Originally from Massachusetts, USA, Vienna-based Deirdre Brenner is a musician with a passion for chamber music and art song. She has performed in venues including the Wiener Musikverein (Vienna), Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), The Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), Teatro Real (Madrid), Philharmonie Essen, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Stadthalle (Bayreuth), the National Concert Hall (Dublin), St. Martin-in-the-Fields (London) and the Hollywell Music Room (Oxford).
In demand as both a teacher and coach, Deirdre is currently on the faculty of the Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität in Linz, and IES Abroad in Vienna. She is co-founder of the brilliant Boyne Music Festival in Drogheda, Ireland, as well as the innovative concert series Mosaïque in Vienna. Her latest project - Hourglass- was launched in 2020.
NM: It's been a crazy year. But you still chose to launch the Hourglass concert series in the middle of it all. Was that a matter of "no time like the present" or just testing the water?
DB: To be honest, I think it was more impulsive than anything else. Last March, in the span of a very short period, all events shut down in Austria and gradually internationally as well. As a pianist, that meant a loss of not only performance work, but also a loss of the beautiful social connection that happens through performances. Live music takes its breath from these connections... connections between performers and audience, as well as connections among the audience. These connections create a powerful energy and a special sense of community.
There was a small window of time during the summer and early autumn where it looked like "socially distanced concerts" would be the way forward. I decided to launch Hourglass as a way to surf that opportunity. The idea was to present hour-long programs in Brick-5, a gorgeous space which offers the possibility to arrange seats at safe distances while also maintaining a sense of intimacy. These concerts would be paired with an optional brunch either before or after the concert. The goal was to create a flexible covid-friendly performance platform while also restoring some of our lost community.
Our first concert in October was received with overwhelming joy, but just a week later the next lockdown went into effect. I'm hoping that once things open up again that we can continue where we left off....
NM: You are a very busy person in general, in my opinion.... If you're not playing a recital, you are organizing a concert or even a festival. This year obviously threw a spanner in the works, but was that at least time to recharge your batteries or work on another project?
DB: More like 2349837 spanners. I have to admit, it's been a challenging year. We've watched our profession dissolve into the unknown and it's been hard to figure out if we need to practice patience, or if it's time to start finding/creating other kinds of work. I can't say I have figured it out.
As you know, I founded the Boyne Music Festival in Ireland in 2013 with two of my cousins, Aisling and Julie-Anne Manning. It's a summer festival which brings together chamber music, poetry and song alongside a host of other events. Like most events last summer, we had to cancel due to the pandemic, but the time created in the void of other cancelled work has given us the opportunity to devote more energy to planning the future of the festival. We're navigating our way through some structural changes at the moment with the hopes of setting ourselves up for growth in the years to come. I can't exactly thank corona for this opportunity, but we are very excited about the future indeed.
NM: What has it been like working with Zoom and other technologies and do you think that in the future artists might integrate them into tours and live performances?
DB: If there's one thing we know about our connection to technology, it's that our engagement tends to increase over time. I can't imagine that these new modes of connection are simply going to go away once we are allowed to sit in the same room with each other again. I would imagine that we'll see hybrid trends going forward. Perhaps concerts and tours with the potential for additional viewers from home in certain instances. However, recording/streaming generally comes at an additional cost and it's hard to know if the money will be there to support such ventures in the future.
There have been a few instances over the last year when I have really appreciated the power of Zoom & friends. A large number of conferences and training programs which I would normally not be able to attend (mostly for geographical reasons) went digital. This opened up the possibility to learn and connect in new ways. I feel my professional circles expanding internationally and have found that growth quite interesting.
NM: What can we expect from Hourglass next year or are you just winging it for now?
Expectation is a word I tread on lightly these days. The short answer is that I don't know. I'm bursting to make music again though and look forward to the day when I can rehearse with colleagues without accompanying feelings of fear, guilt or futility. If we transition back into a phase where socially distanced concerts are permissible, then I imagine we'll open the floodgates to all kinds of heart opening programs. I'd love to see Hourglass offer a series of concerts in the spring / summer... but only time will tell.
Follow @hourglasskonzerte and @boynemusicfestival on Instagram to keep up with plans for 2021...