On Friday, May 22, Joan DerHovsepian, associate principal viola, invites you to an evening of music via livestream concert, the fourth of the Houston Symphony’s new Living Room Series.
Joan will be joined by her musical family: husband Erik Gronfor is the assistant principal double bass in the Houston Grand Opera’s Orchestra, and daughter Clara, who is a violin student at the Kinder High School for Visual and Performing Arts. They share their thoughts on Friday’s program, performing together, and hobbies both old and new.
How did you select the night’s program?
Joan: Viola and bass are not typically featured as solo instruments, so it is a rare pleasure for us to share this recital of lesser-known gems for this great pair of instruments. Some of these charming, captivating, and rustic selections you may be hearing for the first time. We hope these pieces will bring a smile to your face.
Erik and I have been performing the Glière duo throughout our 20-year marriage, so this was an easy choice. We have enjoyed a history and connection to the piece, from Erik’s final master’s recital at Rice University’s Shepherd School to performances for our daughter’s elementary school classes. I am personally looking forward to sharing two beautiful solo viola pieces I have known about for years but never had the time to learn: the first Telemann Fantasia and the rhapsodic movement from the Reger Suite. My favorite piece of the program would have to be the Bach Double concerto. It is a dream come true to play this great piece together with our 15-year-old daughter, Clara!
We saw you, Erik, and Clara perform a lovely front yard concert for your neighbors last month. How often do you typically perform together as a family?
Joan: As we were stepping out with our instruments to perform the small program for our neighbors, Erik suggested we wear our concert dress. As he donned his tux he wears for the Houston Grand Opera, and I put on my symphonic black, I felt the first sense of normalcy since our schedule of performances had been canceled. During our usual busy life, we don’t have the opportunity as a family to enjoy playing music together, but now we make time for it almost every day. It was only natural for us to reach out to each other musically.
What have you been doing to get through the quarantine? (Clara, I hear you’ve been taking on some incredible baking projects, too!)
Erik: In addition to spending time with my family and my bass, I have been working out how to effectively teach private lessons online. Aside from this I have spent a considerable amount of time exploring the great system of bike trails around Houston. I’ve also been dabbling in both latex and oil paints: removing the latex from our outdoor windows and applying oils to canvas as I work on a portrait of Clara as a toddler.
Clara: I’ve always found baking interesting because I like seeing people enjoy my food. This quarantine period has been a great time to explore and experiment with different recipes. If I bake something I find it satisfying, even if I don’t eat it myself. It takes away my stress. I like working with different pastries and incorporating fruit into them. Croissants, brioche, and doughnuts have been my favorites lately. Usually I make something three or four times to experiment and see what is the best method and flavor combination. The only thing I haven’t mastered is cleaning the kitchen! [Check out Clara’s recipe for Bach Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies]
What does it mean to perform live music now, even if it’s virtually?
Joan: Truthfully, we never realized how important live concerts were to us until those experiences were all suddenly gone. The intimate connection we have while sharing these moments—players and audience together—is one of the greatest joys in life. Being on stage with my Houston Symphony family is another place that feels like home to me and I can’t express how much I miss our concerts there. Until it is possible to be back together in Jones Hall with all of you, I am delighted we can invite you into our living rooms.
Watch Joan, Erik, and Clara perform together! Get tickets for the Living Room Series concert on Friday, May 22.
Front yard performance: Mouret’s Rondeau