A Look Behind the Curtain: Harrington/Loewen Duo’s THE POSTCARD SESSIONS

Recording THE POSTCARD SESSIONS at the Shalin Liu Performance Center (September 2015)

On Friday, Winnipeg’s Harrington/Loewen Duo (Allen Harrington, saxophone; Laura Loewen, piano) will release their second album, THE POSTCARD SESSIONS, on Ravello Records.

In advance of the release, we caught up with Laura and Allen to chat about the album, from its inception to what’s next after its release.

Laura Loewen

How did the two of you first start playing together?

We both started working at the University of Manitoba at the same time (September 2002) and met at a faculty retreat.  

Laura: “Hi, I’m Laura, and I love playing with saxophonists!”  
Allen: “Are you making fun of me?”  
Laura: “No, I’m serious!”  

Considering the rarity of finding pianists who are willing to tackle the difficult saxophone repertoire, we had no choice but to form a duo immediately!

Your first album (2014’s METROPOLIS) mainly featured contemporary music by living composers. What led to you selecting a more repertoire-based program this time around?

We’ve always played a wide variety of music and we like the challenge of playing music from different eras.  We thought it would be good to highlight that diversity in our first two CDs. 

How did you decide which pieces to record for THE POSTCARD SESSIONS?

We were interested in doing this CD with a “miniatures” theme, and based our selection of repertoire around that.  We also wanted to include repertoire that we’ve enjoyed performing over the years.  What we chose ended up in itself being quite a diverse program.

Which is your favorite piece on the album?

That’s a tough question…. we like each one for different reasons.  They are all favourites, that’s why they’re on the album!

Allen Harrington

What was your preparation/rehearsal process like leading up to the recording sessions?

Whenever we were both in town at the same time in July and August, we rehearsed two hours a day.  We each did daily practice on our own.  We also did four recitals in August and September leading up to our mid-September recording dates making sure to include all of the repertoire at least once in those recitals.

Recording over an hour of music in three days is no easy feat. What did you find to be the biggest challenge during the sessions, and how did you overcome it?

The concentration, physical endurance, and level of creativity required was difficult to maintain in those 18 hours of recording.  What helped us manage this was our level of preparation coming in to it; our trust in the producer, recording engineer, and session manager; the amazing surroundings of Gloucester (where we were staying); and our friendship and experience playing together.

What was your biggest take-away from your experience at the Shalin Liu Performance Center?

Wow!  What an amazing acoustic and visual space!  When ever we needed inspiration, we just looked out the window at the back of the stage.

What do you want your listeners to take away from this album?

We’d like them to hear music that they may not have heard before, how awesome and versatile the saxophone is, and what an exciting duo the saxophone and piano can be.

Other than the new release, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Laura’s working at an opera training program and a song institute.  Allen’s playing bassoon in some orchestra concerts, and doing some recitals with an organist.  We are planning a few concerts to support the release of the CD.  

We are also taking some time off in the summer – Laura’s running a marathon, Allen’s spending vacation time with his family.

What music are you both listening to right now?

Allen:  I’m mainly listening to upcoming orchestral music I’m performing, and whatever my kids want to listen to in the car.

Laura:  Mostly whatever I’m performing next, plus a wide range of genres at home.

THE POSTCARD SESSIONS will be available on CD, for download, and streaming online on May 13th. In the meantime, you can check out some clips from the album via the SoundCloud player below.

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