On Seeing Sound and Hearing Color
When I finished the painting featured on the program cover a few years ago it was not one that I’d considered selling. It was created, not as a representation of a specific place, but as a composite of what I call “memory pictures” which, in this case, brought me back to Vermont and its place of profound influence in my creative development, first as a musician and recently as an artist. That Morris Rowell wanted it in his home for his family and members of the Craftsbury Chamber Players to enjoy is personally humbling and deeply meaningful.
Though my career as a flutist was mostly centered in and around Philadelphia, it was in New England, particularly Vermont, that I grew as a musician; first as a student of legendary flutist and teacher Marcel Moyse in Brattleboro, and later with the Craftsbury Chamber Players with whom I performed for over four decades.
As a young professional in the late 1960s, I made a personal vow to drive north from Philadelphia as often as possible for three-hour lessons with Moyse. Then in his eighties, armed with his pipe and glass of Pernod, he encouraged me with his unrelenting command to “GEEV LIFE!” and “COULOR ZEE SOUND!” Following one of these very intense lessons, I needed a ‘drive-about’! I headed north. And, I got lost. Turning into a realtor’s office for directions, I was informed that I had arrived in the Northeast Kingdom. Indeed I had! And there in that office I saw it: a Craftsbury Chamber Players brochure.
A few months later, following a performance in Allentown, PA, a woman approached me and introduced herself. It was Ann Rylands, one of the co-founders of the CCP, inviting me to play with them that summer. That was the beginning, and what an honor it has been to play here with this group, some of the finest musicians in the country. It was here that I learned the art of intuitive listening, the language of musical intimacy and transparency, and the dynamic of instinctive collaboration and flexibility—particularly in performance. (There is no mediator there on a podium!)
I cherish a memory of one of the last times I was to play with Mary Anthony, neither of us knowing just how extraordinary this performance was to be. It was an unusually lovely Vermont evening. The doors and windows of the Hardwick Town House were flung wide and a breeze was flowing gently through the hall.
We were playing Henri Dutilleux’s ‘Sonatine’, a duo for flute and piano. When I began the solo cadenza in the middle of the piece I was joined by a full-throated mockingbird singing straight from its heart (his intonation was quite fine) and this bird had no intention of stopping. Time was suspended. In a collective moment of awe the flute and bird sang together accompanied by a chorus of “Oh-h-h-hs“ rising from the audience. Then, perfectly aligned with the piano’s entrance, …….Silence…….! There could be no greater example of collective musical collaboration!
What a glorious four-decade-long song it has been for me, playing with gifted like-minded colleagues and gracious friends. Together I do believe we did “Geev life and coulor to zee sound” and made a very joyful noise as well. I shall always be grateful.