Rush Hour is excited to welcome Quintet Attacca! QA is an exciting Chicago-based wind quintet that won the prestigious Grand Prize at the 2002 Fischoff Music Competition – one of two wind quintets ever to be awarded the grand prize in the competition’s history. QA is currently part of the Chicago Chamber Musicians’ Professional Development Program and we are thrilled to have QA in the Rush Hour 2007 season!
Rush Hour: When was Quintet Attacca formed and what motivated you all to form it?
Quintet Attacca: QA was formed in the summer of 1999 to play a concert at Saint Xavier University on Chicago’s south side. We had so much fun playing together, we pursued more gigs and ended up staying together!
RH: Finding the perfect group name can be tricky – how did you all decide on Attacca? Were there any other names that were serious contenders?
QA: We decided on Quintet Attacca after a three-hour session of brainstorming! We came to the conclusion it had a nice ring and could have multiple meanings for the group. The name also had a forward momentum to it that we thought was great to get the group going.
The key meaning for us, though, is attacca’s definition: connected. We seek to be connected to each other, the music, and the audience. We strive for this in every performance and chamber music is a great vehicle for making those connections.
Other contenders were Segue Winds, Quintet Vivo, and Quintet-a-tete. (I think we chose well, don’t you?)
QA: There are many bonuses – we are honestly good friends. We always have fun, no matter what mood we’re in. We get to see our friends and talk to them on a regular basis because four of them are in a quintet! And Erica and Collin get to work with their spouse all the time. Seeing each other so often, it is much easier to get business things done as well.
What are the challenges? Well, because we are good friends, we often get off topic in rehearsals or meetings because we just want to talk. And perhaps we know each other too well? But probably not.
RH: Surely musical disagreements arise during rehearsals – how do you all work through each of your different musical ideas (without losing tempers)? (Or how do you make amends after losing tempers?)
QA: We really strive for consensus and have faith in the consensus. What does that mean? We are open to any and all ideas, no matter how crazy they seem, and will try many ways of interpreting passages. We then pick the one that works best for the piece at that time based on everyone’s opinions. Nothing is taken personally and we have no fear of giving our opinions and we all have our crazy ideas! And no two performances are alike – we may perform a piece a few years later and take a totally different outlook that may have been one of the ideas we didn’t like before.
We also do a lot of jabbing and pretending to be mean to each other – it keeps the mood light. We are serious about our goals musically and organizationally, but we never take ourselves too seriously. Chamber music is fun and we always have fun in rehearsals!
RH: The members of the Pacifica Quartet said they had to practice about eight hours a day when they first started playing seriously together – lots of scales and careful string tuning – just to get to know each other’s playing and eventually find a sense of sound and intonation as a string quartet. Can you please let us know the kind of hard work and dedication you each had to put forth order to come together as an accomplished group?
QA: As wind players, we are limited with the number of hours we can rehearse. While we would love to be in quintet all the time, we have to have shorter, highly productive rehearsals. As far as getting to know each other’s playing, we were very lucky to find 5 people who had similar ideas about what music and quintet music in particular should sound like. We clicked both musically and personally. We have taken a journey as a group through different phases of the quintet, from a few gigs to where we are now, performing every week together. We have all had previous quintet experience and other music jobs and we have brought that together to form as very cohesive unit.
RH: Is flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn the traditional composite of a wind quintet? What are some of your favorite pieces and composers to perform as a group?
QA: That is the usual instrumentation, but some composers will call for some players to double other members of their instrument family (flute on piccolo or alto flute; oboe on English horn or oboe d’amore; clarinet on bass clarinet or piccolo clarinet; bassoon on contrabassoon; and on the rare occasion, horn on Wagner Tuba). On occasion we also add instruments to the group, most often piano.
Our particular favorites for quintet are Eric Ewazen‘s Roaring Fork, Heitor Villa-Lobos‘ Quintette en forme de choros, and John Harbison‘s Quintet (to be performed later this year on our second installment of Q & A with QA – April 28th, 2008 at the Music Institute of Chicago‘s Nichols Hall.
RH: Many people’s minds jump to string quartets when hearing the words “chamber music”. How does Quintet Attacca wish to set itself apart from the many great chamber ensembles that are active today? How about your work as part of Chicago Chamber Musicians’ Professional Development Program?
QA: We seek to change the misconceptions about wind quintets and chamber music. Often people think only of the string quartets, but have not yet heard a wind quintet. There are so many different and unusual sounds in a wind quintet simply because our instruments are so different. We are attempting to set ourselves apart through our connections with the audiences and our ties to Chicago. We are a Chicago community-based ensemble seeking to primarily serve that community.
Our work with the CCM Professional Development Program has really helped us look for ways to make those bonds stronger and our goals more attainable. We have tools now that we had no idea we even needed!
RH: Deborah Sobol, your mentor at the Chicago Chamber Musicians, mentioned Quintet Attacca’s great tag line: “What will your question be?” What is behind this question? And it’s only fitting that Rush Hour turn the question around to you all: What would your question be?
QA: The question came from a desire to include the audience in a more concrete way at our big concert last spring. We came up with the idea of an interactive intermission that included a question and answer period. We then played off our initials to create the “Q & A with QA” concept that developed into the tagline “What will your question be?”
Our questions for the audience are: Have you heard Quintet Attacca lately? Have you heard the fascinating sounds of a wind quintet before?