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Georgia Chamber Music Retreat

SUBJECT: Georgia Chamber Music Retreat By: Laurie Searle (clarinet)

I wanted to share my experience attending the Georgia Chamber Music Retreat this past weekend, as it may be something members of GMG would be interested in participating at some point in the future.

The three-day Retreat is organized by Peter Hildebrandt (http://peterwh.com/gcmr.html). The 2023 retreat was held at Berry College in Rome, GA. Participants stayed in very nice dorm suites (four bedrooms, two baths, living room and kitchen in each suite). Meals were provided in the school cafeteria, and the cost was very reasonable (around $300).

Approximately 100 musicians attended including strings, winds, and pianists. Peter balances the players (so there aren’t 50 clarinetists and 2 flutists for example), so sign-up is first offered to those who have attended in the past. Peter has an extensive music library, and participants are invited to bring music as well. Participants list a piece to play on the sign up board and include the time, location and instruments required. Then other folks fill in the blanks until all parts are covered.

Pianists Gail Star and Henri Josserand from the Georgia Musicale Group attended, but we didn’t get a chance to play together. Gail said only a few pianists were able to sight read the difficult level of pieces folks brought, while other pianists brought music they had previously practiced. It’s no surprise to me that sight reading is more challenging for pianists, as I know that piano parts are 10 times more difficult that other parts in ensemble music.

I brought “Sextet for Winds and Piano,” by Bohuslav Martinu (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, 2 Bassoons & Piano), which I’ve had in my library for years but never played. When I put it on the sign up board, I had my doubts that a pianist would sign up to play it, but was delighted to see pianist Joanna Kim signed up. I had never met Joanna, but looked her up later and she teaches piano performance at North Georgia University (https://www.steinway.com/artists/joanna-kim).

As it turned out, the Martinu was a seriously beefy piece and luckily, Joanna was a seriously beefy player. She had never played the Martinu before but was able to sight read it smoothly like slicing cake with a sharp knife. Honestly, I was floored! I was especially impressed by her playing the third movement Scherzo, which was for piano and flute alone. Wow! In my next life, when I have way more time and gumption to practice and rehearse nine hours a day, I would love to work on this piece and perform it. Until then, I’m satisfied to have opportunities like these Retreats to (attempt to) read new pieces.

I think GMG members would really enjoy attending the Georgia Chamber Music retreat and the other participants would be thrilled to play music with you. I have also attended a similar retreat in Vermont, which is a week-long and a little better organized. They still had strict COVID restrictions so I didn’t attend this year, but hope to go back again. https://vermontmusicandarts.org/

Here is a recording of the Martinu if you’d like to listen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbE8taIxchU&t=763s

Regards,

Laurie

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hjosserand
hjosserand
Jun 14, 2023

Thank you very much, Laurie, for this fine summary. I will just add that Berry College is a beautiful and large expanse of nature, full of wildlife, including many very tame deer which don’t seem bothered by the presence of people on campus. Laurie is quite right about the particular challenges pianists have to face at such events! I brought a number of pieces I have worked on and was able to have delightful sessions with various flute, violin or cello players. I will have to do the same if I return next year, and will try to have a few trio or quartet piano parts somewhat ready. I will also note that all musicians at Berry College were wonderfully…

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