finding a balance

It's hard to believe that we're halfway through this yearlong project. Since the beginning we have tried, with mixed success and failure, to find a balance: not too many concerts, but enough to meet our expenses; enough time in one place to enjoy, but not too much; time to rest while having enough time to get all our work finished. We recognize that this trip is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and while we want to make the most of it, we also have to work hard to keep it going.  

Last month (March) we experienced a mix of failure and success in finding this balance. The month started with two non-Music in Familiar Spaces concerts; Steuart was honored as the featured performer at the annual William T White series at Missouri State University. He brought in friend and fine Israeli dancer Nitsan Margaliot from Berlin to collaborate a re-interpretation of monumental suites of Britten and Bach. Steuart also was asked to perform Bach in the Kauffman Center in Kansas City (a concert we knew about two years ago), so we planned our route around these two performances. 

Steuart before his performance at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City

Steuart before his performance at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City

Dancer Nitsan Margaliot performs with Steuart at the William T White series

Dancer Nitsan Margaliot performs with Steuart at the William T White series

German beers paired with Bach at the KC Bier Company

German beers paired with Bach at the KC Bier Company

We organized a "Bach & Beer" concert in Kansas City, or should I say "Bach & Bier", given that the KC Bier Company specializes in German-style beers, a perfect fit for the evening of Bach. After only two nights in the city, we moved on to St Louis. The day we arrived (after a relatively short drive of 5 hours) we rehearsed for a concert taking place the very next day. This is an example of poor balancing. Thankfully we were working with a very talented couple Matt & Jennifer Mazzoni and their incredibly supportive church Central Presbyterian, and everything came together. The project at Central Pres was really special: we presented "Put My Tears in Thy Bottle", a program that Steuart designed to look at modern-day human trafficking from three different perspectives. It's powerful, bridging the music with prerecorded audio tracks and dramatic lighting. The church partnered with local organizations working to eradicate human trafficking and help victims; a post-concert reception gave concert-goers the chance to talk with them and learn about how they can get involved. The concert also raised over $2000 for Crisis Aid, a St-Louis-based non-profit. 

Steuart and Michelle presented "Put My Tears in Thy Bottle" in St Louis. Photo: Central Presbyterian Church

Steuart and Michelle presented "Put My Tears in Thy Bottle" in St Louis. Photo: Central Presbyterian Church

From St Louis (again, only two nights in the city) we headed over to Bloomington, Indiana where we were greeted by some of Steuart's old friends who he used to collaborate with in high school, one of whom helped Steuart back our trailer into what seemed like an impossibly tight squeeze between a fence and a tree (Steuart is quite the trailer-driving expert now). At this stop we had three whole days (that's a lot, right?) to prepare for the next concert: a presentation of "What Wondrous Love" with a local violinist and good friend, Jody Killingsworth. This concert was a blast: our friend Aaron Jones mobilized the whole town of Bloomington (or so it seemed) to support the event. He even got the Bloomington shape-note choir to come and give a shape-note demonstration before the concert! Our visit to Bloomington was a great balance of just enough time to rehearse, fix meals with friends, have impromptu evenings of music-making and story-telling, and have a great concert. 

"What Wondrous Love" in Bloomington, Indiana

"What Wondrous Love" in Bloomington, Indiana

The morning after our concert in Bloomington we drove up to Goshen, Indiana for a concert that very same day (yes, this is an example of poor balancing). Thankfully we had the support of two locals who we know from Credo Music, Bill Mateer and Brian Wiebe. Not only did they help immensely in the concert planning (finding a venue, promoting, etc.), they made our very short time in Goshen (24 hours...) very special - did you know that Goshen is home to one of the best pizza restaurants in America?

Our fantastic collaborator Mathias Reed stops by the trailer to work on a short video for us - stay tuned to see what he creates!

Our fantastic collaborator Mathias Reed stops by the trailer to work on a short video for us - stay tuned to see what he creates!

Next we headed to some place familiar: northeast Ohio. This was the last place we lived before moving to Europe, so it was great to see friends from our Oberlin days, visit our favorite cafe and restaurant, and not get lost on the familiar roads. We tried not to plan very much so that we could spend time with friends and enjoy Easter. This was partially accomplished, except that the one concert we planned for the week got quite a bit of media-attention (thank you Cleveland!) so we were busy with interviews in the first part of the week, and Steuart played a concert during the second half. (By the way, if you haven't read this article in the Plain Dealer, please do!) In any case, staying in one place for an entire week was wonderful - Steuart worked on some "home-improvement" jobs around the trailer, we had time to rest and got some good work and thinking done.  

For the last week in March we traveled to the beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia, once home of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. At this point in the tour, the concerts and scheduling were planned after we had been on tour for some time, ie after we had learned a bit about balancing. We tried scheduling at least 6 days in each place and not quite as many concerts each month. Our week in Charlottesville felt like a great balance - we had time to rehearse with our friend and local violinist Fiona Hughes for another presentation of "What Wondrous Love", time to go on long walks with our pup Lucy, tour the downtown, and give a "Bach & Beer" concert at the local brewery. 

"What Wondrous Love" in Charlottesville, VA Photo: Malcolm Hughes

"What Wondrous Love" in Charlottesville, VA
Photo: Malcolm Hughes

A packed house at the Three Notch'd Brewing company in Charlottesville, VA

A packed house at the Three Notch'd Brewing company in Charlottesville, VA

We're now in northern Virginia, just outside of DC, again for almost an entire week. As the tour brings us to the east coast, we're finding that the shorter drives to the next stop make things a lot easier as well. No more driving 8-12 hours to the next city, at least for now...

If you haven't looked at our concert calendar recently, please check it out. We're always so grateful when people invite their friends to concerts or help to spread the word - it really makes a difference!