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Firebird Ensemble Interview

Posted on 01 October 2008. © Copyright 2004-2023 Composition:Today


C:T talks to Firebird Ensemble, Boston's premier chamber ensemble.

Firebird Ensemble
Tell us about Firebird Ensemble, how it was formed, and its raison d'etre.



KATE VINCENT (Artistic Director of Firebird Ensemble): I founded Firebird Ensemble in 2001 as a recent graduate from New England Conservatory where my experiences performing new music inspired me to create a high energy and virtuosic chamber ensemble to perform exclusively contemporary music. From the outset Firebird Ensemble has played both traditional and non- traditional venues (from major concert halls, to historic mansions and BBQ restaurants), programming diverse and eclectic new music with the intention of sharing the wealth of this fabulous repertoire with a wide array of audiences.

Does the group focus on playing specific types of music?




While we perform exclusively new music, stylistically our repertoire choices are almost pathologically diverse! We perform multi-disciplinary works; microtonal music; contemporary cross over (involving funk, jazz, rock influences), experimental/ quasi improvised; spectral music and of course the mainstays of the 20th century contemporary repertoire. We are also currently embarking on our first fully staged chamber opera project, “The Face” by Donald Crockett which I am really excited about!

How do you go about programming your concerts?

Usually a particular work inspires a whole program and it appears either as an idea in my mind or is suggested by a Firebird performer or colleague. Sometimes I find a piece from materials that have been sent to me by a composer. Around that central work I assemble a program, which feels intuitively right. Often but not always, our programs have a thematic thread or underlying concept, which abstractly connects the works.

How do you respond to unsolicited work- do you give feedback? Do you ever commission new work yourself?

Because of the amount of materials I receive and the insane workload associated with running an ensemble, I rarely give feedback on unsolicited work and I do prefer it if people inquire before they send materials. If a composer asks me specifically, I am more than happy to give feedback.

How did you get your first commission?



Do you ever commission new works yourself?


We have been commissioning new works since the ensemble was founded and it is something I’m very proud of. It’s not only an essential part of our mission but also an exciting and hugely rewarding process. Within the next two years we will give premieres of approximately seven works commissioned by Firebird
Ensemble from US composers at various points in their careers.

What do you see as the role (intended and actual) of new music in the modern world?

A BIG question! I believe the role of new music is no different to the role of any other musical genre or art form. My personal opinion is that our responsibility as artists (of any kind) is to inspire, nurture, enlighten, entertain, excite and most importantly communicate with our audience. Firebird has certainly set out to breakdown misconceptions about new music being ‘academic and inaccessible’, a concept perhaps associated with contemporary music concert experiences of the past. Of course new music often uses non- traditional musical language, which can challenge a listener but this need not be a deterrent in any way. At this point new music is exceptionally rich in its influences, expression and content. We try to share this with our audiences by delivering exceptional performances of works, which we passionately believe in, to the most demographically diverse audiences we can attract.

Is it a good time to be running a new music ensemble?



It is always a FABULOUS time to be running a new music ensemble! This having been said, at the moment there are definite economic challenges on the fund-raising side of things. Keeping an ensemble well supported and growing is a big job, but if you really believe in what you are doing and are offering really meaningful and inspiring programs then the support can be found somehow.

What advice would you give to a young composer just starting out?

1) If humanly possible don’t be late on a deadline. Missed deadlines create havoc, bad will, bad talk and bad performances.
2) Discuss all details of a commission well in advance and submit a great set of score and parts. I find it helpful to have a contract so that there are no misunderstandings.
3) If you are still in graduate school, foster close relationships with your colleagues (both composers and performers). In a few years these people will be creating fantastic ensembles and concert projects.
4) Being open to constructive criticism from the performers you work with and having a good bedside manner during rehearsals is also REALLY important.



Tell us about the Ensemble's current projects

Last week we gave the opening performance of the Ditson Contemporary Music Festival at the ICA in Boston, which was a blast! We are also currently preparing a program featuring the music of Thomas Ades, John Harbison, Earl Kim, C.Bryan Rulon, and a Firebird commission titled “Torrid Nature Scene” by a young Australian composer - Nicholas Vines. We will perform this program on October 6th at the Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA and on
October 7th at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York, NY. For more details about this concert and those later in the season, feel free to check our website: http://www.firebirdensemble.com



What are your plans for the future?

I want to give more concerts, reach larger audiences, continue to commission and record new works and increase our touring activities (internationally as well as in the US). In the short term, I hope to find greater financial support so that our projects can continue to be ambitious and also to better compensate the Firebirds for their tireless and exceptional work. Last of all, I definitely want a decked out bright red tour bus !

How can people find out more about you?

Please feel free to visit our website: http://www.firebirdensemble.com and also to email firebirdensemble@yahoo.com if you have any questions about Firebird Ensemble. Better still, come to one of our concerts with some friends and come and say hi afterwards!


Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2023

Comments by other Members


Posted by :  piargno at 05:54 on 03 October 2008
This ensemble is fantastic, and Kate Vincent is a lovely, lovely lady, as well as a fantastic violist. Firebird is definitely one of the things I miss about Boston now that I'm here in CO, and it's great that this ensemble got some publicity on this site. Definitely check out their website and try to go to a concert if you can. You will NOT be disappointed!
Posted by :  piargno at 05:54 on 03 October 2008
This ensemble is fantastic, and Kate Vincent is a lovely, lovely lady, as well as a fantastic violist. Firebird is definitely one of the things I miss about Boston now that I'm here in CO, and it's great that this ensemble got some publicity on this site. Definitely check out their website and try to go to a concert if you can. You will NOT be disappointed!
Posted by :  piargno at 05:59 on 03 October 2008
This ensemble is fantastic, and Kate Vincent is a lovely, lovely lady, as well as a fantastic violist. Firebird is definitely one of the things I miss about Boston now that I'm here in CO, and it's great that this ensemble got some publicity on this site. Definitely check out their website and try to go to a concert if you can. You will NOT be disappointed!
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