Now Hear This: an Interview with Julia and Jennifer Choi

Julia Choi with her violin; Jennifer Choi with her cello
Julia Choi & Jennifer Choi

Sisters Julia and Jennifer Choi have their own professional careers in different cities: Julia is a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City, and Jennifer is a cellist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The pandemic, however, has brought the sisters together in Dallas and FACP gets to enjoy this silver lining: together they will perform with Artistic Director and DSO Principal Harp, Emily Levin, for the next Hallam Family Concert: SHADOWS & LIGHT on Saturday, April 24. REGISTER TODAY! As always, the concert is free but you must register to attend this online concert.

What should attendees listen for in the Renié Trio?   This trio blends the harmonic refinement that characterizes French music with the thematic cohesion typical of the Germanic tradition. We encourage the audience to listen for the wide range of characteristics and colors in the piece: to feel with us the triumphant music-making in the opening, the rustic simplicity of the middle section, juxtaposed with the fantasy, mystery, and drama of the remainder.

Our favorite is the incredibly beautifully poignant and intimate third movement. The last movement opens with an enigmatic introduction, recalling the main themes of the previous movement. While at first, the piece seems to end with uncertainty, it becomes a quick folk-music-inspired one with a festive flourish. It is a hopeful analogy to what we are living today: light at the end of the tunnel.

Notably, we are especially proud of the fact that it was composed by an amazing female composer.

Is chamber music a big part of your personal repertoire?    Yes! We love chamber music and are grateful to be studying and performing the Renié Trio together. We have played many chamber pieces as a string duo, string quartet, and as part of a piano trio, but we have never been part of this type of ensemble, so this is very exciting for us — especially to be playing alongside our friend, Emily Levin!

Two sisters who have both become professional musicians in elite organizations: wow! Did you know early on you wanted to pursue this as your career?    Our mom is a pianist, so we definitely grew up in a musical household. Our doors were always open to other journeys and career paths, so we weren’t solely looking to become professional musicians, but we had an inkling that this would be our path. We loved performing with peers and just being surrounded by music. Our dad likes to joke around and dubs himself the designated “karaoke singer” of the group.

What type of music did you listen to growing up? What do you listen to now?    We listened mostly to classical growing up, but now we listen to all genres. We love listening to anything from K-pop to jazz and hip-hop!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? Favorite to play?    We love listening to Schumann and Beethoven. Our favorites to play have to be Mahler or Strauss.

What advice would you give to a high schooler who wants to pursue music as a career?    Everything will eventually work out in the end, so be patient and trust yourself!

What’s your favorite sound? Your least favorite?    Due to the pandemic, Julia has been much deprived of an orchestra warming up right before a concert and tuning to the A. She misses it so much!    Least favorite sound? Probably nails on a chalkboard. One silver lining of online teaching!

When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear?    Beethoven Symphony No. 9: the perfect composition inspired by and reminding us of the triumph of universal brotherhood against war and desperation. Beethoven shares with us the wish for freedom, peace, and equality for all peoples! It is truly inspiring as a composition itself but also because of its message.


Season Announcement: Hallam Family Concerts, 2020-2021

Chamber music series remains free; registration required

October 17, November 21, January 23, February 27, March 27, April 24, May 22

Adapt. Pivot. Include. Much more than buzzwords, these terms have become a road map for this Dallas institution. Fine Arts Chamber Players (FACP) unveils the 2020–2021 season of its free Hallam Family Concert Series: seven free chamber music programs featuring Dallas’s top professional musicians. As always, the programs are free to enjoy with no admission price. 

“In a time filled with so much uncertainty, I am proud to present FACP’s 2020-2021 season for music lovers to enjoy,” shares Emily Levin, the Hallam Family Concert (HFC) artistic director. “The mission of FACP is to make music accessible to and for everyone, and this season features a broad range of extraordinary artistic voices. It is a season for our most stalwart supporters and for community members who are not too familiar with classical music. FACP remains an easy entry-point for people of all ages and backgrounds.” 

Typically performed in the Horchow Auditorium (Dallas Museum of Art), the 2020-2021 season will be shared online for FACP audiences, and will shift to in-person performances if/when that is an option. 

Executive Director Emily Guthrie explains, “We look forward to being on stage in front of an audience, but we do not know when that will be safe for everyone involved. At a minimum, the first three concerts: October, November, and January, will be online only and we will pivot to in-person concerts as we are able.”

There is, however, one other adaptation being made this season: audience members will have to register online for a viewing link to the performance. Once the concert is over, the material will not be available online to be streamed on demand.

“FACP put out quite a lot of content online this spring and our annual Basically Beethoven Festival was entirely virtual and open to all,” Ms. Guthrie continues. “We have had to adapt, however, to the newness of what’s been programmed for the Hallam concerts. Due to performance rights to the music this season, those who wish to see the performances must register online for the private web links for the concerts.”

This is something new being asked of supporters. All registration details will be shared via e-newsletters, on the FACP website, and social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Concerts are still free, but registration will be required.

Ms. Levin adds, “Each concert features composers and performers that accurately represent our diverse society, and the result is a concert experience that truly is for everyone. Among the many living composers programmed, I’m especially excited to include two Dallas-based composers on our season: Quinn Mason in November and Jonathan Cziner in March.” Mr. Mason will be familiar to FACP followers: he started his musical journey as a scholarship student in FACP education programs (read more here).

Starting last year, this concert series has been sponsored by arts philanthropists and business leaders Fanchon and Howard Hallam. Mr. Hallam shares, “Personally, I am very excited to see what’s been programmed this year: Emily Levin has put together a wonderful mix of traditional chamber music and pieces that are not as well known. Fanchon and I are proud to have our names on a concert series that is inclusive of different voices.”

Ms. Levin sums up, “Music is a universal language, and its power to transcend the everyday has never been more important. Whether virtual or in-person, FACP is committed to bringing excellent musicians and great music to our community.”


Hallam Family Concerts: the 2020-2021 Season

  • Saturday afternoons: October 17, November 21, January 23, February 27, March 27, April 24, May 22 at 3 p.m.
  • FREE, but registration is required
  • All online concerts will premiere at 3 p.m. with interactive elements
  • Complete performances will not be available on demand after the programs end

October 17, 2020: FROM KEYS TO STRINGS

The 2020-2021 Hallam Family Concert season kicks off with a program of piano masterworks brilliantly transcribed for harp and guitar by the Davin-Levin Duo, including Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque and its famous “Clair de Lune,” Florence Price’s nostalgic Three Roses, and György Ligeti’s arresting Musica Ricercata.

Davin-Levin Duo: Colin Davin, guitar; Emily Levin, Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) Principal Harp


November 21, 2020: WHAT IS AND WHAT WILL BE

Dallas-based MAKE Trio returns to our stage with a program of juxtapositions: reality and imagination, past and future, certainty and unknown. Including Béla Bartók’s Contrasts, possibly the most well-known piece for this combination of instruments, MAKE will also perform works by Maurice Ravel, Darius Milhaud, and Dallas composer Quinn Mason.

MAKE Trio: Grace Kang Wollett, violin (Dallas Opera Acting Assistant Concertmaster); Danny Goldman, Dallas Opera clarinet; Mikhail Berestnev, piano


January 23, 2021: BEETHOVEN: MAGNIFIED

It’s an hour of mystery and music, featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Serioso” quartet performed by The Cezanne Quartet, alongside writings by the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie. Can you solve the case? This concert is especially for young listeners and those exploring the world of classical music.

The Cezanne Quartet: Eleanor Dunbar, violin; Lauren Haseltine, violin; Steven Juarez, viola; Elizabeth White, cello


February 27, 2021: AMERICAN VOICES 

In an immersive exploration of America’s diverse composition spectrum, join the principal woodwinds of the Dallas Symphony as they perform an all-American program of virtuoso chamber music, including Samuel Barber’s quintessential Summer Music and living composer Valerie Coleman’s dazzling Tzigane.

David Buck, DSO Principal Flute; Erin Hannigan, DSO Principal Oboe; Gregory Raden, DSO Principal Clarinet; Ted Soluri, DSO Bassoon; David Heyde, DSO Associate Principal Horn and Acting Principal Horn


March 27, 2021: CLARA’S INFLUENCE 

A prodigious pianist and a gifted composer, Clara Schumann was a musical visionary, who also championed and inspired the music of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Through her music and her writings, alongside works by Robert Schumann, Brahms, and a new piece by Dallas-based composer Jonathan Cziner based on her letters, discover the voice of one of classical music’s most influential women. 

Maria Schleuning, DSO violin; Jolyon Pegis, DSO Associate Principal Cello; Benjamin Loeb, piano


April 24, 2021: WHERE THE WATER MEETS THE SHORE

In a musical journey from the ocean to the Andean mountains, immerse yourself in sound worlds inspired by the wonders of nature with works for harp, flute, and string trio. William Grant Still’s heavenly “Summerland” opens the program, alongside pieces by Jean Cras and Miguel de Aguila that explore the personal side of the sea, and Gabriela Lena Frank’s rhapsodic ode to ancient Peru.

Ebonee Thomas, Dallas Opera flute; Eunice Keem, DSO Associate Concertmaster (violin); Sarah Kienle, DSO Acting Associate Principal viola; Jeffrey Hood, DSO cello; Emily Levin, DSO Principal Harp


May 22, 2021: STARS OF TOMORROW, the Charles Barr Memorial

The Charles Barr Memorial Concert showcases the best and brightest of Dallas young musicians. Don’t miss the next generation of musical virtuosi.

Click here for a printable schedule.



Announcing: Basically Beethoven Festival-in-Place

In-person concerts move online for 40-year-old music series

Fine Arts Chamber Players announces its flagship series, Basically Beethoven Festival, will not be staged live in July 2020. This year, FACP will record and share Festival performances for the Basically Beethoven Festival-in-Place. Musicians will be recorded in a concert setting and the footage will premiere on FACP’s YouTube channel at the scheduled concert times: July 12, July 19, and July 26 at 2:30 p.m. 

“Because of public health concerns, the logistics to conduct public concerts this summer were daunting if not insurmountable for an organization of our size,” explained FACP Executive Director Emily Guthrie. “I will miss greeting our long-time supporters and new audience members in person. Typically, Festival concerts have an audience of over 500 people. That’s just not possible this summer.”

“A silver lining to moving online,” FACP Board President Anne Witherspoon added, “is that now our performances can be shared with family and friends outside of North Texas. And patrons will have the ability to watch the concerts at their convenience and visit the performances for repeated viewings. FACP is excited to share our vision with our audience, even if the circumstances have changed.”

“In a time where we are reeling from a pandemic, arts events have been cancelled out of necessity,” Basically Beethoven Festival Director Alex McDonald said. “And with the things that trouble us that go even deeper: from sickness to systemic racism, from lost jobs to chronic fear, this is a difficult time to have a festival. However, we at Fine Arts Chamber Players feel that music matters as much as ever. We hope that the first-ever Festival-in-Place does its part to restore and soothe us.” 

He continued, “Festival programming centers around Beethoven’s composition Heiliger Dankgesang which loosely translates as ‘song of Thanksgiving…for recovery from a recent illness.’ Since 2020 is also the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, we wanted to organize our concerts according to styles that preceded Beethoven, a celebration of Beethoven himself, and an exploration of music after Beethoven.”

Each Festival concert begins with a Rising Star Recital highlighting exceptional student musicians from the area, and continues with a Feature Performance, showcasing professionals of the highest caliber. FACP never charges admission for its programs. Donations can be made online: www.fineartschamberplayers.org/donate


July 12: Bach to Beethoven

Rising Star Regina Lin, piano, performs works by Joseph Haydn, Beethoven’s teacher; and Franz Liszt, a composer who felt Beethoven paved the way for future musicians. For the Feature Performance, cellists Andrés Díaz (SMU Professor of Cello) and Joseph Kuipers with Karen Abrahamson-Thomas (Waco Symphony Principal Harp) move from the Baroque to Beethoven’s era through the works of Bach, Boccherini, Maria Theresia von Paradis, and Paganini.

July 19: Beethoven, Basically

For the Rising Star Recital, violinist Nikki Nagavi will be joined by pianist Kyle Orth for Beethoven’s sublime “Spring” sonata, op. 24. Then, featured artists Lucas Aleman (Dallas Symphony violin), Theodore Harvey (DSO Associate Principal Cello), and Festival Director Alex McDonald, piano, will present the “Archduke” trio, op. 97. The concert concludes with Aleman and Harvey joining Grace Kang Wollett (Dallas Opera violin) and Rachel Li McDonald, viola, to perform the sublime middle movement of quartet op. 132, Heiliger Dankgesang (“Holy Song of Thanksgiving for recovery from a recent illness”).

July 26: Beethoven and Beyond!

Rising Stars Bryan Han, cello, and Ashley Tauhert, piano, present the final two movements of Rachmaninoff’s cello sonata; then, Featured Performers take the stage to explore works after Beethoven by composers influenced by the artist.


Alternative Programming: Plus One at 1

FACP is introducing a new series to help brighten your week: Plus One at 1! Each Friday at 1:00, we will share duets from FACP performers on our social media channels. This week features flutist Ebonee Thomas, who performed on our October 2019 Hallam Family Concert: French Impressions. She is joined by FACP Artistic Director Emily Levin in an excerpt of Gabriel Fauré‘s Fantasie.

Look closely and you will see these two artists recorded their segments separately, while sheltering in place at their homes!

We hope the music brings you joy until we can be together in person again. In the meantime, make sure you are on our mailing list and follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Cancellation notice: March 28, 2020

In keeping with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines, our next Hallam Family Concert, Musica on March 28, has been cancelled. Our host, the Dallas Museum of Art, has cancelled all special events and activities through April 3.

We are disappointed to miss the opportunity to share with you the considerable talent of Elmer Churampi, DSO trumpet; Pepe Valdez, guitar; and Augusto Longas Garcia, percussion. However, we understand the DMA’s decision and care about the health and safety of our audience.

Click here for the CDC’s recommendations. The DMA’s statement can be found here. We will keep you informed about any future changes to our season. If you are on social media, please follow Fine Arts Chamber Players on FacebookTwitter, and/or Instagram.


Now Hear This: an Interview with Erin Hannigan

If you have attended a performance at the Dallas Symphony, you have heard Erin Hannigan: if not a solo line within a major work, then at the very least you have heard the clarion call of her oboe sailing above the din calling the players to tune. Join us for an afternoon of oboe-centric works by British composers on Saturday, February 29 at English Sentiment, a Hallam Family Concert.

Erin Hannigan, Principal Oboe of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should we listen for?    I’m really excited to perform the Bliss Oboe Quintet for the first time! All of the pieces on the program are major staples of the oboe repertoire, but the Bliss seems to be performed less often than the Bax or the Britten. The Bliss is full of memorable tunes: everything from the most beautiful and lyrical theme to an Irish jig!

Is chamber music for oboe a big part of the repertoire?    The oboe has been around historically since Bach’s time, the 1600s, so there is a LOT of music written for it. I always consider myself lucky to have repertoire that spans the ages, both orchestral and chamber!

How old were you when you started playing oboe? Why did you choose it?    I started playing the oboe when I was 7 years old; just before third grade. I later found out that this its highly unusual to start on the oboe, and that playing it too soon disrupts brain development due to back pressure! I seem to have turned out ok, I think…When I was trying to decide which instrument to play my dad mentioned his love of the oboe, so I looked it up in the dictionary. It looked like a challenge, so I decided that was what I would do!

What’s it like having a professional music career in Dallas?    Dallas is an amazing place to have a career in the Arts. I have felt embraced through my Symphony position, but I have also felt so much support behind my community outreach initiative. Dallas is such a creative and artistic city! Another angle to my professional life is that I’ve been able to maintain a high-powered oboe studio at SMU. Finding a place where one can have truly top-level performing AND teaching is rare. My work here keeps me exceptionally busy, but I’ve been afforded the ability to accept playing opportunities in other places, such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, and others. It’s good to travel to other cities and engage with other orchestras and artists. It keeps me aware and in sync with the artistic world at large!

What type of music did you listen growing up? What do you listen to now?    Growing up I listened only to classical, but now I have a far broader appreciation for all types of music. I can be found listening to everything from Bach to Christina Perri!

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play?    Johann Sebastian Bach is my all-around favorite to listen to and to play!

What advice would you give 14-year-old Erin?    If I could rewind time, I would tell myself to worry less and enjoy the process more. That doesn’t mean to work less hard because I feel that’s a necessity, but to stop more often and enjoy the journey.

What advice would you give a high schooler who wants to pursue music in college?    I tell my high school students who express an interest in majoring in music that they need to make sure that they truly love music and the art of playing the oboe. Pursuing music performance is challenging and extremely competitive and everyone, no matter who, will face challenges and disappointments. The love of it is what will carry them through.

What’s your favorite sound?    Ocean waves   Your least favorite sound?    Nails on a chalkboard

When you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert do you hope to hear?    Bach B Minor Mass


Hallam Family Concerts: Season Announcement

New name, new leadership for new season

Free classical music concert series packs an artistic punch with exciting programming

DALLAS (August 28, 2019) – Fine Arts Chamber Players (FACP) unveils the 2019–2020 season of its free Hallam Family Concert Series at the Dallas Museum of Art: seven virtuosic programs featuring Dallas’s top professional musicians. Emily Levin, Principal Harp of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, serves as Artistic Director of the series. Ms. Levin was appointed in March 2019 after Rogene Russell, FACP’s Co-Founder and Artistic Director, had announced her retirement and an executive search was held.

“In my first season as Artistic Director of the series, I wanted to craft programs that highlight the incredible talent here in Dallas, and feature music that connects to the art, culture, and writing of its time,” Ms. Levin explains. “At each concert, the audience will be able to hear great music performed by great musicians and will also be invited to explore the broader world surrounding each piece.”

The season is varied in instrumentation and musical character. The Hallam Family Concert season, outlined below, features known and obscure works for the harp, oboe, bassoon, trumpet paired with guitar, and groupings of string musicians. FACP is honored to have several preeminent members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and other local ensembles featured throughout the series. 

Hallam Family Concerts, 2019-2020 Season

  • Saturday afternoons: October 5, November 2, January 25, February 29, March 28, April 25, May 9
  • All concerts begin at 3 p.m., doors to the auditorium open at 2:30 p.m.
  • Horchow Auditorium in the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas 75201)
  • FREE. No tickets required. General admission to the DMA is also free. Families with children welcome.

October 5, 2019: FRENCH IMPRESSIONS 

Hallam Concerts Artistic Director Emily Levin is joined by flutist Ebonee Thomas and violist Sarah Kienle in a program of stunningly colorful trios that pay homage to the French Impressionist era of Monet, Debussy, Renoir, and Ravel. The afternoon also includes music by Toru Takemitsu. Of note, the DMA recently re-opened its European art galleries with a reinstallation of treasurers, including masterworks of French Impressionism gifted to the museum by Margaret and Eugene McDermott. FACP’s program will reference the DMA’s collection.

November 2, 2019: WOOD MUSIC

In this concert featuring “wood” instruments, Poulenc’s trio, a quintessential piece for oboe, bassoon, and piano, is paired with two other works for these instruments  by Francaix and living French composer Roger Boutry.

January 25, 2020: TALES OF THE MACABRE

The great American writer Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. Come celebrate his 210th birthday with an afternoon of his most chilling short stories, dramatically told through music for harp and string quartet alongside Schubert’s eerie masterpiece “Death and the Maiden.” Emily Levin will perform with PLUS Quartet, a string ensemble whose members come from the DSO.

February 29, 2020: ENGLISH SENTIMENT

Experience the lush harmony and beautiful colors of three extraordinary British composers in a musical journey across the pond that showcases the Dallas Symphony’s Principal Oboist, Erin Hannigan, and members of the DSO strings.

March 28, 2020: MUSICA 

Trumpet wunderkind Elmer Churampi is featured in an incredible afternoon of virtuosic and vibrant trumpet and guitar music from his native Peru. Mr. Churampi appears courtesy of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he is a member of the trumpet section.

April 25, 2020: A TRAGIC GENIUS

Tchaikovsky’s epic masterpiece for violin, cello, and piano takes center stage this month, in a touching tribute to the teachers of Jolyon Pegis, DSO Associate Principal Cello; and DSO violinist Shu Lee, who performed this same work when they were college students.

May 9, 2020: STARS OF TOMORROW, the Charles Barr Memorial

The Charles Barr Memorial Concert showcases the best and brightest of Dallas young musicians. Don’t miss the next generation of musical virtuosi.


Overview – Fine Arts Chamber Players

  • Hallam Family Concerts: monthly, FREE chamber music concert series on Saturday afternoons, October – May (excluding December); performed in the Horchow Auditorium at the Dallas Museum of Art; 3 p.m.; newly appointed Artistic Director of the series is Emily Levin (pronounced luh-VEEN)
  • Basically Beethoven Festival: FREE chamber music concerts on Sunday afternoons in July at Moody Performance Hall; 2:30 p.m.; the Festival celebrates its 40th season in the summer of 2020; the Basically Beethoven Festival Director is Dr. Alex McDonald
  • Music Education Programs: FREE education programs including Musical Residencies at two Dallas ISD high schools and at an east Dallas charter school; FACP Teaching Artists lead individual and small group lessons in voice, piano, and violin to students with financial need; instruction provided at no cost to students and schools

FACP was founded in 1981 with the FREE Basically Beethoven Festival, which quickly became Dallas’ premier summer chamber music festival. In 1984, FACP began the Bancroft Family Concert series performing in the Horchow Auditorium of the Dallas Museum of Art. Starting with the 2019-2020 season, that series has been renamed the Hallam Family Concert series under its new sponsorship. FACP also maintains educational programs via musical residencies in select Dallas schools, masterclasses, and a troupe who creates original educational material for school performances. To date, FACP has served more than 250,000 children with education programs and performed quality classical music for over half a million North Texas citizens – all completely free of charge.


Now Hear This: an interview with Margaret Fischer, flute

The 39th annual Basically Beethoven Festival concludes this Sunday, July 28, with an afternoon of music for flute and strings. Local artist Margaret Fischer is a featured performer and she’s participated in this interview for our audience to get an insider’s look at the concert.

When did you start playing the flute? Why did you choose the instrument? Did you learn other instruments?    I started playing the flute when I was 10 in my elementary school’s 5th grade music elective class. The woman who ran the program became my private flute instructor from 6th grade until I started college. Unlike here in Texas, where the kids get to try out instruments under the watchful eye of pros to determine what they’re suited for (I think of it as the “instrument petting zoo”), I was just told to pick one of a bunch of instruments on a table. The flute was the shiniest, so that’s what I chose! Luckily for me, I took to it well. Piano was my first instrument but I only took lessons for less than a year – it was evident that I was never going to be a pianist! I haven’t had any formal training on other instruments but I can play basic guitar chords. 

When did you decide to become a professional musician?    I think I was around 15 years old when I decided that I wanted to pursue music as a career. There was no one magic moment or lightning bolt where everything changed – I just woke up one day and realized that I couldn’t imagine spending my life doing anything else.

Does being a classical musician influence what music you listen to for fun?    Because I’m exposed to so much music for work reasons, sometimes I fall in love with pieces that I never would have encountered any other way, and I will crave listening to it even when the performance is long over. I listen to lots of non-classical music as well, and I don’t think it’s weird to have a diverse playlist. It’s like having a wide variety of food in your diet – music is food for the ears!

There’s no “standard” ensemble on today’s program, such as a woodwind quintet or string quartet. How did you decide what to include on your program? Did you decide on ensembles first, or build an ensemble around the pieces you chose?    Alex McDonald had asked me if I had any “wishlist” pieces that I wanted to play, and the one that immediately came to mind was the Mozart flute quartet in D Major. I played many woodwind quintets while in school, but it’s a rare opportunity for me to get to collaborate with strings, so I jumped at the chance. The Debussy was another wishlist piece for me (in its flute/piano incarnation), so it was very exciting to discover this arrangement for the exact instrumentation that we already had for the Mozart! To balance out the program, we thought it would be nice to feature the ensemble in duos.

What piece or recording should everyone have in their music library?    Ah, this is such a hard question! There’s one specific CD I’m rather attached to – it’s a 1983 recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The climax of that piece has an unbelievably vocal quality to it, it astounded me when I first heard it! The recording is on Spotify, but it’s better experienced from the CD.

What piece on the program are you most looking forward to sharing with our audience, and why?    I’m excited for the entire program! But, I think the Mozart will be a particular treat. I hope the audience has as much fun listening to it as we are having playing it!

What advice would you give 14-year-old you?    Slow down and practice your fundamentals more!! It’s not about how fast you can play today, it’s about how well you can play years from now. You’re in this for the long haul, so take the time to do things right.

Bonus question: flutist or flautist?    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet! I don’t have a preference, but “flutist” seems to be more commonly used in America while “flautist” seems more commonly used overseas.


Now Hear This: an Interview with Alex McDonald, Festival Director and pianist

Dr. Alex McDonald is well-known to our audience as the Basically Beethoven Festival Director: if you’ve attended the concerts you have heard his introductions, his phenomenal playing, and his groan-inducing musical puns. Here he gives our audience insight into the 2019 Festival and the June 21 program in particular, when he will be one of the Featured Performers.

Where did the name Basically Beethoven come from?   When FACP Co-Founder Rogene Russell founded the concert series, Mostly Mozart had been making waves in New York City for more than a decade. I think that’s where the alliterative part of the name came from. As to why ‘Beethoven,’ I think he was chosen because of his incredible appeal, passion, and his role at a turning point in the development of art music.

Why come to Basically Beethoven? What if someone doesn’t know much about classical music?                Firstly — its free! But perhaps more importantly, Basically Beethoven has great music of all kinds! We hope to have something for everyone: from the humorous to the profound, the sweet to soulful, sad to joyful. Our programming features both treasured classics to new, award-winning works. And, as an added bonus, our world-class artists are local. If the performance inspires you to want to know more or even pursue your own musical journey, the performers live relatively close by! 


Is there a specific piece being performed for the Festival this year that you’re particularly excited about?            I am excited to present Schumann’s piano quintet – which is a long-time favorite. And the chance to perform Beethoven’s  Piano Trio op. 1, no 1 (his first published work) is very exciting to me. 

What’s your job like as festival director? Do you have a favorite part of the gig – programming, performing, people, etc.?     This is an easy one. My favorite part by far is just listening to the music! Moody is such a great performance space, and the artists are such incredible communicators. The repertoire they choose is a wonderful extension of who they are as people. It feeds my soul and challenges me to go practice!

There are a lot of composers featured throughout the festival other than Beethoven. How do you decide who and what to program every week?     I always like to hear from the artists about what they want to play. To me, this helps keep the sense of creativity and interest and variety.

2020 will be Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the 40th annual Basically Beethoven Festival. Are there big plans in the works, and can you offer a sneak peak of anything to come?    There are big plans! No hints yet – but stay tuned. We are beyond excited at what is to come.