Archive for the ‘Past Performances’ Category

Performance Wrap Up – Bass Festivals

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

In January and February, we performed at two local bass festivals: at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on January 10, and the Chicago Bass Festival (held in Highland Park at the Ravinia Festival grounds) on February 1.

UW-W Bass Fest

The drive to get to Whitewater, Wisconsin from Chicago is long. I got a ride there from Julian, and his tax filing for 2015 will show this gig as responsible for 200+ miles that day. And it was really, really cold! But don’t get me wrong, I love playing this festival (as I love any playing). It’s small, but Bradley Townsend is dedicated to getting young bassists in Whitewater and the surrounding areas the exposure to players and techniques.

I had originally planned to have the group play Frank Proto’s 1964 Quartet at both festivals. But a last-minute personnel change scuttled that plan. And I think that Bradley was a bit disappointed that we didn’t bring that challenging piece to his audience. Nonetheless, we were well-received. And we’ll revive that challenge for next year!

My friend Matt Erion made a recording of the performance for us, but I’ll be honest I haven’t listened to it, and probably won’t for some time until I stumble across it one day attempting to declutter my computer.

Chicago Bass Festival

I brought some better recording equipment to the Chicago Bass Festival, and I have listened to that recording a few times now.

The MYA van getting snowed in at #BassFestBlizzard

The MYA van getting snowed in at #BassFestBlizzard

First, that was quite a day! It had snowed Saturday night, and was still snowing Sunday morning as I got packed up to drive to Highland Park, IL. The weather service was forecasting blizzard conditions for 2 pm, meaning the drive home (about 5 pm) would be quite an adventure! And getting there was an adventure, too. When I got to the exit for Highland Park, there were two cars stuck on the exit ramp. I slowed down, but made the decision to pass the exit: I don’t think my Mazda2 had the ground clearance to make it through the drifts collecting on the roadway. I had enough time before the festival start, and Apple Maps on my phone, so I took the chance that I would be able to find my way back from the next exit.

Arriving at the festival after making it through the backwoods of Highland Park. Snow fell throughout the day.

Arriving at the festival after making it through the backwoods of Highland Park. Snow fell throughout the day.

The festival was definitely still on, and I arrived in time. Ben Rusch, the coordinator, was manning the front desk, since his student volunteer(s) had not arrived. We knew we would have some stories to tell from #BassFestBlizzard. In the end, I believe about half of the registered attendees actually made it that day. I was relieved that by noon all six bassists and our marimba player were present!

I was happy to be there in time for David Murray’s class on dancing to the Bach ‘cello suites. If you hear he is offering this again, I encourage you to attend … it will open your eyes on the performance of these staples of the adopted bass repertoire.

As always, I was really happy to be a part of the festival.

A wise person I know reminds me to treat the recording of a live performance as something unique, and to not judge it too harshly. There are stresses and conditions when performing live that are specific to live performance, and until you as a group have a lot of experience together, you won’t sound as good as you do when rehearsing. As I said, wise words. But here is some reflection and analysis of our performance. (.pdf: Program Chicago Bass Festival.)

Dream Time – the sound is rich and full! Listening back to it, I really remember why I wanted to have Julian Romane as part of the group – he has an attack sound that is really sort of marvelously aggressive. The performance has a lot of excitement and energy and I love the piece. But our execution is bedeviled by rhythmic sloppiness, missed entrances and the occasional intonation woes. I know it could have been better. I wish I had had both the time and the discipline to record our rehearsals and really make everyone listen to them so we could have identified problem spots and ironed them out.

Quartet 1987 – as in the other pieces, there is a really good sound across the group and it’s such a emotionally rich piece to play. But there are the occasional rhythmic / ensemble problems. And my own occasional pitch inaccuracy (oh damn, that was supposed to be a dominant rather than a major seventh chord!) But still, there is a real emotional resonance across much of the performance, and I’m happy about that! I can see also that some of my colleagues suffer from the same occasional lack of concentration that I do (missed entrances). But there is also some great ensemble playing, rhythmically tight and exciting.

At this point in the program, we added two more bass players to the mix, bringing us to a total of six on stage!

Livre – the texture of four basses playing the vibraphone part works very nicely, and Josh Harrison and Doug Johnson carry their parts beautifully. And happily there is only one moment—but very very obvious—when one of the pizzicato voices (one note per measure for each of the other four bassists) miss an entrance.

Rural Sketches – a much better recording than the premiere. Doug Johnson and Andy Anderson doing great work on those highest voices. And the more I listen to this piece, the more I like it. Matthew Coley’s marimba playing seems flawless. The articulation of the basses is sometimes lost, which is probably more a function of the microphones and their placement than of our performance or the piece. Ensemble is good (Well, except for that one impossible bit) (but where would we have been if not for our conductor, Leslie B. Dunner!).  Neal Rodack, playing with us for the first time, acquitted himself quite well. I am enjoying listening to our performance; I wish we could do it again with more rehearsal time. (audio only) and (video).

bass sextet with marimba

The Chicago Bass Ensemble, with Matthew Coley, marimba, and Leslie B. Dunner, conductor, at the 2015 Chicago Bass Festival.

Running this group is something I really love doing. And also something that I find really challenging. Why? Because it’s not working the way I’d like it to. I really want a collaborative atmosphere, with a committed group of the same people, constant across gigs. I want the group to sound really polished and exciting. And I haven’t been able to achieve that.

But it might be for lack of trying.

I have always preferred a model of rehearsals dedicated to a specific performance. Rehearsing every week with no specific goal in sight has always seemed to me to be the mark of an amateur ensemble. But I have to admit that in the earlier years of this group, that was the model we followed, and we did sound better for it. My mistake there was probably that at some point I should have been more aggressive about finding “ends,” that is to say some kind of performances. Doing so would have kept up the interest of two critical players who ended up declining to participate further (at the time).

So, as a leader I think I must renew the effort to stabilize the group’s membership, and return to a regular practice schedule with the goal of sounding good. Further ends will materialize as needed.

This is quite a long post. Have you read all the way through it? Were you at either of these performances? What did you think? Do you play in a band or an ‘ensemble’ of some sort? What is your organizational style and what are your goals? Let me know in the comments.

January 10, 2015, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Bass Festival

University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

Returning again to the stage where we debuted as the Four Js so many years ago!

January 10, 2015, 2:00 to 2:45 pm, at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, WI. Visit the link above to register for the festival.


  • Josh Harrison
  • Doug Johnson
  • Julian Romane
  • Jacque Harper

“Positions” i.e., Bass I, Bass II etc. are rotated on each piece according to whim and interest.


  • Joseph Lauber (1864-1952): movements one and two from 1942 quartet
    • Andante espressivo
    • Allegretto scherzando
  • Joan Jeanrenaud (b. 1956), arr Harper: Livre
  • David Anderson (b. 1962): Quartet 1987
    • Wedding Music I
    • Rondo/Dance
    • Recitative
    • Wedding Music II
    • Finale

At the end-of-day “faculty performance,” we’ll play Tony Osborne’s (b. 1947) Dream Time.


updated 7 January with program order and time.

updated 8-9 January with composer’s dates, movement titles.

March 31, 2014, Chicago Cultural Center

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Monday March 31, 2014
12:15 pm
Chicago Cultural Center

We will be premiering Rural Sketches for Marimba and Six Double Basses, newly written (the laser toner is still warm!) by composer Igor Iachimciuc.

We are the guests of percussionist Matthew Coley on the Cultural Center’s Classical Monday seriesRural Sketches will be second on the program.

The Chicago Cultural Center lists this on their Classical Mondays page, but doesn’t give much detail. The link from that page goes to Matt’s schedule, but he’s such a busy guy, he doesn’t have time to write much there.

For this concert:

Conducted by Leslie B. Dunner

Rural Sketches by Igor Iachimciuc consists of ten movements:

  1. Morning
  2. “Tsurca” game
  3. Bycicle in the field
  4. The flock
  5. Forgotten well
  6. The story of the old man
  7. The dialogue at the gate
  8. Harvest
  9. Lullaby
  10. Wedding pass

Matthew Coley will also be performing a number of pieces for solo marimba, I believe. The noontime concerts at the Cultural Center usually last just short of an hour. Perfect lunch diversion for those of you who work downtown.

As always, this page will get updated as details emerge!

March 1, 2014: we had our first rehearsal last night. Working on a brand new piece is always a challenge, and this one is no exception. But getting together with one’s colleagues is a great way to find out what will be hard and what only looks hard. Our rehearsal last night revealed that a lot of this only looks hard. And it promises to be fun to play!

March 10, 2014: the score is finished, ten movements in all. More rehearsals this weekend.

March 23, 2014: added Leslie B. Dunner as conductor.

March 31, 2014, (early morning): clarified links to Chicago Cultural Center, noted that we’re second on the program.

Chicago Bass Festival: February 2, 2014

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

UPDATE: Sadly we will not be performing at the Chicago Bass Festival this year. More about why in a future post.


We are on the schedule for the Chicago Bass Festival!

As always, more details as they become available.

This year, we’ll put on Frank Proto’s Quartet.

I’m also looking at performing a quartet by Salvatore Macchia, a former teacher of mine with whom I’ve just gotten back in touch.

  • Jacque Harper
  • Anton Hatwich
  • Eric Snoza

January 11, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Bass Festival

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We’ll perform on the program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Bass Festival on January 11, 2014.

More details to come! Don’t hesitate to sign up for our mailing list in order to get updates delivered.

We’ll perform Tony Osborne’s Harrison’s Clocks, which I’ve been wanting to get to for about a year now. In addition, we’ll perform

  • Danny’s Bass Camp, an arrangement by Patrick Neher of a familiar melody
  • Quand mon mari, one of Orlando Di Lassus’ Chansons arranged by Michael Cameron, and
  • Dance No. 2 by Teppo Hauta-Aho

Performers this time ’round:

Quite a few years ago, we played at this festival when Jason Heath was running it. This is close to the same personnel as played then, and we were four Js then as well!

October 13, North Shore Baptist Church

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

We’re on the schedule for a performance October 13, 2013 at North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago

ssslogoNorth Shore Baptist Church
5244 North Lakewood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60640

2:00 pm, with a reception following.

This program is part of North Shore Baptist’s Second Sunday series. Visit North Shore Baptist’s page for the series for more information about this concert and others in the Second Sunday Series.


  • Dan Armstrong’s “Wildebeests and Warthogs”
  • O magnum mysterium from “Three Spanish Motets” by Tomas Luis de Victoria, arranged by Michael Cameron
  • Teppa Hauta-Aho’s “Why?”
  • O vos homnes from “Three Spanish Motets”
  • Telemann’s Concerto #2 in D for four Violins — arranged for four basses in G
  • Jan Alm’s “Quartet #1”
  • O quam gloriosum est regnum from “Three Spanish Motets”
  • François Rabbath’s Poucha Dass (solo bass)
  • Lee Kesselman’s Basses Three (trio)
  • Paul Ramsier’s “Lullaby”
  • Tony Osborne’s “Rocket Man”
  • “A Night in Compostela” by Simon Garçia

People (alphabetically by third letter of first name):

  • Jacque Harper
  • John Floeter
  • Hans Peterman
  • Anton Hatwich

Second Presbyterian Church Chicago – March 10, 2013

Friday, February 8th, 2013

We’ll be playing at the Second Presbyterian Church, March 10, 2013.

2:30 pm

1936 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616

This is the first season of a new music series at Second Presbyterian, Sounds of the South Loop. We’re honored to be a part of it!

Suggested donation ranges from $8 for seniors buying online up to $18 for non-seniors at the door. Follow the link above.


  • Dan Armstrong’s “Wildebeests and Warthogs”
  • “Three Spanish Motets” by Tomas Luis de Victoria, arranged by Michael Cameron
  • Jan Alm’s “Quartet #1”
  • Paul Ramsier’s “Lullaby”
  • Teppa Hauta-Aho’s “Why?”
  • Telemann’s Concerto #2 in D for four Violins — arranged for four basses in G
  • Two Bach Fugues arranged by Joel DiBartolo
  • Tony Osborne’s “Rocket Man”

I’ve written some thoughts about creating a program.

We’re also honored to have Michael Cameron joining us for this concert. Michael is a tremendous bassist. He has performed with many great ensembles and composers, and has a number of recordings to his name. And, if you were reading carefully above, you’ll see that he is an arranger and composer as well. You can read his full bio on his website. All you need to know now is what kind of car he drives, which you can find on our website.

Please visit this post again to learn of any updates to the program.

(Posted Friday, February 8; updated February 27; updated March 6 and 7)

Northside Youth Symphony, January 31, 2013

Monday, January 28th, 2013

A quickie update to our schedule – John Floeter, Hans Peterman and I will be performing as guest artists at the Northside Youth Symphony concert on January 31, 2013.

It’s a bit of a warm-up for our performance on Sunday at the Chicago Bass Festival (but different repertoire, if course).

Northside Youth Symphony
5501 N. Kedzie, Chicago

7:00 pm

We will perform

  • Lee Kesselman’s Basses Three
  • Jan Alm’s Trio in D
  • some other short trio pieces, from Bernard Salles collection.


Chicago Bass Festival – 2013

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

We’ll be playing at the Chicago Bass Festival on February 3, 2013. Our performance will take place at 2:00 pm.

The festival itself runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Registration information can be found at the link above, or go directly to the registration page. Registration costs $100 (save $25 if you register before January 30).*

Bennett-Gordon Hall at the Ravinia Festival grounds in Highland Park.

We’ll be playing:

What’s the theme for this concert? Ummm, mostly I guess it’s “living composers!”

“Why?” is a dark, brooding lament written in memory of Ovidiu Badila.

“Rocket Man” is one of two pieces composed by Tony Osborne during 2012, a joint commission sponsored in part by the Chicago Bass Ensemble. No, it’s not about David Bowie or Werner von Braun, its accelerating rhythms are in honor of Robert Stephenson, an engineer who designed the “Rocket” steam locomotive. According to the publisher, this is the premiere performance of this work.

It wasn’t until doing research for this post that I learned of the passing of Joel DiBartolo, longtime Tonight Show bassist, who made many arrangements for bass ensembles. Two we’ll perform are fugues from Book Two of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, nos. 5 and 9. If you’ll tolerate a bit of irony, this dead composer and dead arranger are the exception on this program. Of course, we’re honored by the contributions of both to our musical world.

Likely to follow “Why?” in the program, “Lullaby” is a sweet, simple little lullaby. It will be a nice tonic to the much darker piece. Ramsier has written a lot of music for the double bass, including pieces performed often by Gary Karr. Here’s an interview as part of the Contrabass Conversations series. “Lullaby” is available as a piece for bass and piano, as well as a version for bass and orchestra, but I’m told that the original conception is for bass quartet.

Once upon a time published by Discordia Music, “Wildebeests and Warthogs” is snappy, challenging and fun. The notes refer to an in-joke in the composer’s family. Dan has previously been a clinician at the Chicago Bass Festival.


* If you’re a fan of ours, and really can’t make it to our March 10 concert, talk to me, maybe I can get you a pass to the festival.

Wrap-up: Chicago Bass Festival

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Gadzooks! This particular blog post has been nothing but a title, saved in “draft” mode for more than 7 months.

We (Anton, Pat, Dan and I) had a good time playing at the Chicago Bass Festival. Attendance was lighter than it had been at the inaugural festival two years age, and the audience for our performance was pretty spare. But–not to say having an audience isn’t important, but–we had other things on our mind:

The part of our contribution that I was most excited about was our performance of Mike Wittgraf’s Autogenous Mining, a piece composed for us. For double bass quartet and interactive electronics, each bass is mic’d and the sound from the basses triggers samples and effects on KYMA X software and a Pacarana sound synthesizer. The computer operator affects the sound and processing using a Wii remote and nunchuk. The title refers to the process of “self-mining” the strings of the bass for different sounds.

A recording of Autogenous Mining from the Bass Festival is now available on SoundCloud. I wrote about the piece in other blog posts as well.

Our program for the performance was as described in my post announcing it.