A letter from Hong Kong (Feb 1998)

Published in Clarinetwise: February 1st, 1998

Dear Clarinetwise, 

I am very sorry to not have written an article, but I was literally running around the world (read article) and just lost track of deadlines!

I have decided to take a disorganised approach to this article. I was thinking about what to write all summer. I think just a series of events may be interesting to clarinetists.

The points I’ll try to illustrate is the importance of contacts, how they keep coming up years later, the importance of doing a variety of music outside of one’s job, and the importance of sounding good in all situations.

Andrew with the last Governor of Hong Kong and Clarinet fan, Chris Patten

After a very emotional handover of Hong Kong (you may have seen us playing on June 30 in the pouring rain between Prince Charles’ speech and Chris Patten’s on television) I quickly went to the U.S. (my native country) for a family visit and to repair and purchase instruments. I had two months’ holiday and wanted to use them to do a variety of activities musically, and thought I could combine them with tourism.

One can get into ruts always playing with the same people. If your bassoonist always plays flat, you will automatically play flat with any duets. What if your new bassoonist plays sharp?

I want to stay on my toes. Chamber music is a must for any musician, so I decided to play in a festival in Utah towards the end of the summer and enjoy the stunning scenery. But first I ran over to Brisbane to give a class and recital at a clarinet conference that was held there. Because I played in one in 1995, the organiser in Australia who heard me then, invited me – and the Rico International people (who heard me in 1995 as well) offered sponsorship. There was a wealth of Australian artists and foreign artists including the Dutch Professor, Reinier Hogerhyde, Philippe Cuper (Paris Opera’s first clarinetist), and Marina Sturm (American first clarinet with The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra). It was very good fun exchanging ideas on style and gadgets with International players. While there, I ran into a college classmate of mine who asked me for a recommendation for a job. Later, several students applied to various colleges in Hong Kong after getting to know me!

One word of warning: while these clarinet functions are educational, some people lose sight of music in the big picture and lose perspective of the clarinet musically and in its various roles.

Then, I was off to New Zealand to visit another college classmate who was playing in The New Zealand Symphony. After Bungy Jumping, the next thing I knew I was playing first clarinet with The Orchestra on tour (Rachmaninoff Symphony #2!) – Jack McCaw’s old position!

Soon, it was back to Hong Kong. Michael Tilson Thomas came through with The San Francisco Symphony and I hadn’t seen him for ten years (he was my boss in The New World Symphony). It is a small world! Even internationally, one runs into people years later. Often it is just nice, personally, but professionally, one can actually get opportunities through playing well in many different settings (who would have known Georg Solti would come to one of our concerts in Hong Kong – not a good time for a bad reed!)-for free-lancers this is simply a way of life.

Just some local notes. Peter Schmidl from the Vienna Philharmonic gave a masterclass here in November. Antony Pay will play with us in The Gran Partita in March. Beijing will host a clarinet conference featuring mostly European and American players in August.

Keep up the practising!

All the best – Andy

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