Writ­ten by Lau­ren Car­rane

Yuan-Qing Yu, Wei Jing Wang, Ken­neth Olsen, and Lawrie Bloom per­form­ing Hummel’s Clar­inet Quar­tet

On May 23, we had the priv­i­lege of play­ing a live per­for­mance on Chicago’s clas­si­cal radio sta­tion as part of its week­ly series, Live From WFMT.

Even though we’ve per­formed on WFMT before, it is still excit­ing and a bit stress­ful each time because it’s live — we know we only have one chance to get it right!

This time, we decid­ed to play three pieces that were part of our reper­toire this past sea­son — Johann Nepo­muk Hummel’s Clar­inet Quar­tet in E-flat Major, Robert Mucyznski’s Fan­ta­sy Trio, and Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major. And, because Hummel’s Clar­inet Quar­tet requires a vio­la, we invit­ed vio­list Wei Jing Wang from the Chica­go Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra to join us.

The record­ing stu­dio at WFMT is a rather large room with hard­wood floors and a grand piano. There are win­dows on two of the walls that look into the engi­neer­ing stu­dios where all of the mag­ic is made.

When we arrived at the stu­dio, our chairs were arranged in a small semi-cir­cle, with sev­er­al micro­phones on tall stands point­ing down at us. There were also two micro­phones set up inside the piano to be able to cap­ture every note of Win­ston Choi’s play­ing. Yel­low and green wires snaked from the micro­phones along the floor, so one had to be very care­ful not to trip!

In the cor­ner, three more chairs were set up in front of larg­er micro­phones where host Ker­ry Frumkin was going to inter­view us in between pieces.

We rehearsed for a bit, and then about 15 min­utes before we were sched­uled to go on air, a few guests arrived to be our in-stu­dio audi­ence. They grabbed chairs and lined them up against the wall, eager for the con­cert to begin.

Just before we were about to go live on air, the show’s host, Ker­ry Frumkin, gave us and the audi­ence a few last-minute

Host Ker­ry Frump­kin pre­pares to inter­view Civ­i­tas Ensem­ble on-air

point­ers: Turn your cell phones com­plete­ly off (because even the silent buzzing can be picked up by the micro­phones), do not move or make any noise until we go to a com­mer­cial break, and don’t clap.

I don’t think we have enough of a crit­i­cal mass for applause,” Frumkin explained. “It sounds very ane­mic if there’s not enough of an audi­ence.”

Then sud­den­ly the “on air” signs lit up on the wall, and we were live!

After an intro­duc­tion by Frumkin, we start­ed out with the piece by Hum­mel. It’s a beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten piece that’s trick­i­er than it seems. In fact, the sec­ond move­ment is enti­tled “La Secatu­ra,” which means “the annoy­ance,” because each play­er is per­form­ing in a dif­fer­ent time meter.

As soon as we got to the end, we went to a com­mer­cial break and breathed a sigh of relief.

That’s real­ly hard, actu­al­ly,” cel­list Ken Olsen said dur­ing the break. “It’s stress­ful to play.”

Choi agreed. “It’s a very intri­cate piece.”

After a short break, we were back on air again, and Frumkin inter­viewed clar­inetist J. Lawrie Bloom about his con­nec­tion with Mucyzn­s­ki, who had been a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona while Bloom was get­ting his master’s at Ari­zona State. Bloom explained how Mucyzn­s­ki had sent him the trio and how he had con­nect­ed with the music, which was lyri­cal and approach­able but also filled with intri­cate rhythms.

After play­ing the Mucyzn­s­ki piece, Choi talked to Frumkin about some of the con­certs we are play­ing this sum­mer: one this Sun­day, June 5th, at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go as part of the Chica­go Sym­pho­ny Orchestra’s Cham­ber Music Series and one on Aug. 16 as part of Rush Hour Con­certs.

Then Yuan-Qing Yu spoke about what we have com­ing up for our 2016 – 2017 sea­son, includ­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gip­sy Way Ensem­ble from Prague, an all-Amer­i­can con­cert next win­ter and more.

Final­ly, we closed with the piece by Schu­bert, and took a deep breath when the “on air” sign final­ly went out. We had sur­vived!

We look for­ward to our next con­cert on WFMT soon!

You can lis­ten to a record­ing of the broad­cast here.


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