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.

Helen Bledsoe
"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
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 Cleary
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 Prometheus België.


Janus Trumpet

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.

Slide Trumpet

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 solo instrument!

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.