PCSO’s second flute/piccolo Gail Gillespie shares her thoughts on a virtual world, plus a few of her favorite things.
How did you choose your instrument?
When I was about to go into 7th grade—the earliest they offered instrumental music, in public schools in Hawaii, back then—I had signed up for band. My sister played a record of band music for me, and said for me to tell her when I heard a sound I wanted to make, and that I should ask to play that instrument. The sound I chose was that of the piccolo. She explained that I would have to learn flute first… and since she is a flutist, as well (the first female full-time member of the Royal Hawaiian Band, by the way!) she got me off to a great start. I knew within a year that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I am so lucky!
When did you first join PCSO?
In the spring of 2013. I had attended PCSO concerts soon after I moved to Portland and was thrilled to hear, a few years later, that there was an opening in the flute section. I auditioned in the fall of 2012, and finalists each got to play with the orchestra that season as part of the audition. I was so happy to find an orchestra home, here in Oregon.
What is your favorite concert memory with the PCSO, and why?
Oh, that’s a hard one! The November 2019 concert comes to mind, because we, as an orchestra, loved having the chance to perform a vibrant overture by our own Nicole Buetti, her Odyssey. What wonderful music, by one of our own! The expressive viola soloist, Brett Deubner, played another piece I didn’t yet know, Richard Danielpour’s “The Voyager,” which was a lovely music, beautifully played. We concluded with a favorite of both the audience and orchestra, alike, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. I reveled in the inspiration of my colleagues’ gorgeous solo playing, as well as the lush sounds of the full orchestra. This program brought together both new and “standard” orchestral music of a high quality, in a way that was enjoyable for both the musicians and our audience.
What pieces or composers have given you the most comfort or resolve this year?
I have enjoyed a lot of choral music, recommended by friends in my church choir. Morten Lauridsen’s music, such as “O magnum mysterium,” has such interesting harmonies and brings peace to my heart. Just about anything recorded by VOCES8 is pretty wonderful, too!
What else has been getting you through the pandemic?
Zoom (even though I resisted it at first, I like seeing people’s faces); my family, my friends, and my wonderful church, Westminster Presbyterian; my cats, Sumo and Wasabi (who attend most Zoom meetings…); and nature—I never could have survived without it!
What “virtual” concerts have you participated in this year?
I was involved in PCSO’s Gala Finale, and my church choir has made some recordings for use in services, recording our tracks individually and having them mixed by a sound engineer.
What has been most challenging about the “virtual” format, either in general or specifically as a flutist?
I was very impressed with the setup – giving us a video of Steven conducting, as well as a click track and MIDI recording to work with, when recording our individual parts. It really helped a lot! But oh, did I miss hearing my colleagues in person! Tuning and adjusting nuances in the music, within your section and the orchestra as a whole, are normally a constant part of the experience. I missed their aural input to my musical decision-making! The sounds of the flute and piccolo are challenging to record, especially in the upper registers. But the biggest thing is I miss my peeps!
As more musicians continue to get vaccinated and it becomes safer to perform together again, what do you look forward to the most in late 2021 and beyond?
Playing together, in growing numbers! I just miss that collective sound and energy, and the process of creating it together. It makes sense to start in chamber ensembles and gradually grow into larger ensembles, both from a safety standpoint and also for regaining our ensemble listening skills, after mostly playing alone for over a year.
Right now, I am preparing a video performance of a Bach Trio Sonata with two other PCSO members: flutist Liberty Broillet and cellist Barbara Johnston. We are all fully vaccinated and careful in our daily lives. Our first in-person rehearsals are such a joy! I love hearing their beautiful playing, and responding in the musical moment to one another. This is a great step forward, towards the day we can share the joy of live music with our audiences, in person. It’s encouraging to see us beginning to move in that direction, as circumstances allow.