Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Michael Delfín, Catacoustic Grant Recipient Reports Back

     It is with great joy that I write this narrative of my time spent at the American Bach Soloists Academy. The two weeks I spent in San Francisco studying historical performance consisted of some of the most enjoyable music-making of my entire life, and I am delighted to be bringing the experience and lessons learned to my studies in Cincinnati.
     Several dozen students arrived in California and immediately set to work in several key areas: chamber music, orchestra, Bach cantatas, and instrument training. Collaborations formed friendships as musicians ages 18-60 dove into all manner of Baroque music. I participated in performances of works by Gottfried Finger and CPE Bach, the latter of which received a rave local review! Working on Bach cantata movements with multiple coaches of different instruments introduced many of the students to Bach’s “pragmatic creativity,” his ability to compose for any combination of instruments with any text he needed. Harpsichord classes with Prof. Corey Jamason of the San Francisco Conservatory opened my ears to many different interpretational possibilities as seven students gathered from across the country.
     What struck me most about the ABS environment is the camaraderie shared among the students and faculty. I feel that this musical harmony came across in performances: audiences of all ages breathed in the music and responded with more enthusiastic applause than one hears in most standard classical concerts. This atmosphere left a major impression on me, and I hope to relive it for years to come.
     Fortunately, my foray into historical performance did not cease when the ABS Academy came to a close. In the current semester alone, I have been fortunate enough to continue every single activity I enjoyed while at ABS! Most notable was CCM's production of Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor, which ABS presents every summer. Opening the score myself for the first time this month proved to be a monumental experience, calling to mind Maestro Jeffrey Thomas’s words: “You’ll never forget your first Mass in B Minor.” In the meantime, I soloed for the Christ Church Cathedral's Music Live@Lunch with a Bach Partita and participated in a master class with Ed Parmentier of the University of Michigan. In addition, collaborations with other CCM students interested in historical performance are highlighting my calendar, from continuo for Bach violin concertos to Baroque songs with viol. A baroque violin enthusiast, a gamba-playing cellist, and I joined forces to perform a Corelli violin sonata. The finale of my semester’s Baroque activities will be to conduct a Bach cantata from the keyboard for a soprano friend’s recital – after performing Purcell songs on the same program.
     I set out to attend ABS with a question: is historical performance a viable career option for a curious pianist? Thanks to the support of the Catacoustic Consort, I am discovering that, indeed, it is. I am very grateful to Catacoustic for helping me realize this possibility and for opening the door to a new pathway of music-making.
Chamber Music Group

Baroque Orchestra Rehearsal, playing both chamber organ and harpsichord

Delfín with Corey Jameson (harpsichord instructor)

Delfín with Maestro Jeffrey Thomas