Over the last two weeks, the stars have aligned, and three old friends descended upon Hong Kong to once again prove how small the music world really is. To begin, percussionist Sean Connors of Third Coast Percussion was in town giving performances and masterclasses with his fellow quartet members as part of Toolbox Percussion’s International Creative Academy. While I was unable to make these events, it was great to catch up with Sean and meet his colleagues. Sean and I were both undergraduates at Eastman, and he performed a work of mine (for trombone and vibraphone!) in a very memorable concert in which the ceiling started leaking and…during an especially active passage, the vibraphone began to move!
In addition to Third Coast Percussion’s stopping by, Beare’s Premiere Music Festival, led by Artistic Director Cho-Liang Lin, brought composer Lei Liang and violinist Aaron Boyd (among many other fantastic players) to the city. I was so pleased that Lei was able to visit HKBU and introduce his music to our students. We met in the summer of 2018 at the Valencia International Performance Academy and Festival in Spain, where my string quartet, City Lights, we premiered by Mivos Quartet. I have long admired his work, which spans a great emotional and coloristic palette. Besides visiting HKBU, a new duo of his for violin and percussion received an outstanding premiere by Cho-Liang Lin and Zhe Lin. I was quite impressed with what I would call Lei’s “narrative flexibility”—the way the music moves from one passage or idea to the next.
Violinist Aaron Boyd, Director of Chamber Music at Southern Methodist University, performed in several of the festival’s concerts, including in a unique version of the Mendelssohn Octet. He is one of my oldest friends, although it has been years–at least 17 years, in fact!—since we last saw each other. Aaron and I went to high school together in Pittsburgh, and it’s safe to say that he was among the older classmates (He was the class of ’96; I was ’98.) that I looked up to as a young person. In fact, Aaron has the distinction of having performed in the first public performance of any of my works, which took place in the spring of 1995 during the annual “Composers Concert” at CAPA (the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts). Who would have thought that all these years later we’d still be making music? And on the other side of the world?!
Hong Kong has been taking a lot of hits since summer because of the protest movement. It was a relief to have some downtime and share wonderful music being made by old friends. This spiritual nourishment is needed now more than ever.