Postcard from Connecticut: Part II

Postcard from Connecticut: Part II

Looking back on a life-changing festival experience.

Isaac Shieh
Melbourne, Australia

Postcard from Connecticut: Part II

Looking back on a life-changing festival experience.

Standing in Terminal 7 of the JFK International Airport seven weeks after arriving in the United States of America, a very different thought has come to mind as I depart for Melbourne. Clouded by a sense of poignancy, it's hard not to reminisce the fond memories I shared at Norfolk with my new and old friends. 

Flashback to the start of the festival, I didn't really know what to expect. Slightly intimidated by the sheer talent and calibre of the other fellows, I set out to just try to perform my best and learn from the amazing musicians surrounding me. As the weeks went by and I got to know everyone better, I realised that I have truly fallen in love at Norfolk; with the music, the place and the people. I was no longer intimidated by my new friends, but instead had found that our shared love of music had created a bond that in turn had helped create friendships. 

One of the highlights of the festival was the opportunity to perform Dvorak’s Wind Serenade with my fellow wind musicians at the Festival Gala. While playing with the Maverick Brass Quintet is immensely fun and rewarding, it was a breath of fresh air to work with different musicians and play at a softer dynamic in general. I felt incredibly privileged to have shared such a special experience with my new found friends, united by our love of creating chamber music that is both exciting and delicate.

The two weeks with Allan Dean, former member of the New York Brass Quintet and our coach for the remainder of the festival, has also been absolutely surreal. Combining his wicked sense of humour with sophisticated musical ideas, he brought the very best of us both as individual musicians and as an ensemble. Through his engaging tales and precise musical directions, I gained a far better understanding of the intricacies required for a chamber ensemble, especially a brass quintet, to succeed and perform at its peak. While technique and musicality play an integral role, it's the affect of the music that truly makes performances memorable and powerful. To have the privilege of sharing the emotionally poignant images evoked by David Sampson’s “Morning Music” was simply unforgettable for me, where for certain instances music transpired above words as a means of expression. 

Leaving the Eldridge Barn for the last time, tinged with sadness, I never imagined how difficult it would be to say goodbye to everyone and leave the festival and return back to Melbourne. I guess I had prepared myself emotionally for the end of the festival, since it would also be the last event I do with four of my closest mates before relocating to the United Kingdom, so I think what caught me off-guard was the realisation of leaving all the close friends I had made in the six weeks I have been at Norfolk. Not only have I had the opportunity to get to know other like-minded, young and talented musicians from around the world, I also bonded with them on a deeply personal level that rose out of the intensive nature of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. I think the fact that I was so emotionally affected on the last night is a testament to how significant those friendships mean to me. While it's incredibly poignant to part ways with them, it's comforting for me to know that every one of the fellows of Norfolk Chamber Music Festival will go on to have successful careers and we are likely to cross paths again in the future. After all, it's not really farewell, but more like “see you later”. 

I will always be grateful for the experiences I had at Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. I would like to say a sincere thank you to everyone involved in the six-week program. To Melvin; for an incredibly successful season that was bounded by freshness and energy in his first of many seasons as director of the festival. To Jim, Deanne and Ben; for making sure everything at the festival ran so smoothly and successfully, and ensuring that my time at Norfolk was stress-free and enjoyable. To Belinda, Iris, Alisa, Noa, and Sean; for being the best interns who went above and beyond their duties, and for being amazing friends that became such an integral part of the program. To Jeff; who cooked amazing meals day after day that didn't help with my intention to lose weight. While I did manage to shed off a bit of fat, I am fairly certain it had nothing to do with the food and more the “two-and-a-half hour hike” (it's really only a 15-minute walk) between the festival ground and the place half of Maverick Brass Quintet were staying. And finally and most importantly, to the fellows of Norfolk Chamber Music Festival; for all the fond memories and moments we shared during the six weeks in Norfolk. From the laughters to the tears, you have all made my time in the United States so special and unforgettable, and this is without a doubt the best Summer of my life.