Celebrating WindSync’s 15th Anniversary



Emi Ferguson: Hello. I'm Emi Ferguson, and tonight, I'm live in the studio with the woodwind quintet, WindSync, on this edition of the McGraw family's Young Artists Showcase.


Emi Ferguson: Now in its 47th year, the Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. And if you're a regular listener of the program, you may remember tonight's guest, WindSync, from when they were on the show with founder, Bob Sherman, not once, not twice, but three times before. Welcome back, everyone.

Anni Hochhalter: Hi.

Kara LaMoure: Hey, Emi. Happy to be here.

Emi Ferguson: What a treat to have you all here. And for those at home, WindSync is made up of flutist, Garrett Hudson, oboist, Emily Tsai, Graeme Steele Johnson on the clarinet, horn player, Anni Hochhalter, and bassoonist, Kara LaMoure. As a fellow wind player, I am so excited to have you here today. And let's get things started with some music from a long time ago. Here's Dieterich Buxtehude's Passacaglia in D minor.

[MUSIC - Dieterich Buxtehude (arr. LaMoure): Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161]

Emi Ferguson: Woodwind quintet, WindSync, performing Dieterich Buxtehude's Passacaglia in D minor, arranged by WindSync's very own Kara LaMoure. Kara, can you tell us a little bit about how you pick all these pieces to arrange?

Kara LaMoure: Well, part of it is just a personal interest, what CDs do I have on replay-

Emi Ferguson: Mm.

Kara LaMoure: -or I guess rather Spotify playlists or anything like that. So, in the case of the Buxtehude, at the time that I got very interested in this piece, I was actually teaching a music appreciation course about the life of J.S. Bach. And I had read all about Bach's pilgrimage to go hear this composer's music, and I thought, "Well, if this was something that potentially changed the course of music history forever," because, you know, Bach is so ingrained in everything that we hear, "what-what did that music sound like?" And I absolutely fell in love with this organ piece, the Passacaglia in D minor, which does sound suspiciously similar to Bach's C minor Passacaglia.

Emi Ferguson: Oh, okay. [laughs]

Kara LaMoure: Interestingly. Um, and so I thought, "Well, winds, those of us who grew up through band programs," which actually all five of us started our wind instruments in our school bands.

Emi Ferguson: Amazing.

Kara LaMoure: And we're used to playing transcriptions for the full wind band from organ repertoire. It sounds absolutely amazing-

Emi Ferguson: Hmm.

Kara LaMoure: -on wind instruments because of that similar sound production, and I thought it would sound beautiful on the wind quintet.

Emi Ferguson: Absolutely. And-and I also love taking music that is originally written for other instruments and rearranging it so that I can play it 'cause it just makes life more fun. And I know you all share my love for a certain French Baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau. And Anni, can you tell us a little bit about this next piece by Rameau you're going to play?

Anni Hochhalter: Yeah. This next piece is more insight into the genius of our bassoon player, Kara. Um, she picked pieces written for keyboard, of all things. Um, not organ, but keyboard and also, um, opera orchestras by Rameau, and we were working with a nature theme. So she selected pieces that were depicting birds and the gods of the winds and hand-picked these five movements that we'll share with you right now.

Emi Ferguson: Amazing. Here's WindSync's Kara LaMoure's arrangement of a selection of music by Rameau, inspired by all things pastoral.

[MUSIC - Jean-Philippe Rameau (arr. LaMoure): Pastoral Suite]


Emi Ferguson: Woodwind quintet, WindSync, performing their own arrangement of Jean-Philippe Rameau's music inspired by the pastoral sounds of birds, winds, and dances. I'm here in the studio with WindSync, and it's amazing to think that this is your fourth time on the show and your 15th anniversary as a group. Garrett, do you have any big plans to celebrate?

Garrett Hudson: It is really hard to believe how much this ensemble has evolved, uh, and how much it's grown because of the various members that have been a part of it over the course of these few years. So, we originated in Houston, Texas, even though we feel much more international these days traveling as much as we do. But we are gonna go back to Houston and do a really special weekend, um, and bring back some alum of the ensemble. And we have some of them actually arranging, um, work so we can fit all of these present and former members, uh, back into-into this group. So it's going to be a very, very special weekend.

Emi Ferguson: When is that happening?

Garrett Hudson: That is happening at the end of April. And so, if you find yourself in Houston, Texas, come and get your tickets.

Emi Ferguson: Amazing. And I also hear that you guys have a new album coming out sometime this year. Graeme, can you tell me a little more about that?

Graeme Steele Johnson: You heard right. We had the great pleasure of traveling to London about a year ago to record an album full of music by our good friend, Miguel del Águila. He's a wonderful composer, originally from Uruguay, living now in Seattle. And we recorded his Wind Quintet No. 2 on our previous album, All Worlds, All Times, and for this new CD did, as I said, a whole- a whole album full of his music. That's three wind quintets and one trio for clarinet, oboe, and bassoon. And we even recorded at Abbey Road Studios.

Emi Ferguson: Hmm.

Graeme Steele Johnson: Perhaps you've heard of it.

Emi Ferguson: [laughs]

Graeme Steele Johnson: In fact, in Studio Two, where the Beatles recorded and even using the same microphones they did. So that was a really special moment for the group and kind of connects to the sort of like dress down boy band accessibility that, uh, we have hidden within the group's name for listeners versed in early two 2000s pop music.

Emi Ferguson: [laughs] Amazing. Well, let's hear a little bit from that album. Here's composer, Miguel del Águila, Sambeada, written for and premiered by WindSync.

[MUSIC - Miguel del Águila: Sambeada]


Emi Ferguson: WindSync performing Miguel del Águila's, Sambeada. When we come back, we'll hear more from the Woodwind quintet, WindSync, here on the McGraw Family's Young Artist Showcase.

Welcome back. I'm Emi Ferguson, and on this week's edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artist Showcase, I'm in the studio with Woodwind quintet, WindSync, made up of flutist, Garrett Hudson, oboist, Emily Tsai, clarinetist, Graeme Steele Johnson, horn player Anni Hochhalter, and bassoonist Kara LaMoure. If you're a longtime listener to the Young Artist Showcase, you might remember WindSync's first appearance back in 2013, when the group was celebrating its fifth year. They've had a lot of incredible musical journey since then, and this year, are celebrating their 15th anniversary together. Kara, can you tell us one of your favorite memories from the past 15 years?

Kara LaMoure: You know what our most frequently asked question is if we're playing for new audience members or-or meeting someone who's not familiar with our processes? How can we live in all these different cities and rehearse? And I think anybody who's a touring musician knows that there are- there are going to be tour rehearsals. There are going to be hotel breakfast room rehearsals, hotel gym rehearsals, even we had this season. [laughs] Um, but what we try to do to help ourselves get ahead is to do rehearsal retreats, um, ahead of the season and frequently mid-season.

And last year we were lucky enough to stumble upon the perfect retreat situation, which is a little secret that maybe is now getting out, which is, um, going to a wellness resort in Mexico. And we actually found that this made for the most wonderful working environment, because we don't have a home working environment. This was actually the closest way we could get to having a home in a way. And so the way this works, it's not what anyone imagines. We go hiking, we cross paths in the middle of the street, say, "Hey, I'm off to Pilates." "Hey, I'm off to hammock yoga."

We go do our thing. We eat some delicious quesadillas, and then we find space to rehearse together and compare notes maybe about our favorite instructors who we have encountered. It sounds insane, but it is the most magical experience.

Emi Ferguson: Wow. No, that sounds fantastic and like something we could all use. [laughter] And I know you all have a very special piece of music to share with us next. This is a piece of music by composer Viet Cuong. And I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the piece we're about to hear.

Graeme Steele Johnson: Sure. First of all, it's such a privilege to have this piece from Viet. Not only an amazing wind quintet, but his very first wind quintet. And it's been amazing also getting to know him as he wrote this piece for us, getting to hang out with him at his home in Las Vegas. And in fact, it's special for this piece because it actually is sort of an homage to Las Vegas itself in terms of its flora, which is the title of the piece.

The piece was inspired by, um, desert plants. Each movement named for a different one, because Viet got really into gardening during the pandemic, and he fell in love with these plants and their way of surviving against these seemingly inhospitable conditions of the-the desert in Las Vegas. And so, it's-it's kind of a meditation on survival against impossible odds and thriving nonetheless and overcoming.

Emi Ferguson: Incredible a metaphor for a woodwind quintet. [laughter] That's incredible. Well, let's hear some of this music right now. Here's WindSync performing Viet Cuong's Century Plant from Flora, live in the studio at WQXR.

[MUSIC - Viet Cuong: Century Plant from Flora]

Emi Ferguson: The Woodwind Quintet Windsync, performing composer Viet Cuong's Century Plant from Flora. It has been such a pleasure to be here in the studio with Windsync today. And as a flute player, I'm always so excited to get to hear such incredible newly written music for Winds. And I know that you all have quite a few projects with other living composers in the works. Kara, can you tell us a little bit about those?

Kara LaMoure: Yes, it's hard to believe that there are two months essentially left in our season, our concert season, and two world premieres are still on the horizon. That's very exciting for us and a really special way to celebrate our 15th anniversary. The first one that's coming up is the Western premiere on March 6th of Rise by Shawn Okpebholo. And we came to this piece through the Phoenix Chamber Music Society, where we will perform this premiere. And they were part of a consortium of commissioners, including the Cincinnati Symphony, which already premiered the piece, the Cleveland Symphony, and some of the great top, top wind quintets all around the United States.

Emi Ferguson: Fantastic. And what a beautiful way to share community with people and other wind players all around the country and the world. And I know that you are doing that with this new album that's coming out later this year as well, which features a lot of music from Miguel del Aguila. And we're going to have a little bit of a preview from that album here today. Emily, can you tell us a little bit about this piece by Miguel de Águila for all of you?

Emily Tsai: Sure, yeah. Quinteto Sinfónico is a three-movement work, beast of a work, I might add. Um, it's actually quite virtuosic for everybody involved. Miguel likes to write difficult but very fulfilling wind parts. He's another composer that just writes beautifully for winds. Um, and, um, we've been really lucky to have this collaboration with him. Um, so, basically, the first movement starts out very soft, very slow, with a conversation between the bassoon and clarinet, and each of the instruments gets slowly added on.

Um, so, it's actually kind of, um, very, not creepy, but very intense in a way that draws people in. And then it just explodes into this almost symphonic kind of writing with, you know, runs and all this stuff like that, and, um, in the high winds, and then powerful lines in the horn. Um, he's just really, really good at orchestrating that kind of thing.

The second movement is really great. It actually features an oboe solo, and it's, um, very ethereal and very poignant. And, um, I think it, uh, it's a really, really great middle movement. You know, it's slow, but it's very intriguing. Uh, and then the last movement is just a flourish of the- of notes, basically. It kind of brings back some themes from the first movement, and then he expands on them to kind of have like this crazy rush up to the end. And, um, we have a lot of fun performing it. Um, and so we hope you guys enjoy listening to it.

Emi Ferguson: Amazing. Woodwind Quintet Wind Sync, performing Miguel del Águila's Quinteto Sinfónico.

[MUSIC - Miguel del Aguila: Quinteto Sinfónico]


Emi Ferguson: Woodwind quintet, WindSync, performing Miguel del Aguila's Quinteto Sinfónico. It's been such a pleasure to have WindSync here on the Young Artists Showcase for the fourth time. And WindSync is made up of five fabulous musicians, flutist, Garrett Hudson, oboist, Emily Tsai, clarinetist, Graeme Steele Johnson, horn player, Anni Hochhalter, and bassoonist, Kara LaMoure. Don't forget to keep your eyes out for their new album of Miguel del Águila's music coming out on March 22nd. And Kara, we've talked about how you guys have been a quintet for 15 years. What are you excited about for the future?

Kara LaMoure: Well, the wind quintet community is small, but it's mighty, and it's exciting and filled with possibility. And I think in WindSync, we want to do our part to chip in and ensure that this is an enduring genre of chamber music and that it's one that can play on any stage internationally, that has a core of 21st-century repertoire by American composers, that it has an authentic voice that speaks to us, and that it continues.

So, um, more and more, we're working on, to that end, commissioning and recording, but also to meeting the wind players now who are younger than us, which that is a group that is increasing as we age. [laughter] And, um, and working with them, mentoring them, and thinking, okay, who are the next wind quintets who will come out? And what can we do to serve the greater, um, community of wind players?

Emi Ferguson: Oh, absolutely. And it's so exciting. I can't wait to hear all of the incredible projects you dream up and to get to hear you all live around the world. Thank you all so much for being with us today. We've had Woodwind quintet, WindSync, here live in the studio at WQXR. The Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.

Terry McGraw: Good evening, everyone. It's great to be with you, and it's always great being with the Young Artists Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on the showcase. And I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR. There's so much more to come.

Emi Ferguson: Thank you, Terry, and special thanks to WindSync for joining us in the studio today. Many thanks to WQXR program producers Laura Boyman and Max Fine. Our session engineer is George Wellington. Our generous program underwriter is the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Emi Ferguson. Goodnight.

Copyright © 2024 New York Public Radio. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use at www.wnyc.org for further information.

New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.