The Blaauw Ensemble
Its members are:
- Helen Bledsoe (flute),
- Tara Bouman (clarinet, bass clarinet),
- Marco Blaauw (trumpet, Janus Trumpet, slide trumpet),
- Maria Cleary (harp, arpa doppia) and
- Gijsbrecht Royé (bass zither).
Marco Blaauw founded this ensemble at the invitation of the Stichting Huygens-Fokker.
He knew Bledsoe, Bouman and Cleary already for many years by meetings in
various projects about new music. Ensemble MusikFabrik in Düsseldorf was one of their
regular meeting places. The musicians are known as curious, inquisitive and virtuoso
instrumentalists. Their activities and interests overlap and have many similarities.
From their classical background they investigate new ways to play on new, or
old and rarely used instruments. Their character inspired composers
to write specifically for them.
Gijsbrecht Royé (1963) began at an early age to compose and play guitar.
Initially, he followed a second vocation, namely the ecological agriculture and
visited the Land- en Tuinbouwschool and worked on an organic farm (milking cows,
weeding beet and potato plants). In 1987 he won a special guitar prize in the
International Gaudeamus Competition. As composer, he participated in several
"young composers projects". The last years he is especially interested in the
possibilities of intonation of various stringed instruments.
Marco Blaauw (by Michiel Cley)
Think of a trumpet, and ignore jazz, the village fanfare and
Haydn's trumpet concerto: those who at this point stare into emptiness, may have it
filled in by Marco Blaauw. Because the trumpet is capable of more than
maintaining traditions. The instrument has great possibilities
that have hardly been exploited by composers, and not yet been discovered by the
public. Marco Blaauw let them hear, as a soloist with orchestras and ensembles - or
alone, in the spacious acoustics of a church. Centuries ago it was the
function of troubadours with artistic means to disseminate news. With
that image in mind Marco Blaauw (1965), revealed himself after his
conservatory training, as a pioneer in the field of trumpet techniques and
as 'sound fanatic', who prefers looking for virtuosity in the refinement of sound
rather than in speed.
Blaauw: 'In the Netherlands, where the emphasis is on general education, it is not
common that you specialize in contemporary music. As
conservatory-musician you get very conditioned, you learn the craft, but
you need to use your own strength to orientate on a new artistic direction.' After
the conservatory he played in the EEC Youth Orchestra and various
Dutch symphony orchestras. But there is more than the standard music practice.
The public need not always be confirmed in what it already knows; Blaauw wants
that people are really surprised about what they hear. Recently he developed
a new type of trumpet, the "Janus Trumpet" with a double cup and five
valves instead of three. This instrument allows him to
realize sounds that are not possible with a conventional trumpet.
Microtones, for example - the nuances, that lie between the ordinary notes of the Western
scale, and which play such an important role in, among others, Arab
and Asian music. With this instrument, he is increasingly becoming a soloist - but not a loner.
Still he is associated with the Ives Ensemble, MusikFabrik Düsseldorf and
trumpet quartet Michaelstrompeter. Also does his exceptional playing
create sparks to composers from home and abroad. Peter Eötvös,
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Richard Ayres, Martijn Padding, Isabel Mundry and others
have written pieces for him, which he performs alongside existing work of Hans
Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Toru Takemitsu and Franco Donatoni.
He can also be heard as an improviser. The music that he creates ad hoc
is quite colorful, because it is performed on red or blue
lacquered instruments. 'Because I was brought up with music paper', says
Blaauw, 'it is liberating to make your own music. In my
improvisations I try to release my conditioned conscience. The
history of music and the traditional playing techniques are no longer the
point of departure, but merely the sound. I hesitate to use the word "meditative",
but one will no doubt associate with it.' For Blaauw the trumpet is a
worthy replacement of the solo voice. Not coincidentally, he receives a solo role in
the opera "Mittwoch aus Licht" by Karlheinz Stockhausen. In this work - the
premiere is scheduled for the 2002-2003 season - the voices and instruments are
equivalent: musicians speak through their instrument, their notes become "text".
Grist to the mill, therefore, to a musician who really has something to say.
"Musicians have the chance to develop new abilities and start over again even
as adults. This gives one the unique chance to go beyond the narrow;
traditional limits of one's instrument, and thus go beyond oneself."
Helen Bledsoe, born in Aiken, South Carolina, came to Europe in 1994 and lives
in Cologne at the moment. She works across Europe as a soloist and in ensembles
for contemporary music. In America she earned academic titles at the
University of Pittsburgh (BA summa cum laude), and Indiana University (MM).
At the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam she then obtained the
performing musician diploma, with distinction. Her teachers and sources of
inspiration were: Bernard Goldberg, Peter Lloyd, Kate Lukas, Harrie Rigid Field,
Aurèle Nicolet and Robert Dick. She won numerous scholarships including the William
Kincaid Scholarship. During the winters of 1992 and 1993 Helen held residence
at the Banff Center, Canada, and developed her passion for the avant-garde
chamber music and improvisation. Although she is known as "specialist" for
contemporary music, Helen has a broad musical background: during her
traverso study she played with the University of Pittsburgh Collegium Musicum.
As an orchestra musician she held positions in Charleston Symphony (SC), the
Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra and Owensboro Symphony (Kentucky). Helen studied
also jazz with David Baker in Indianapolis and Karnatic (South Indian) music with
Rafael Reina in Amsterdam. In the summer of 2000 she studied in Bangalore,
India, with the singer Jahnavi Jayaprakash. As a soloist Helen won
leading prices like the Myrna Brown Competition, the Banff Concerto
Award and the International Gaudeamus Interpreter's Competition for Contemporary
Music. In North America performed solo with the Dallas Chamber
and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. In Europe she played at prominent festivals
as the Darmstadt Ferienkurse and the Gaudeamus Music Week.
Since her move to Europe in 1994, Helen is very active in the
European new music scene. She has performed at many prominent festivals and
concert halls such as the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Philharmonias in St
Petersburg, Berlin and Cologne, Settiembre Musica in Turin, Cité de la Musique
in Paris, the Gulbenkian Festival in Lisbon and Zurich Tage für Neue Musik.
She performed with ensemble Klangforum Wien, is a regular guest at the
Nieuw Ensemble Amsterdam and member of ensemble MusikFabrik in Düsseldorf and
the REMIX ensemble in Porto.
In addition to her private teaching practice Helen taught at the University of Pittsburgh and
she was assistant to Peter Lloyd and Kate Lukas at Indiana University. She also
gives masterclasses for flute and workshops for composers.
Tara Bouman, 1970, studied clarinet in Rotterdam with Walter Boeijkens and in
Amsterdam with Piet Honingh. She concluded her studies in 1997 with the performing
musician diploma with distinction for the interpretation of contemporary
music. The interest in new music was already raised in her as a child
by Messiaen's "Quatuor pour la fin du temps". A decisive influence on her
choice to specialise in this direction was the introduction to the music of
Karlheinz Stockhausen, with whom she worked together intensively since 1995. In 1996 and
1998 she won prizes in the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt and during
the Stockhausen-Kursen in Kürten she was honored with prizes for her
interpretation of "Mission und Himmelfahrt" for basset horn and trumpet in
(1998) and "Harlekin" for clarinet solo.
Since 1996 Tara Bouman plays concerts in many different formations throughout Europe and beyond.
Since 1999 she is a yearly guest at the conservatory in Mexico for giving
concerts and master classes. For the study of her repertoire she works
closely together with composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Kurtag,
Georges Aperghis, Roderik de Man, Robin de Graaf and Isabel Mundry.
Maria Christina Cleary was born in Ireland, 1972, lives currently in Amsterdam
and works as a harpist, with specialisations in old and modern music, throughout
Europe. Initially she studied psychology at Trinity College Dublin. From
NUFFIC she later got a scholarship that allowed her to the
Royal Conservatory in The Hague to study harp. In 1994, she obtained the
performing musician diploma, and in 1996 the diploma of chamber music.
She continued her study harp at the Royal Susanna Mildonian
Conservatory in Brussels and studied historical harps with Andrew
Lawrence-King at the Hochschule für Alte Musik in Bremen. In 1997 she was
admitted by the Jonge Netwerk voor Oude Muziek for her play on the
single-pedal harp. In Japan she was the prize winner of the
International Harp Competition a year later.
Maria Cleary specialized herself on different harps. In addition to the concert harp
and the Celtic harp she plays on arpa doppia, arpa de dos ordenes and
medieval harp among others. She performed with the Academy of Ancient Music (England)
Concerto Palatino, The Netherlands Bach Society, La SFERA Armoniosa, Arte e
Suonatori (Poland) and Combattimento Consort Amsterdam. She played contemporary music
with ensemble MusikFabrik NRW, Düsseldorf, Remix Ensemble in Portugal and
Marco Blaauw recently developed his own instrument the "Janus Trumpet": this
trumpet, besides its three common valves, is expanded with a fourth valve, for playing
quarter- and microtones, and a fifth one for changing between cups.
By playing one of the cups with damper and the other one open, a huge
new range of sound colors arises when being changed quick or very gradually
between the two cups! By the two cups a relationship arises
with Janus, the Roman/Italian God, a figure with two faces that is also named the
God of each beginning (January. .....), or any transition. The
new possibilities of this trumpet has already inspired many composers:
Martijn Padding, Peter Eötvös and Isabel Mundry have already written for this
instrument; new works are in planning.
Through his cooperation with Marco Blaauw Royé started to use the slide trumpet again.
This instrument is also known as soprano trombone, and like the 'normal' tenor trombone has
endless possibilities to play microtonally. The slide trumpet has a long history
but the last 400 years it was hardly used in classical music.
Probably technical problems got this instrument to sink to oblivion. Wrongly, Blaauw and Royé think: the
sonorous timbre and unique instrumental possibilities, like creating glissandi and many
available micro intervals, make the slide trumpet to a very interesting
The project Blaauw Ensemble is a cooperative project of Muziekcentrum
de IJsbreker with the Stichting Huygens-Fokker and is financially supported by
the Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten.