Thomas Stacy's English Horn



(page 1 of 2)

Amid the group of framed concert posters on the walls of Thomas Stacy’s Old Greenwich music studio there is an eight-by ten-inch glossy color photograph that stands out like a seafoam green Fender Stratocaster in an orchestra pit. It was taken years ago; the musician can’t even remember when, despite the fact that the subject was all his idea. As he gleefully relates, it was during a trip to Taipei with the New York Philharmonic that the eureka moment struck. He was strolling in Snake Alley, the fabled exotic night market, and decided it would be great fun to charm a cobra with his English horn. Mandarin was spoken, cash was exchanged, and his solo audience, a well-coiled serpent, was deposited on the pavement in front of him via a pair of ten-foot-long tongs.

As Stacy, like a modern-day Pied Piper, serenaded the sinuous serpent with one of his celebrated English horn solos, a crowd gathered around. The human listeners were enthralled, but the performance left the reptile less than rapt. “He turned the other way,” Stacy says with an impish grin.

In his forty-four-year professional career, the cobra has been the only critic Stacy hasn’t been able to indelibly impress. That was made even clearer last December when he became the first English horn player ever to be nominated for a Grammy, in the category of best instrumental soloist performance. The work, a track of Kenneth Fuchs’s “Eventide” from the album An American Place that Stacy recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta conducting, would no doubt have made even that cobra sway.

“It was a thrill just to get this far,” Stacy says, admitting that when the envelope was opened on February 8 and it wasn’t his name that was read out, he felt “the slap” of rejection. “But it’s a high honor to be nominated,” he adds. (Stacy was one of five final nominees selected from more than two hundred on the nominating ballot.)

Although the classical portion of the Grammy Awards is not carried on television — the nominees were the guests of honor at a “beautiful party” that afternoon in Los Angeles — Stacy and his wife Marie did attend the televised portion of the awards show. “The live acts were excruciatingly loud, and it made me crave the sound of silence and Mahler and Bach, but the production was spectacular,” he says. “I had forgotten to bring my earplugs, so Marie and I stuffed our ears with Kleenex.”

The Grammy nomination aside, when Stacy, the world’s most recorded English horn player, plays, the world listens and so do all the critics. Invariably, the reviews are studded with accolades. Hailed by the New York Times as the “Heifetz of the English horn,” he has impressed, among others, critics at the New York Post, the Washington Post, the Leipziger Volkszeitung, Berlingske Tidende and the London Evening Standard. (In one example, the Washington Post proclaimed that “shouts of ‘bravo’ echoed through the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for an English horn player. The enthusiasm was well merited … by Thomas Stacy’s sensitive playing.”)

“Performing before a live audience is enthralling,” Stacy says as he settles into a comfortable chair by the fire with a cup of steaming tea and a plate of chocolate chip cookies he and his wife Marie had baked.

His round puttolike face, framed by spectacles and a fringe of straight blonde hair, takes on an earnest look as he describes his passion and his profession. The words come out slowly, as if he’s playing them in his head before letting them emerge. “It can be very lonesome because it’s just you that has to make the music happen,” he says in the broad, flat tone of a two-by-four pine plank. “There’s a slight feeling of power. Perhaps you can make a moment of beauty for somebody out in the audience. As a player, one’s bottom line is beauty.”

For Stacy, the beauty lies not only in the music but also in the reaction it stirs in those who hear him. “You can tell you have the audience if they get quiet. If you turn a phrase the right way, it is absolutely quiet or as absolutely quiet as it can get in the audience. It means you’ve caught their ears. I try to make this happen a lot.”

For the musician that Leonard Bernstein dubbed a “poet among craftsmen,” a successful performance depends upon great attention to detail. “I’m always thinking of new spins on what I can do with a piece,” Stacy says. “That can be somewhat dangerous because how many different spins can you put on it? It may be better the first way you played it.”

But don’t those unrehearsed spins throw off the other players in the orchestra? “I hope so!” he says with a chuckle. “Actually, the English horn is a solo instrument, so it doesn’t matter to them.”

At that, a look of regret creases his face — would that he could cause such a stir! As the cobra photo op illustrates, there is much more to Stacy than meets the ear.

For instance, when he was playing the famous “Goin’ Home” solo in Dvorak’s New World Symphony, he aimed for something that is not only sad but full of hope. “There was another solo — I can’t remember just what it was — when I was thinking, ‘This should sound just like my grandmother’s singing on Sunday night in church.’ I try to have some quasi-abstract thoughts to project something beyond just the notes,” Stacy explains.

Of course, there are those rare times, when the thoughts strike the wrong chord. “Just the other night — this is a story out of school — I was thinking, just as I shouldn’t have been doing during this complicated piece, ‘I really have to get some new tuxedo shoes,’ and at that moment I made a big mistake.”

Although many critics and publications lament the fact that the audience for classical music is on the wane, Stacy says that as an art form, it is alive, well and full of sound. “When I go out into the provinces, away from the big cities, I’m amazed sometimes at how interested people are in classical music and how much they know about it and how many performances they attend, sometimes traveling to our big cities to hear them. Classical music does have a following.”

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • Puttin’ On The Dog Festival

    2014.09.21
     @ Roger Sherman Baldwin Park

    Puttin’ On The Dog Festival Greenwich, Connecticut the place to be on September 21st for dogs and their owners...

  • Candy Fairies Book Reading

    2014.09.21
     @ Imagine Candy

    SCARSDALE, NY, Imagine Candy brings the acclaimed children's author Helen Perelman, the writer of the wickedly sweet Candy Fairies book...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...

  • "Israel and the U.S."

    2014.09.22
     @ New Canaan Library

    The public is invited to attend a World Affairs Forum Great Decisions event featuring Seth Anziska, Columbia University. Mr. Anziska will speak...

  • Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese

    2014.09.24
     @ Meli-Melo

    Meet Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese & Take Home a Signed Copy of His New Book! Kevin is a holistic health practitioner,...

  • Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.25
     @ Milbrook Club

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon will be held at Milbrook Club. Registration 11:30am; start at...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Verismo - Opera Arias and Ensembles

    2014.09.26
     @ Round Hill Community Church

    Music from the Heart at Round Hill  “Verismo – Arias and Ensembles,” an opera concert, will bring drama and passion...

  • Aaron Henry Trunk Show & Personal Appearance

    2014.09.26
     @ Richards

  • Curiosity Concerts Season Opening: SONIC ESCAPE

    2014.09.27
     @ Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium

    The Greenwich Arts Council's Curiosity Concerts opens its second season of free classical music concerts for families on Saturday, Sept. 27,...

  • Bistro Versailles Wine Dinner

    2014.09.29
     @ Bistro Versailles

    Wine dinners at Bistro Versailles are entertaining social events held on a regular basis. Socialize with friends and mingle with other...

  • Joie Special Shopping Event

    2014.09.30
     @ Joie

    Joie invites you to a special shopping event! Enjoy wine & hor d'oeuvres while shopping 20% off your purchase Enter to win a...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport
  2. Fashion Day Out
    September 13, 11am to 6pm
  3. Stars of Greenwich
    Meet the founders of the Greenwich International Film Festival
  4. Moroccan Nights
    Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich
  5. 5 Key Pieces To Buy Now
    Buy now and wear all season