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Together through sound

Updated: May 17, 2023

(originally posted June 2022)

Going to concerts can be quite an ordeal, a fact that is somewhat peculiar given my musical history (I’ll explore that another time). Going to a concert on a family "memorial" day can feel worse, but, so far, it never has been.

On June 12th, 2022, the Knussen Chamber Orchestra performed works by Monteverdi, Wigglesworth, Britten, and Schumann, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. Just before the Schumann, Ryan turned to the audience and told them that the Patron Saint of the orchestra, Oliver Knussen, would have celebrated his 70th birthday that day and that it was my birthday the next day. I was overwhelmed by all kinds of feelings, but suddenly everything felt lovely and I was taken into the awesome world of Schumann 2 without any distraction. The elephant was no longer in the room, and I could breathe.

I think part of that feeling was knowing that everyone was there with me, missing OK and celebrating him, and I no longer felt embarrassed to feel what I was feeling—no one ever should, a friend reminded me today.

The fact that there is an orchestra set up in our family name is an honor. Dedicated to my Dad’s wish to eventually have an orchestra or similar ensemble where highly advanced students play side by side with professional musicians. Ryan has taken that idea and put it into practise with care and precision, and wow! Does it sound amazing! The enthusiasm of every person on the stage radiated and brought the community—audience and performers—together through sound.

As I write this, I realise that part of what I do is, in fact, in a similar vein. Go Compose North America brings first-time and continuing young composers into the new music world by having their music played by professionals from the start. My aim with Go Compose North America is to cultivate a community of like-minded musicians just as Ryan has done with older students in the Knussen Chamber Orchestra.

So, a traumatic birthday (having birthdays a day apart was amazing when my Dad was with us, but now it is very difficult) turned into a fitting celebration and ended with an air of positivity that I could not have imagined possible. I’m more grateful than anyone could ever imagine.

Oliver Knussen Day at the Aldeburgh Festival 2022 is on Friday, June 24th. Check out the home page for information and links.

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