"It was all kind of frightening," Anthony McGill says of his part in the presidential inauguration Jan. 20.
The clarinetist, who performs tomorrow night with the Peabody Concert Orchestra, was one of the four nearly frozen musicians who gave the virtual premiere of John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts" on the West Front of the Capitol, just before Barack Obama was sworn in as president.
As the whole world later discovered, those players - violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero and McGill - played to a recording they had made a couple of days before.
"We tried playing a bit on Monday [Jan. 19]," says McGill, a Peabody Conservatory faculty member and principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. "It was horribly cold that day, but Tuesday was worse. I thought all along they were going to have heaters for us, but they didn't."
Without enough warmth to protect the instruments, the quartet opted for the sleight-of-hand. "We all figured, OK, we have to do it. We can't cancel on this president and this event," the clarinetist says. "Under normal weather conditions, to play for millions of people would have been awesome."
McGill says it "would have been helpful" had inauguration officials revealed the use of the recording right after the ceremony; that might have kept the musicians from being tossed into a media storm.
"It was rough, but I'm not complaining," McGill says. "A classical quartet performed on Tuesday, and people were still talking about the performance on Friday. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I have never gotten more e-mails or calls in my life."
McGill will be the all-live, all-natural soloist in Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto at Peabody. If his 2004 performance of that compelling work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is any indication, he will deliver it brilliantly.
The concert will be on an all-American program conducted by Hajime Teri Murai, who will also lead the Peabody Concert Orchestra in works by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Christopher Rouse. The performance is at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Peabody Conservatory, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place. Tickets are $5-$15. Call 410-659-8100, ext. 2.
The Hardy-Orkis Duo, composed of two exceptional National Symphony Orchestra members, will offer what promises to be a dynamic all-Beethoven program this weekend for the Catonsville Presbyterian Concert Series.
Baltimore native David Hardy has been NSO's principal cellist since 1994. He is also a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory. Pianist Lambert Orkis was named to the principal keyboard post in 1982.
The concert is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road. Admission is free. Call 410-747-6180 or go to catonsvilleconcerts.org.