Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lexus Magazine: 'Top clarinetist Anthony McGill' on Yo-Yo Ma, Lincoln Center, and an Inauguration

[Top clarinetist Anthony McGill on playing with Yo-Yo Ma, playing in Lincoln Center, and playing for a U.S. president—all before age 30]

AfriClassical has been aware of the African American clarinetist Anthony McGill for some time, and published a brief item on him on March 3, 2008: "Anthony McGill Presents Clarinet Master Class at Temple University March 17.” Today we present an excerpt from a Lexus Magazine article which includes an interview with the performer:

Lexus Magazine
Arts & Culture
“My Main Voice In The World”
By Adam Baer | Photography by Eric Ray Davidson

It’s rare to catch clarinetist Anthony McGill in the flesh. A principal musician at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, he often performs his duties under the stage in the orchestra pit in New York’s Lincoln Center. But a year ago, the nation had the chance to watch the photogenic 30-year-old perform John Williams’ 'Air and Simple Gifts'—with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman—at Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. It was a career high for McGill, a woodwind player possessed of an unmistakably lyrical and sweet sound.

Lexus: How did you get to perform at the inauguration?
McGill: I got a call from Yo-Yo's general manager: “Yo-Yo wants to know if you're free on inauguration day to play a quartet with him and some other musicians for the inauguration written by John Williams.” Obviously I couldn't believe it at first—and I also had some responsibilities that I had to get out of. I was going to be away that week in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orchestra as guest principal clarinetist.
Small conflict.
Oh, yes, very small.
How did you know Yo-Yo Ma?
Yo-Yo and I played together back in 2001 in Tokyo. Coincidentally, we played Messiaen’s 'Quartet for the End of Time'—a piece that John Williams used as inspiration for the inaugural music—with the pianist Mitsuko Uchida. That one concert with Yo-Yo was the first time I met him and performed with him, and it was pretty awesome.
What was your first rehearsal for the piece?
I hadn't seen Yo-Yo since Japan, and I'd never met Itzhak Perlman. The Tuesday before the inauguration, I'm walking through New York to Itzhak Perlman’s house for a rehearsal, and all of a sudden, I’m walking in. It was kind of surreal. But it was a lot of fun and hard work. We just got together and played the piece, like, a million times that night.
What did it mean for you, personally?
Honestly, being black, well, that was obviously something I thought about when Obama was elected president. I’m from Chicago, too, so when I saw him elected I never imagined being able to go to the inauguration, let alone be a part of it in some way. I felt like I was a part of something really much larger than myself."

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