Tacos, toilets, and ending droughts

The unpredictable payoffs when you start and run your own ensemble can be surprising. Quince has had a season with some pretty obvious wins, along with some small but important victories, like toilets (this will make sense soon). In January, after a week in the studio recording our second album, Kayleigh and I hung out at the Chamber Music America conference, knowing that most of those folks aren't interested in "the new musics." Luckily, we did get a word in edgewise about our latest passion project - David Lang's concert length piece "love fail," including an auspicious conversation with Beth Morrison, who directed the premiere staged-production with Anonymous 4. More on that later. Before we could gather our CMA thoughts, we recorded some quick vocal tracks for our friend John Colpitts, and then we were off to Palo Alto, California for a residency at Stanford University. In case any of us were unaware that California was experiencing a long drought, the "lake" next to our rehearsal space was a dry bed of thistles, the restaurants don't offer water, and the pool at our Airbnb apartment was blocked off (sorry Liz). Dry eyes aside, it was a beautifully heady week in the Bay Area, walking to rehearsals, enjoying a break from the winters in our respective Midwestern cities, and eating tacos like it was going out of style. The music of the Stanford graduate students unselfconsciously straddled the divide between loud, quasi-tonal with words and quiet, quasi-theatre with messed up words. One piece of the latter category was so quiet, in fact, that as they were mowing the thistle during an afternoon rehearsal I actually couldn't hear Carrie singing. This proved problematic during the concert as finally, after a week of mouth-puckering dry heat, the California skies finally opened and began to downpour just as Carrie and I pulled off a performance so quiet it would make Sciarrino blush. I'm not sure if the audience could hear us, but the rain made the thistle smell absolutely divine. Also divine was the email we suddenly received from our friend Beth Morrison inviting us to perform David Lang's "love fail" at the Kody Festival in Poland this May. Even after 6 years, emails like this still give us the squeals. We sent our currier pigeons back with an enthusiastic "yes!" and began planning. We finished our California tour with two more shows in San Francisco and Riverside, some epic hangs with our friends Ravi Kittappa, Aubrey Byerly, and Ian Dicke, and a storied road trip back up the coast for Liz and Kayleigh involving seal humping and lost (but eventually found!) wallets. Before I continue, I should note that our high soprano, Carrie Shaw, discovered this winter that her right knee has no ACL and has been held together with only a prayer since an injury last August. This means that she was walking several miles a day to rehearsals, and also showing up to yoga classes with me, on a ticking time bomb of a knee. She's a maniac. Thankfully, between California and our University of Chicago residency, Carrie was able to have surgery on her knee and begin the healing process. It did make our UC residency a bladder-fueled adventure, as Carrie was on crutches and restrooms require epic journeys in the older part of campus. Luckily, the gorgeous music by the UC graduate students was complex and interesting enough to distract us from having to pee. Still, finding that bathroom was a relief... Between residencies, we landed in New York for a couple days to rehearse with David Lang and prepare for the Kody Festival. We showed up to his apartment nice and early because he lives in a 5 story walk up, and Carrie realized that she would need to lift herself, using her tricep strength, up all five flights. Maniac. Watch her in action here. Once we made it upstairs, the rehearsal was great, and we left even more pumped for the project than we had been. We celebrated with tacos. Now we're (impatiently) awaiting our first performance of "love fail" and practicing our percussion parts like fiends. It's one of those "obvious, big payoff" moments, but really it's the result of a million little payoffs, of showing up for each other during this crazy touring season and pouring our energy into every project like we were ending a drought. If this winter and spring taught us anything, it's that there's always a Lang at the end of the walk up, you can definitely find a toilet if you have a badass team, and, even if it's inconvenient, eventually the skies will open. Time for tacos.

P.s. Dig this new photo by our friend Aleksandr Karjaka! It's part of our "Storytellers" commission project, which includes pieces by Dave Reminick, Jennifer Jolley, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, and Curtis Rumrill.

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