First Associate Concertmaster Juliette Kang and Principal Clarinet Ricardo Morales. Two different musicians, two different instruments. As each prepares for solo turns with the Orchestra in the coming weeks, they face the same challenge: fitting practice time in among the demands of raising young children.
Kang, the mother of two daughters, eight and three, always finds time to squeeze in practice. But Mondays, when the Orchestra doesn’t rehearse and her children are in school, she can practice hours without interruption.
In her living room, she takes out her violin and begins warming up with scales, arpeggios, and doublestops. Vibrato starts after the fingers have been moving for a while.
With the weekly Orchestra concert, or a chamber music performance, there’s always something coming up that needs practicing, Kang said.
Juliette Kang. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Front and center for now is Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, which she performs Friday, November 21, and Saturday, November 22, conducted by Susanna Mälkki, who is making her Orchestra debut.
Morales sometimes relies on a Curious George DVD when it comes time to practice. Not for him, but for his four-year-old daughter. Normally he’ll sit and watch educational videos with her but when he really needs to rehearse, it’s time for monkey business while he goes about his business. He goes to his practice space (his wife, Orchestra violinist Amy Oshiro-Morales, has her own area) where he practices for two hours every day, and sometimes longer. He starts with long tones and scales, admitting, “It’s not sexy, but it gets the job done.”
These days, he’s focusing on Debussy’s Rhapsody No. 1 and Rossini’s Introduction, Theme, and Variation, which he performs November 28 through 30, conducted by Juanjo Mena.
“I try to prioritize the parts that are the trickiest that I’m going to play,” Morales said. “I start working on them sooner and more specifically.”
Ricardo Morales. Photo by Jessica Griffin
At first, he doesn’t play a piece from beginning to end. Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he picks specific passages. “It helps me to keep in my mind the phrases and colors I want to do,” he explained. “It keeps it fresher in my mind and in my ears.”
The Debussy Rhapsody is about character and color and less about volume, Morales said, while he sees the Rossini as colors and light coming through.
Because Rossini wrote many operas, with more than a few tongue in cheek, Morales tries to capture that lightness, by having as much fun as possible when playing the piece, with different colors and dynamics, articulations and rubato.
Kang has begun to think of the Stravinsky Concerto as “a character study, with slinky/cool, mournful, and playful contrasts in the four movements.” The piece, she said, is brilliant, with standard concerto aspects but that those four movements make it unique.
“It becomes more like four acts rather than a concerto,” she said. “You can really interpret it and put a different spin on things. It has various turns in phrases, which makes it really fun and great.”
When concert time rolls around, even though Kang will be standing a mere two feet from where she normally sits when performing as a member of the Orchestra, she said the sound is very different. “To be in front of this incredible sound can be overwhelming, so I focus on blending and phrasing.”
“It is always a great honor especially when playing with your colleagues,” Morales said. “It feels like you have a great deal of support behind you. We just put a little extra something, an extra enthusiasm, into it. I feel like when I’m in front, it’s a nice collaboration. It’s like playing with your family.”
For information on the upcoming performances by Kang and Morales, click on the links below.