Now Hear This: An Interview with Molly Norcross
Molly Norcross, French horn for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, takes part in our Westerly Winds program on Sunday, July 10 – the first concert of the 36th annual Basically Beethoven Festival. She joins Sarah Tran, flute; Stephen Ahearn, clarinet; Paul Lueders, oboe; Peter Unterstein, bassoon; and John Owings, piano; in works by Beethoven, Francaix, and Ligeti.
What is your favorite piece you’re performing on the July 10 program, and why? I am really enjoying the Francaix “L’heure du berger.” This is the first time I’ve learned it, and I always like to learn new music. I think you’ll find it very entertaining, and a bit silly as well.
What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a symphony? Chamber music is such a wonderful, intimate setting. The musicians can see one another’s faces, so compared to sitting in a large orchestra, it is a very different way of relating within the ensemble, and relating from the ensemble to the audience. We get to set the tone and pace for our rehearsals, and we decide what needs the most work and how to address it, rather than having a conductor make those decisions for a larger group. I feel like the audience can get a feel for each player’s musical personality in the smaller setting, which can be very intriguing and rewarding.
How old were you when you started playing French horn? Why did you choose that instrument? I started playing when I was about 9 years old, in fourth grade. Apparently, I actually chose the trumpet, but when I came home from school that afternoon I cried and said I really wanted to play the horn. For the record, I remember none of this. I was drawn to the horn for two reasons: my Dad grew up playing the horn, and from hearing great horn lines in movie soundtracks (thank you, John Williams!).
What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? I did grow up listening to mostly classical music. I went to orchestra concerts even before I was born! During my childhood my Dad would always play a recording of classical music during dinner and my siblings and I would guess the composer from the three options he would provide.
You play for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, but you’ve been traveling to Dallas for BBF rehearsals. How do you pass the time when you’re waiting in D-FW traffic? I am typically a big KERA listener, but I’ve been lucky that my friend Paul Lueders, who is the oboe player today, was staying with me during the rehearsal process. Paul and I worked together in the San Antonio Symphony for a year, went to the Tanglewood Music Center together one summer, and even overlapped at New England Conservatory for a year. We’ve been able to pass the time in the car by catching up, and planning where to eat! We actually did come quite early a couple of times so that we could get a taste of some Dallas restaurants and avoid the worst of the traffic.
Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? I don’t know that I have an ultimate favorite composer for listening or performing, but right now, I think my favorite composer to listen to is Haydn and my favorite to play is Benjamin Britten. Haydn is always delightful and sneaks in little surprises. I’ve just started working on Britten’s “Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings,” which is a really cool piece. I’ll actually be performing it next season with the Fort Worth Symphony in November. You should come check it out!
What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is in the non-musical realm: thunder! Thunderstorms are one of my most favorite things. My least favorite sound is also nature related: the high-pitched whining of a mosquito right next to my ear. You always know they’re up to no good!
Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? I would love to see Glenn Gould’s heavenly rendition of J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” perhaps with Bach himself standing nearby to give some pointers, or improvise a new variation!