Entry Date: June 11th, 2014

Wyeth Walks

Burchfield, Sibelius, and Wyeth

My work days are in a wildly different place than I had imagined only a month ago!

After my series of Wyeth-inspired concerts at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, the museum reached out to me to see if I could recommend someone who would present a concert of Sibelius piano music in the fall, or if I would be interested.  They are having an exhibit of works by the painter Burchfield, who is apparently known for having used sounds and music as major inspirations to his painting.  The museum is  wanting to offer piano concerts of music by composers that he listened to while working.  His biggest influence was the composer Sibelius.

Well, I knew absolutely nothing about the piano music of Sibelius.  And quite honestly not much about him in general, although I knew I have some of his orchestral works in my digital music library and have always connected with those.  

But, something immediately told me that I really wanted to commit to this… even though my brain was telling me I was nuts.  Why was this nuts?  Well, I have two little ones who are in preschool/daycare three days a week for me to work on music AND run my indie record label.  And somehow in those three days I’m also trying to keep dinner on the table and on top of my laundry.  Not too bad, I treasure those days, mostly alone, where I get to dive head-on into music projects.  But, when the kiddos are home, there is no work to be done.  I’m in the deep throes of diapers and giggles and whining and eternally packing snacks.

I still think I was absolutely nuts to even consider committing to a classical concert… I’m currently working on River Flow repackaging, last production stretches of my euro-jazz/classical improv album, preparing for recording more Wyeth-inspired works in Vermont with Will Ackerman later this summer and in the fall, and working on piano parts for my friend’s album.

In other words, I’m swamped with wonderful creative projects and having TONS of fun.  But, a classical concert?  Preparing for a full concert means going into full blown marathon training mode – hours upon hours upon hours of solo time in the studio with dedicated brain focus.

Well, I looked at my calendar and decided that the timing was right- the concert dates fit into a nice little breathing space in between other deadlines- and, if the “music is the space between the notes”, the training could be the “space between other projects” right?  And, it could only be a great thing for me to be at the top of my technical game when I’m going to record my next album in Vermont.

And…. I said yes, I’d love to do it, and we are off to the races!  I’ll be performing two concerts at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in October and November, with works by Sibelius, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Haydn.

Okay, when I said yes, I didn’t know how or why I was yearning to say yes, just that the little birdie in my gut (talk about mixed metaphors) was telling me to.

It wasn’t until after I committed to the concerts and in an effort to select my program started listening to the 5 hours of Sibelius piano music (GORGEOUS passionate emotional music, btw) that something clicked in my brain — didn’t the Wyeths listen to Sibelius too?  And, yes, I went back to my resources and found multiple references to the fact that as the Wyeth family sat around the fireplace listening to classical music, that Sibelius was one of their favorites.  In Richard Meryman’s Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, he quotes that at one point NC Wyeth was listening to his daughter Ann Wyeth McCoy’s composition and cried, saying “I wish Sibelius could hear this."  And of course now that I’ve heard more and more Sibelius piano music, I absolutely can hear his influence in the piano pieces by Ann Wyeth McCoy that I played at my museum concerts.

I was also told by a museum staff member that Andrew Wyeth told a curator that he listened to Sibelius when painting in watercolor, and to Bach when painting tempera.

So, now, I’m very excited about the Sibelius/Wyeth tie-in, and am now thinking that I will definitely include a Sibelius work on my Wyeth-inspired album.  I am scheduled to go to Will Ackerman’s studio in Vermont for recording on this album in August.  I’m not sure I would have a Sibelius piece ready by then, but maybe!  I will shoot for it in any case.

Now, I’m off to the practice room… writing in fingerings for all of my concert pieces, beginning metronome work, and dreaming of the day I will be able to breeze through this program with musicality and passion… until then though, let the marathon hard work commence!