Barger’s Amicitia Duo releases CD ‘Play Pretty’

The Amicitia Duo released their first CD, "Play Pretty."
The Amicitia Duo released their first CD, "Play Pretty."

The Amicitia Duo, which includes Glenn Korff School of Music Professor of Clarinet Diane Barger and University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor of Clarinet Denise Gainey, has released their first CD titled “Play Pretty.”

The CD is available from Potenza Music at

The duo is joined by Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Mark Clinton on all but one of the works on the CD, which was recorded in Kimball Recital Hall in May 2019. Assistant Professor of Composition and Emerging Media and Digital Arts Tom Larson served as recording engineer and editor.

The project was sponsored, in part, by a Hixson-Lied Faculty Research/Creative Activity grant and a faculty development grant from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“I am so thrilled that this labor of love is now officially released,” Barger said. “This is an incredibly meaningful CD to me in so many ways. ‘Play Pretty’ was a phrase my mother used to always say to me before every performance and is what I tell my students before they play. To be able to perform these works on the CD with two of my closest friends with music that is so close to my heart makes this one of the most priceless and meaningful creations of my career.”

Barger and Gainey have been friends for more than 30 years since they met at Florida State University, when Barger was a freshman and Gainey was a senior.

“We started really playing together probably back in the early 2000s, and all of sudden, we thought why don’t we do this a little bit more seriously,” Barger said. “I looked up foreign words for friendship and ‘Amicitia’ just happens to be the Latin word for friendship. It’s over this 30-some years of knowing her that we became best friends over time, and so it’s kind of an excuse to get together and see each other, yet share our love of music with lots of people.”

The two artists blend well together when they play.

“Denise and I play on two different kinds of manufactured instruments,” Barger said. “She is a Backun artist, and I’m a Buffet Crampon artist. Yet I think what’s so wonderful is that we have such a very similar concept of sound, phrasing and our overall approach to music that we are able to blend well and produce a united front in our performances. People told us after our recital at the International Clarinet Association Conference last summer, ‘You know we can tell how much you guys love each other just by the little looks you give each other while you’re playing,’ and that’s kind of cool. I love the fact that people can see our friendship and they can hear our friendship through our music making.”

The CD’s title, “Play Pretty,” is also the first movement of Scott McAllister’s “Amicitia Suite for E-flat and B-flat clarinet and piano,” the first track on the CD. The phrase holds special meaning to Barger.

“The prelude ‘Play Pretty’ was a tribute to my mother and my relationship with my mom,” Barger said. “I actually have those words engraved on my clarinet ligature on my mouthpiece, so I see that every time I play.”

The third movement, “Heavy D,” was written in honor of Denise’s and her mother’s relationship, while the second movement, “Schizo Scherzo” was taken from McAllister’s “Epic Concerto” for clarinet and piano.

“And the last movement [‘BFF’] just kind of captures our friendship so perfectly well,” Barger said.

Other tracks on the CD include Alexis Ciesla’s “Etudes Concertantes for E-flat and B-flat clarinets;” William Price’s “Sweet and Simple for E-flat and B-flat clarinets and piano;” and Gerald Cohen’s “Sea of Reeds for two B-flat clarinet and piano.”

Barger said the Duo is eager to expand their audience with this CD.

“We are so excited and so proud of this,” she said. “When we visit places and do masterclasses and recitals, we can hand out our CDs and get our name out there even more.”