Q and A with Marguerite Lynn Williams

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Marguerite Lynn Williams is no stranger to the concert stage. She has served as principal harpist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago since 2011 and is a member of the Chicago Harp Quartet, International Chamber Artists, and La Folia, a flute and harp chamber duo. She currently teaches at Northwestern University and the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Following four rounds of auditions in 2019, Williams was named principal harpist with the Minnesota Orchestra. Nearly a year after winning the position, she makes her debut with the orchestra on Nov. 20 performing Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro. We caught up with Lynn to find out more about her upcoming performance.

How does it feel to perform a big concerto like the Ravel for your first performance?

I feel incredibly lucky to be performing the Ravel Introduction and Allegro on my first concert with the Minnesota Orchestra. Starting with such a major harp part in a chamber work is a really fantastic way to get to know my colleagues in the orchestra.

What are some of your favorite aspects of the piece?

I’ve always loved this work for the incredible colors that Ravel is able to coax out of the various instrument combinations. Of course I love the cadenza for the creative freedom it allows, but I think my favorite moment is the exciting ending!

What did the preparation process look like during the pandemic? How were rehearsals structured? Are musicians socially distanced, wearing masks, etc.?

The concert is put together like a normal work week with a few rehearsals, dress rehearsal, and a live concert. The Minnesota Orchestra has a strict health protocol regarding working together. Musicians are required to quarantine for a week before rehearsals begin, we take a COVID test 24 hours before the first rehearsal, rehearsals are no longer than 90 minutes in length and of course we all wear masks and maintain at least six ft. of distancing at all times.

The Minnesota Orchestra has been livestreaming their performances. How do you feel about that? Is there an added level of excitement knowing that so many people could be watching?

I’m extremely happy that the orchestra is having concerts livestreamed, broadcast on the local PBS channel, on Minnesota Public Radio, as well as posting them on the orchestra’s website for the rest of the 2020-2021 season! I believe we have the ability to reach a far greater audience than those who could have possibly come to a live concert and am really happy to share performances with friends and family around the world who definitely could not have attended!

Will there be any live audience members or only an online audience?

There is currently no live audience for our concerts.

Professional sports have tried to compensate for the lack of fans at their events by piping in crowd noise. How do you anticipate the feeling of a live performance without a live audience will feel? Have you made any adjustments in your preparation for that?

While I’m sure it is going to feel weird to finish a performance without any audience response, I’m happy that my colleagues and I will enjoy the music and celebrate performing together!

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About Author

Hannah Palmquist is a freelance harpist and teacher based in Saint Paul, MN. She is the associate editor at Harp Column. Hannah earned her DMA from the University of Minnesota and is passionate about chamber music. She is the co-founder of Duo Leon, a harp and oboe duo based in the Twin Cities.

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