Agility and Lyricism

The Halcyon Trio takes to the stage with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

By: Susan Van Dongen

The Halcyon Trio will perform the world premiere of the Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, Piano and Orchestra by Lalo Schifrin in Newark Sept. 10 and Trenton Sept. 11.

   On a classic edition of Inside the Actors’ Studio, actor- comedian Mike Myers talked about his late father, a real jokester, and the spurious career adventures he would make up just to put people off balance. One of his father’s bogus jobs, Mr. Myers recalled, was playing the bongos for the theme to Mission Impossible, the CBS spy show from the late 1960s. Members of a certain generation who grew up watching the show can probably hear the theme song in their heads if it’s mentioned — bongos and all.
   It’s a joke, of course. The musicians who recorded the music for Mission Impossible were most likely studio pros from Los Angeles, whereas the senior Mr. Myers was a Canadian guy with a bizarre sense of humor (and probably no percussion skills). But the career of Lalo Schifrin, the composer of that theme song — and some 200 other works for television and film — is certainly no laughing matter.
   A gifted and prolific composer, studio wizard and jazz pianist who played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Mr. Schifrin became a megastar through his film compositions, but also is a fine symphonic composer, according to Andrew Lamy, clarinetist with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and a personal friend of Mr. Schifrin’s.
   "He gets commissioned by orchestras all over the world," says Mr. Lamy, a native Californian who also is one-third of the Halcyon Trio. "The Chicago Symphony commissioned a work by him just last year. He’s always had a very astute approach to the jazz charts he writes and they have a classically informed structure to them."
   The NJSO, conducted by Anne Manson, will premiere Lalo Schifrin’s Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, Piano and Orchestra at NJPAC in Newark Sept. 10 and the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton Sept. 11. Soloing in the three-movement concerto will be the acclaimed Halcyon Trio, comprised of NJSO musicians Mr. Lamy and violist Brett Deubner, as well as pianist Gary Kirkpatrick. The concerts also will feature Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D major, as well as excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet score, Romeo and Juliet.
   In the literature for the NJSO’s 2004-2005 season — the first under new music director Neeme Järvi — it’s surely the first time the name Prokofiev has been mentioned near The Man from U.N.C.L.E. That’s another ’60s TV show that featured a theme by Mr. Schifrin. Mr. Lamy says this is just one layer of the composer’s life, however.
   "Whether you’re talking about Bach, Gershwin, Scott Joplin or Messaien — who was his teacher later in life — Lalo’s evolution is really a collage of many experiences," Mr. Lamy says. "Before he had his (Hollywood) Walk of Fame star, he was a be-bop musician, touring and clubbing in the big jazz centers, nationally and internationally. Lalo became a very successful film composer as soon as he settled in L.A. It fit his character, because as a jazz pianist he composed music on the spot for his combos.
   "When I met Lalo in 1987 (in Los Angeles), he was already a megastar in Hollywood," Mr. Lamy continues. "I had just won the position as principal clarinetist for the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra and Lalo was the music director. He took an interest and was very encouraging to me — even in this pre-professional stage of my life."
   Mr. Lamy began his solo career in 1990 with a memorable performance of the Aaron Copland Clarinet Concerto with the Debut Orchestra at Royce Hall in Los Angeles. Before his death, Copland reviewed Mr. Lamy’s recording of composer Gary Pratt’s score for the film Pasture Songs, praising the young clarinetist.
   In 1991, after hearing his work with the Debut Orchestra, Mr. Schifrin appointed Mr. Lamy to the clarinet section of the Glendale (Calif.) Orchestra. Soon after, Mr. Lamy received invitations to perform with the Charleston Quartet and the Los Angeles Wind Quintet and also found himself in demand for numerous performances with orchestras throughout Southern California. He worked frequently on a number of Hollywood film soundtracks, as well.
   In 1993, Mr. Lamy was appointed to the NJSO. Since then, he has performed more than a thousand orchestral and chamber concerts in such prestigious venues as the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer and Merkin Halls. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading clarinet teachers, Mr. Lamy is on the faculty of the New Jersey Conservatory, Drew Summer Music, Rutgers University, William Paterson University and has been a guest master clinician at the Juilliard School.
   The Halcyon Trio has consistently received rave reviews for its energetic performance style, emotional depth, compelling repertoire and precise ensemble work. The trio is keeping alive the configuration of clarinet, viola and piano invented by Mozart himself — a combination of instruments particularly known for lyricism, agility and blend of timbres. This will be the trio’s debut with the NJSO.
   "Lalo and I stayed in touch through the years," Mr. Lamy continues. "Anyone who has worked with him likes him very much and loves his music. When the Halcyon Trio envisioned a project, we talked about different composers but we kept coming back to Lalo, because he has such an eclectic and unique voice."
The Halcyon Trio and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform the world premiere of the Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, Piano and Orchestra by Lalo Schifrin at NJPAC, 1 Center St., Newark, Sept. 10, 8 p.m., and the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, West Lafayette and Barrack streets, Trenton, Sept. 11, 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20-$72. For information, call (800) 255-3476. On the Web: The Halcyon Trio on the Web: