Amicitia Duo performs ‘Play Pretty’ on Sept. 12

Denise Gainey (left) and Diane Barger will perform as the Amicitia Duo on Sept. 12 with Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Mark Clinton. Courtesy photo.
Denise Gainey (left) and Diane Barger will perform as the Amicitia Duo on Sept. 12 with Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Mark Clinton. Courtesy photo.

Lincoln, Neb.--A birthday, an anniversary and more than 30 years of friendship will be celebrated when the Amicitia Duo performs a recital titled Play Pretty on Sept. 12.

The Amicitia Duo includes Glenn Korff School of Music Professor of Clarinet Diane Barger and University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor of Clarinet Denise Gainey. The duo will be joined by Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Mark Clinton.

Play Pretty is also the title of the Amicitia Duo’s first CD, which was recorded this summer in Lincoln and will be released later this fall by Potenza Music.

“It’s a celebration day,” Barger said. “We’re going to start off with this short Klezmer Birthday piece since Sept. 12 is my birthday, too. And it’s Glenn Korff Day.”

The Glenn Korff School of Music celebrates its 125th anniversary with a special combined convocation at 3:30 p.m. in Kimball Hall, which is also open to the public and will be followed by a dessert reception at 6:30 p.m. in the lower level of Kimball Hall, just prior to the Amicitia Duo’s 7:30 p.m. recital in Kimball Hall.

“Maybe that will entice some people to come to the recital,” Barger said. “They can get in a sugar coma and then chill out and listen to some music.”

Included on the program is Gerald Cohen’s Sea of Reeds: Five Hebrew Songs.

“The Gerald Cohen Hebrew Songs are just some of our favorite pieces to play on a program,” Barger said. “They alternate between energetic and then a little bit more lyrical, but they’re each so fascinating in their own right.”

Two additional pieces on the program, Alexis Ciesla’s Sonatina classica and Scott McAllister’s Amicitia Suite were both commissioned by the Amicitia Duo. The program also includes a selection from Ciesla’s Etudes Concertantes, which he transcribed for the Duo.

“I have a particular affinity towards playing the E-flat clarinet,” Barger said. “Since we like that combination, we just thought we could find our niche as a duo by highlighting as much as we can this unique combination of music for E-flat clarinet and the more traditional B-flat soprano clarinet.”

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.”

Barger said the Duo is eager for their first CD to be released later this year.

“We are so excited and so proud of this,” she said. “We haven’t even listened to the final product yet, but I think we’re just going to be so thrilled to have it out there. When we visit places and do masterclasses and recitals, we can hand out our CDs and get our name out there even more.”

The recital and CD share the title Play Pretty, which is also the first movement of McAllister’s Amicitia Suite. 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. “That is the phrase that she used to say every time I had a performance. She would make sure to say ‘Play pretty,’ and I try to say that to my students every time they play. 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.

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 month, ‘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 same holds true for Barger’s friendship with Clinton.

“We have played with other pianists with this Duo, just because we travel a lot, and Mark can’t always come with us, but you know, Mark Clinton has been one of my best friends for the last 25 years,” Barger said. “There’s a lot of history. And when you have a lot of history like that with someone, it makes that collaborative effort even more special.”

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