Clare Gorton will be performing the viola in Kammervolk: Immersion.
You have a broad performance biography that spans from baroque to contemporary folk music. What about working on and performing the music of living composers interests you?
I've always found the idea of specialising in one form of music really stressful. How do I decide between pursuing a career playing the 'Great Romantics' in a symphony orchestra, or being a baroque violinist in an early music ensemble, or commissioning new chamber music works for flexible ensemble, or playing with singer-songwriters late at night in inner-city bars? All of these musical experiences are equally valid and exciting and maybe it's my anxiety over making a decision but I don't want to have to choose just one of these things. Obviously pursuing lots of different things to a standard that I am happy with means lots of hard work at my instrument - which is very much still a work in progress! I don't want to be a "jack of all trades, master of none," but I do want to work on music that I'm passionate about without pigeonholing myself.
Given all of that, I am probably most passionate about playing the music of living composers, for a few reasons:
Firstly, as a violist, the music that is being written now for the viola is the best! For so long violas have been the butt of every music joke and part of that is historical: violists were for so long seen as the violinists who weren't strong enough players. As such, the solo repertoire is reasonably limited. I've found that music written for the viola more recently is much more idiomatic and embraces the instrument's idiosyncrasies, rather than shying away from them. I'm playing a piece called 'Tooth and Nail' for immersion by Brooklyn-based post-minimalist composer Missy Mazzoli which is scored for viola and electronics (backing tape). It's played with an in-ear click track which adds an extra challenge to the performance, but I'm really excited about it!
Secondly, I've grown a bit tired of only playing music written by bourgeois white men from many years ago. People of colour, women, LGBTIQA+ people and generally anyone is not a white cis male are often erased from how the history of classical music is told. One only has to look at the programming of most traditional classical music concerts to see that not much has changed. This is not to say I do not love and appreciate the great masterworks of Beethoven, Bach, etc. - but I think it's time that we prioritise the voices of composers who have for so long been absent from classical music programs. It's not diversity for the sake of diversity - it better reflects the current day music scene, and it is more musically interesting to showcase different voices and experiences!
What has the preparation process been like for immersion, and what does a regular rehearsal look like?
We're all really busy, so nailing down rehearsal times has been the trickiest part! We've had to be really efficient in the way we rehearse, but the joy of working with such excellent musicians meant that a lot of things were working really well after our first rehearsal. Another great thing about working with living composers is receiving real-time feedback from some of the composers right at the beginning of the process, which really helped.
A regular rehearsal is generally fuelled by caffeine and hummus, a very healthy amount of silliness and antics and when possible, winding down after the rehearsal by hanging out together. It's pretty special to make music with people you value as not only excellent musicians but also great human beings!
Catch Clare in Kammervolk: Immersion on the 24th and 25th May at Neon Parlour in Thornbury at 8pm. Tickets are available here.