Discovering Hanoi’s Alleys

As my husband and I complete our tenth visit to Hanoi in the past twelve years, we are still finding new nooks and crannies everywhere we go in this fascinating city. We enjoy our time here as artistic advisors to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, and we are especially proud of the ensemble’s recent concert performed for almost 1,000 attendees!

In addition to our musical activity, our wonderful Vietnamese friends make certain that we experience their favorite places — endless street stalls, restaurants and cafes. No matter how many times we return, we make new discoveries everywhere. What is difficult for most visitors is the opportunity to enjoy local places because many of these special places are located in small alleyways that connect the beautiful tree-lined boulevards.

“What’s Next?” in Asian Creative Music

One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, especially when we share friends in common. Before arriving in Vietnam to begin our 2019 concerts with the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, my husband Jeff and I decided to visit Singapore and Thailand to meet some of their composers and contemporary music leaders. I am pleased to report that creativity in Asian contemporary music is thriving and exciting.

With introductions from our Vietnamese colleagues, Facebook and emails facilitated quick connections. Luckily musicians love to eat, so our conversations also included local food as well as introductions to music and cultural institutions.

Experience Counts – Jump In!

As I return after an extended stay in Vietnam as Artistic Advisor to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, I have decided to embark on a series of blogs that I hope will be of use to the Ensemble and other entrepreneurial artists. Each new organization is unique, reflecting their art and reason for existence. However, starting any new venture requires new skills and advice.

Our best consultant in 35 years remains Trader Joe, Joseph Coulombe, who founded the highly successful Trader Joe Markets. We both live in Pasadena (next to Los Angeles) and have many mutual friends. A few years after founding Southwest Chamber Music with my husband, I invited Joe to our office to offer us advice.

Looking for Models

The legendary Kolisch Quartet had the singular distinction of playing its entire repertoire from memory, including the impossibly complex modern works of Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok, and Berg. Eugene Lehner was the violist for the quartet in the 1930’s. Lehner’s stories about their remarkable performances often included a hair-raising moment when one player or another had a memory slip. Although he relished the rapport that developed between them without the encumbrance of a music stand, he admits there was hardly a concert in which some mistake did not mar the performance. The alertness, presence, and attention required of the players in every performance is hard to fathom, but in one concert an event occurred that surpassed their ordinary brinkmanship.

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