Nashville-based percussionist Colleen Phelps specializes in performances of experimental works featuring spoken voice, found objects, and singing – as heard on her Solo Soundbox concert earlier this season.  On the New Concerto Project, she’ll be premiering CSB Co-Founder Rachel C. Walker‘s percussion concerto On a paper nautilus.

Commissioning a piece can be a genuinely scary process. We, as performers, take a leap of faith and put the fate of the performance into someone else’s hands when we decide to ask a composer to write something for us. The performance date is already set, and we’re committed, even though we don’t actually know what it’s going to sound like! It’s a process that only works with a significant amount of trust and open communication between the composer and performer. Thankfully I have that with Rachel.

Choral composer Alice Parker compares the process of composing to cooking. You would never make a gourmet meal without knowing who is going to sit at the table. With a good performer/composer relationship, performing new commission rather than an existant concerto feels like visiting someone’s home kitchen as opposed to a restaurant. There’s plenty of good food in restaurants, like there’s plenty of great concerti you can buy sheet music for. But having someone create a dish just for you really is delicious. Rachel knows my playing well enough to know my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses, and how to lean into the gestures I enjoy performing. Likewise, I knew her work well enough to trust that the piece would fit my personality and performing style.

I’m looking forward to performing On A Paper Nautilus, and adding it to my repertoire. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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