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March 29, 2012

Out West With the BSO: Guest blog post from percussionist Colin Currie

I would love to be out on the West Coast with the Baltimore Symphony, reporting from the front lines of the orchestra's first tour with music director Marin Alsop, but I am delighted that some of the participants have volunteered to file occasional guest blog posts. The first comes from Colin Currie, the brilliant percussionist who brought down the house last week performing Jennifer Higdon's concerto. He is being featured in that work at some of the stops on the tour, which opened last night in Costa Mesa, California:

Greetings from Orange County, where the beautiful Chesapeake cherry blossom of last week 

is swapped for the palm trees of California, and furthermore, a feathered friend at our hotel in Costa Mesa!

I enjoy travelling to the West Coast as one can look forward to what is, in effect, a fairly indulgent lie-in (courtesy of the time change), rising lazily at around 7am local time to a full morning of activities!

I locate a conference room for myself and my darabuka (a kind of hand-drum) to work on next month's premiere of Kalevi Aho's Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic (would love to bring this work to the BSO!) then dutifully adjourn to the treadmill for a time.

Mr Mallard has shuffled round to poolside at the deep end, slumbering in the sunshine, his beady eye opening only momentarily to impart mock disdain at my diving skills.

The afternoon is relatively easy-going (a nap!) until 4pm when I get to the hall to fine-tune my equipment and do Higdon warm-up.

Pre-concert warm-up is always the same for me, a good couple of hours playing most of the piece under-speed, with occasional phrases at full speed, repeated many times to make sure they are functioning at full throttle.

I like the hall and it reminds me of the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, UK, although discrepancies between the surrounds environments and climate are noted.

I have a very brief but efficient sound-check with the orchestra at 7pm and time for ...

a final freshen-up back at the hotel.

This picture was taken on my stroll to the hall, and shows its geometric architecture and the Californian dusk light.

A marvelous concert awaited me!

Rapturously received and had a good old bop with Marin during the cadenza section and towards the finale.

Even managed some repartee with some audience members who were especially excited to be sat slap bang in front of my drum set!

Truly a pleasurable tour thus far and now looking forward to launching this concerto even further into the stratosphere in Berkeley and Eugene!

-- Colin Currie


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Marin Alsop

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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