As a leading interpreter and performer of Steve Reich's music, having both performed for and with the composer, we spoke to Micaela Haslam, director and conductor of Synergy Vocals about her experience of Reich's music, her favourite pieces, and a little about our upcoming UK tour.
What is your favourite thing about performing Reich’s music?
The team effort, the sense of camaraderie and the sheer joy of the music.
What is your favourite Reich piece?
Music for 18 Musicians, of course!
Do you have any favourite pieces of minimalist music (not exclusive to Reich)?
Tehillim, The Desert Music and You Are (Variations) all come a close second!
Are there any facets of performance that are particularly interesting or exciting in the upcoming performances?
Music for 18 Musicians has no conductor so it’s up to all of us in the ensemble, collectively, to find the right “groove” for each section of the piece. The role of “leader” constantly shifts throughout the piece, so every individual is in charge at some point. The contribution of the singers is “instrumental” (literally in one instance, as one of the singers has to play piano). There are no lyrics - we just sing scat (largely “da” or “ee” to imitate the strings and clarinets).
Rhythm is fundamental to us all – our hearts beat in rhythm, we breathe in rhythm, we walk in rhythm and we dance in rhythm – so we immediately relate to it.
Steve Reich has been described as “America’s greatest living composer”. What do you feel is so special and enduring about his music?
It’s timeless and universal. Just look around the audience and you’ll see people from all generations and walks of life. Rhythm is fundamental to us all – our hearts beat in rhythm, we breathe in rhythm, we walk in rhythm and we dance in rhythm – so we immediately relate to it. Steve’s music is tonal and harmonically straightforward, but uniquely crafted and never banal. It’s repetitive whilst constantly travelling, and has so many layers and details to focus in and out of. It’s life-affirming stuff!
When you’re not practising or performing, what do you like to do?
I love to coach ensembles playing Steve Reich’s music – both student and professional. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing those “eureka” moments when an ensemble reaches the next level of performance. I enjoy that very much – and playing badminton (not at the same time!)
See Micaela perform Reich's Music for 18 Musicians with Synergy vocals in our UK tour in February.
Published: 31 Jan 2019