Listen New Classical Tracks: McGill/McHale Trio
Listen New Classical Tracks: McGill/McHale Trio (extended)
McGill/McHale Trio: 'Portraits' (Cedille) Anthony McGill, clarinet; Demarre McGill, flute; Michael McHale, piano.
"Someone wrote a piece for us called 'Sibling Rivalry' years ago. We didn't really have much of a sibling rivalry actually."
That's clarinetist Anthony McGill talking about his big brother, Demarre (pronounced di-MAHr-ay), who plays flute.
"I was four years younger than my brother, and those four years were a very large four years, especially when you're younger. So it was more like I had an older brother who was also my first clarinet teacher, even though he played the flute."
Anthony McGill is principal clarinet with the New York Philharmonic and former principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His older brother, Demarre, has served as principal flute in Seattle, Dallas and San Diego, and he's acting principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. They grew up in Chicago, encouraged by their music-loving parents and influential teachers at the arts school they attended. Recently, they've teamed up with Irish pianist Michael McHale to form the McGill/McHale Trio.
Michael, how did you become part of this trio? How did you end up encountering Anthony and Demarre?
"Well, it was actually our manager got us together. So we all arrived in Bowling Green University for a residency we flew in from three different cities: Dallas, New York and London. I'd never met either Anthony or Demarre before. We didn't even get through all of the music that we were going to perform in the concert, because there wasn't time. So when we walked on stage, some of the stuff we were playing together we hadn't even played through once and yet it all worked. It was just amazing how it just clicked."
It clicked so well, these three in-demand musicians decided to carve out some time not only to perform together, but to release their debut recording, "Portraits." Anthony says first they just did a Google search to find repertoire. A friend turned him on to another piece, which became the title track of this recording, which features all living composers.
"It was recommended to me through a clarinetist that had performed it, Michael Webster, and he has a similar trio of the same instrumentation, actually. And he said it was a great work. We were e-mailing about something and he said, 'You know, you should really look this up. I think it's something that would really speak to you.' And I did. I heard it online, and it was awesome."
So, Anthony you brought up 'Portraits,' which is 'Portraits of Langston,' by Valerie Coleman, who also is a flutist with the Imani Winds. This became the heart of this program. Let's talk about this work, which is made up of 12 pieces. There are some musical interludes, and then some of Langston Hughes' poetry is in there, as well. Who would like to talk a little bit about the individual works in this piece?
"Well, this is Demarre. Valerie did a really tremendous job in creating a work, which is unbelievably diverse and the moods that the individual movements portray from the final movement, which is an absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous melody, to another really wonderfully, almost haunting, passionate movement Silver Rain.
"We loved it at the beginning, but, really, after performing it a few times, realized how golden and special this work really, really is. And so, it was a no-brainer to have this be the focal point of the recording."
Anthony, you premiered a clarinet concerto in 2016 by Chris Rogerson and then you asked him to reorchestrate "A Fish Will Rise," featuring flute, clarinet and piano. What was so special about it that made you want to have this work in this arrangement for this trio?
"I heard his music and I fell in love with it, especially because of his connection and his sound that is quite similar at times to Aaron Copland. And, of course, Copland wrote the famous Clarinet Concerto. And the colors that he uses in his music I relate to. It's a great piece. And he did an arrangement for clarinet and orchestra of the concerto. Little did I know that I would like it so much that we would use it on on the recording."
Michael, there are a few of your arrangements on this recording. Let's talk about those. Tell me about the 'Lamentation of Owen O'Neil.' This is a work that you premiered with Sir James and Lady Jean Galway originally.
"I'm from Belfast Northern Ireland. Philip Hammond, the composer of this piece, comes from there, as well, and I've known him and played his music since I was a teenager. I remembered that piece and how well it worked, and the second flute part, particularly later on, doubles the first flute in octaves, and I thought. 'You know, that would sound great with the flute and the clarinet.' So, I wrote to Philip a little like Anthony did with Chris Rogerson. I got in touch and said, 'You know, is this something you'd be able to do, to potentially rearrange this pace for this new ensemble?' Luckily, he was delighted to do that, and I feel it works really well. It's very beautifully simple and inspired by an old Irish melody."
Your hope is that we, the listeners, will engage fully with this music to hear with all of our senses. How do we hear with all of our senses?
"There's a lot of this music on this album particularly gets into a groove I feel and it really kind of gets under your skin," says Michael McHale. "I guess that that music is something you feel through your whole body, not just through your ears."
To hear the rest of my conversation with the McGill/McHale Trio, download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
ResourcesAnthony McGill (official site)
Demarre McGill (official site)
Michael McHale (official site)
McGill/McHale Trio (Cedille Records)
McGill/McHale Trio: 'Portraits' (Amazon)
McGill/McHale Trio: 'Portraits' (Spotify)