles? Do share your thoughts below!