The Music Alliance Project

Monday, February 10, 2020

Pianist Chase Morrin and vocalist Cordelia Tapping, a duo whose lives are both rooted in jazz-based improvisation, and also deeply tied to classical music communities, have established The Music Alliance Project, an ensemble of ever-shifting membership that crosses the perceived boundaries that often separate jazz and classical idioms. Together with Rosie Gallagher (flute), cellist John Myerscough (cello), and Charles Overton (harp), their Artist Residency will explore ways of embracing the commonalities between improvised, free-form music, and music that has been notated for performance. 

The Music Alliance Project aims to bring classical and jazz musicians together in a comprehensive and experiential way. Chase says about the project:

There are many musicians and composers who have crossed the boundaries of jazz and classical idioms; nevertheless, the communities at large remain distinct and separate. Young classical musicians rarely learn how to improvise and create spontaneous music, and jazz musicians rarely play chamber music and learn from the classical pedagogy. Those who are interested in the other world tend to meet barriers within institutions or struggle with current teaching methodologies that emphasize awareness over immersion. Classical musicians who want to learn how to improvise are often scared, and jazz musicians are often left unaware of the full context and tools within the classical aesthetic. This project shows the potential there is for collaboration and understanding between the classical and jazz communities. An ideal world would shed labels and allow musicians to explore all facets of musical experience in a rich way.

During their week at Yellow Barn, the five resident artists will immerse themselves in collaboration, and ultimately present their work in their residency concert. This free performance will take place on Thursday, February 20 at Next Stage. Following the performance, audience members will be invited to ask questions and offer their observations, a critical component of all Yellow Barn Artist Residency events.

Left to Right: Cordelia Tapping, Chase Morrin, Rosie Gallager, John Myerscough, and Charles Overton

View the complete season of Artist Residencies

Duo-ING returns to Yellow Barn

Monday, February 10, 2020

This February, alumni Ying Xue (violin, 2006, 2007, 2010) and Qing Jiang (piano, 2011-2013) return to Yellow Barn to further explore and perform a program inspired by the spirit of Yellow Barn. Their residency will include two performances. The premiere will take place in Putney on February 23rd, followed by a second performance at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York on February 24th.

"Ying and I spent several summers at Yellow Barn when we were students at New England Conservatory. It was a magical place allowing each of us to connect to our inner-self and to one another while adventuring in music that are often centuries apart. Coming back to Yellow Barn through the Artist Residency helped us reconnect to that immersive experience," says Qing.

The two musicians returned to Yellow Barn last year to formalize their partnership as Duo-ING and begin developing their program, entitled Refractions, which includes the world premiere of a new work by Daniel Temkin, plus additiona works written over the past decade by Tonia Ko, Eric Nathan, and Sean Shepherd, together with sonatas by J.S. Bach and Maurice Ravel.

Ying Xue (left) and Qing Jiang (right) rehearse during their artist residency in February 2019

When we co-curated the "Refractions" project with Daniel Temkin, one of the composers on the program, we felt there was an important arch here— the ideas of old works resurfacing in newer pieces and back again. Looking at our own artistic journey at Yellow Barn, we feel our musical lives also mirror this thematic element, as we are coming back to Yellow Barn and finding connections we first experienced deeply many years ago as students. It all flows together in a larger continuum of musical expression and life experience. One of our other project collaborators, composer Eric Nathan, echoed this sentiment. He mentioned how his work on the program, DUO, was first premiered at Yellow Barn in 2013, and how exciting it was to see it coming back to Putney.

Audience members are invited to ask the duo about their work and share their experiences during a post-concert discussion with the artists, moderated by Artistic Director Seth Knopp.

View the complete season of Artist Residencies

Who is the other Mozart?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Nannerl Mozart was a child prodigy like her brother Wolfgang Amadeus, but her musical career came to an end when she was 18. A one-woman play puts her back on the stage. In September 2015, on the occasion of the 100th performance of her play The Other Mozart, actress Sylvia Milo writes about her inspiration and process. On June 26, 2020, Yellow Barn brings The Other Mozart to Putney, Vermont. (This article first appeared in The Guardian on September 8, 2015.)

"I am writing to you with an erection on my head and I am very much afraid of burning my hair”, wrote Nannerl Mozart to her brother Wolfgang Amadeus. What was being erected was a large hairdo on top of Nannerl’s head, as she prepared to pose for the Mozart family portrait.

It was that hairdo that drew my attention. Nine years ago I was visiting Vienna for the 250th birthday celebrations of Wolfgang Amadeus, and I was thrilled to explore the city following in Wolfi’s footsteps, many of which turned out to be Nannerl’s as well. At the Mozarthaus Vienna – Wolfgang’s apartment – on the exit wall, as if by an afterthought, there was a little copy of the Mozart family portrait. I saw a woman seated at the harpsichord next to Wolfgang, their hands intertwined, playing together. I grew up studying to become a violinist. Neither my music history nor my repertoire included any female composers. With my braided hair I was called “little Mozart” by my violin teacher, but he meant Wolfi. I never heard that Amadeus had a sister. I never heard of Nannerl Mozart until I saw that family portrait.

I was intrigued and determined to find out more. I read Wolfgang Mozart biographies, studied the situation of women and female artists during Mozarts’ time and in different countries, read writings of Enlightenment philosophers, conduct manuals … But the richest source of information came from the Mozart family letters. There are hundreds, and we have them because Nannerl preserved them. Most are written by Leopold and Wolfgang but some of Nannerl’s letters survived as well. Through these letters, sometimes only from the replies to her lost letters, Nannerl slowly emerged. I was able to understand the Mozarts as people, as a family, and through the lens of the times and the social situation in which they lived. I saw Nannerl’s potential, her dreams, her strength, grace and her fight.

Maria Anna (called Marianne and nicknamed Nannerl) was – like her younger brother – a child prodigy. The children toured most of Europe (including an 18-month stay in London in 1764-5) performing together as “wunderkinder”. There are contemporaneous reviews praising Nannerl, and she was even billed first. Until she turned 18. A little girl could perform and tour, but a woman doing so risked her reputation. And so she was left behind in Salzburg, and her father only took Wolfgang on their next journeys around the courts of Europe. Nannerl never toured again.

But the woman I found did not give up. She wrote music and sent at least one composition to Wolfgang and Papa – Wolfgang praised it as “beautiful” and encouraged her to write more. Her father didn’t, as far as we know, say anything about it.

Did she stop? None of her music has survived. Perhaps she never showed it to anybody again, perhaps she destroyed it, maybe we will find it one day, maybe we already did but it’s wrongly attributed to her brother’s hand. Composing or performing music was not encouraged for women of her time. Wolfgang repeatedly wrote that nobody played his keyboard music as well as she could, and Leopold described her as “one of the most skilful players in Europe”, with “perfect insight into harmony and modulations” and that she improvises “so successfully that you would be astounded”.

Like Virginia Woolf’s imagined Shakespeare’s sister, Nannerl was not given the opportunity to thrive. And what she did create was not valued or preserved – most female composers from the past have been forgotten, their music lost or gathering dust in libraries. We will never know what could have been, and this is our loss.

Director Isaac Byrne and I searched for the ghost of Nannerl, and the story she needed to tell in my one-woman play. Period-style movement transports us to the Mozarts’ time using delicate gestures, court bows and curtsies, and the language of fans.

To create the 18th-century world of opulence and of restriction, the set became an enormous dress which spills over the entire stage (designed by Magdalena Dabrowska), with a corset/panniers cage on top. Finally the hair stands as tall as Nannerl’s, after we found the right hairspray to hold it all up-up-up – and yes, it is all my own hair.

Creating music for the show was down to two composers, Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen, who chose, rather than to try to re-create Nannerl’s compositions, to portray her musical imagination, using the sounds she would have had in her ears: the fluttering of fans, tea cups, music boxes, bells, clavichords.

I’ve been touring The Other Mozart for the last two years: this month marks its 100th performance, how fitting that it will take place just a few steps away from where Nannerl performed in London as a girl.

It has been a long journey to bring Nannerl back to England after an absence of 250 years. I sometimes feel like Leopold Mozart – on a quest to show the world this brilliant Mozart.

Following The WholeHearted Musician

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dana Fonteneau and the Argus and Omer Quartets reflect on their WholeHearted Musician Artist Residency, and talk about their upcoming projects:

Dana Fonteneau

Post Yellow Barn residency, I immediately went to New York City where I facilitated career development interviews for the finalists of the Concert Artists Guild Competition. I also served on the jury for the final round of the competition.

On Saturday, November 2, I will be doing a live webinar interview for the Andover Educators Association.

In January, I will be giving three presentations at the Associaton for Performing Arts Professionals Conference in New York, as well as a presentation at the Juilliard School and career consulting at the Chamber Music America Conference.

Finally, I am going through the results of the residency and will be working on both a book and a possible promotional video about the work and results.

Argus Quartet

Since our Yellow Barn residency, Argus has been back in New York feeling invigorated, fueled, and inspired by our work with Dana. Our awareness and intention in rehearsals and performances has felt markedly different, and we’ve been eagerly trying new techniques to heighten our connections between us and with our audiences. We had three major concerts in October—in New York at Schneider Concerts, in Cedar Falls at the University of Northern Iowa, and in Syracuse at the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music. In November, we will give the premiere of a new work written for us by Shuying Li (commissioned by the Composers’ Guild of New Jersey) and we’ll play three shows in New York City and Philadelphia with the incredible rapper, singer, and writer Dessa, celebrating the release of her latest album. Not a moment has gone by—onstage or off—that we haven’t felt the influence of our work at Yellow Barn under Dana’s loving guidance, and we’re excited to keep watering the seeds of this work in the coming weeks and months.

Omer Quartet

Since our time at the WholeHearted Musician residency, we have been applying so many of the tools Dana shared with us in our daily lives as individuals and as a team. We challenge ourselves through organization, connection, accountability and intention. We cannot thank Dana Fonteneau, Yellow Barn and the Argus Quartet enough for making our time there so fruitful and memorable! Upcoming concerts include performances at Carnegie Hall, Sprague Hall at the Yale School of Music, Valley Classical Concerts, and Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center.

50 Years of Musical Collaboration and Learning

Friday, September 6, 2019

Earlier this summer, Howard Weiss-Tisman, reporter for Vermont Public Radio, wrote this story commemorating Yellow Barn's 50th anniversary.

▶️ Listen to the story as it was broadcast on July 23, 2019

(Howard Weiss-Tisman/VPR)

The Yellow Barn music festival in Putney is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Back in 1969, local resident David Wells was a professor at the Manhattan School of Music. He invited a group of his students up to his place in Vermont to enjoy the summer, eat some good food and explore classical chamber music.

Wells and his wife, Janet, introduced the students to the community. In return, Putney embraced the idea of having young musicians from around the world in their small town. Neighbors cooked potluck meals, they put up some of the students, and throughout the summer they would gather inside the yellow barn for a night of chamber music.

Wells died in 2012, but musicians from around the world are still coming to Putney every summer to play music at Yellow Barn.

"This is home — and that's what's always been remarkable about Yellow Barn," said Catherine Stephan, the current executive director of Yellow Barn. 

Stephan first came up to play music at Yellow Barn 25 years ago when she was a 20-year-old cellist; then 10 years ago, she came back and became executive director.

"None of it would be what it is without the love that David and Janet brought to Yellow Barn and brought into this room," she said. "They brought out the best in every single one of us."

(Howard Weiss-Tisman/VPR)

Wells continued to invite students up every summer. The festival grew, in both size and prominence, and eventually invitations went out to young musicians who weren't only working with Wells.

In 2002, a new barn was built just up the road. That's where, on a recent afternoon, an ensemble was practicing for a special program commemorating the Yellow Barn's 50th anniversary.

In the summer of 1969, the students at Yellow Barn gathered to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. This summer, Yellow Barn put together a night of classical and contemporary moon music — including a piece by composer Arnold Schoenberg from the early 20th century: "Pierrot in the Moonlight."

Auditions for this year were held at 50 sites around the world, and more than 500 people auditioned for about 40 slots in the 2019 summer program.

Yellow Barn artistic director Seth Knopp said even though Yellow Barn has grown, that original idea of having musicians come up to Vermont to teach, learn, and share their talents and love of music, is what drives the audition process.

"David wanted to work with his students and have them improve over the summer. And that's the thing that I wanted to protect more than anything else," Knopp said. "It's not so much a matter of, you know, showing their wares or their terrific playing. You know, everyone here I feel has the means to grow. They have the means to do meaningful searching in music."

Anthony Marwood has been coming to Yellow Barn as a faculty member since 2000. Marwood performs around the world, and last year was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II for his work.

He said he makes time in his schedule every year to spend a few weeks in Putney to slow down, spend time with the music, and to teach young musicians and to learn from them. When he leaves Putney each year, Marwood said he tries to hold on to all of that for as long as he can.

"The world is a very strange and peculiar place at the moment, I feel. And there's ... a lot of focus on what is troubling, and I feel personally there is a lot to be troubled by," Marwood said. "So it's very important in one's life to actually go the other way and to be engaged with something that really feels enormously positive. I mean, to put it bluntly, working with these young players gives one really great hope for the future. And that's a very valuable resource for us all right now."

There are Yellow Barn concerts and events in Putney into the first week of August, including a special 50th anniversary gala celebration on Aug. 3. That will take place at the original yellow barn near the home of David and Janet Wells.

Reflections on Reflections

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Percussionists Ayano Kataoka, Eduardo Leandro, and Sam Seyong Um discuss Jacob Druckman's Reflections on the Nature of Water, as well as their unique performance of it which will take place Tuesday, July 23.

Read the program note for Reflections on the Nature of Water.