Instrument: Double Bass
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina
Current Neighborhood: Westwood, Ohio
Joined the CSO in 1987
Favorite orchestral work: There are far too many to list; often it may be the piece that I happen to be playing at the moment! But if you were to back me into a corner, I would have to say Leopold Stokowski's transcription of J. S. Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor BWV 582.
What's on your playlist? My playlist is always evolving, but some things that are always on it are Bach's BWV 582, Dufay's "Nuper rosarem flores," Miles Davis "Kind of Blue," Duke Ellington, The Hot Club of France, Arvo Pärt's "Sarah Was Ninety Years Old," and Hindemith's Mathis der Maler.
Favorite things to do in Cincinnati: Visit second hand bookstores and restaurants. My wife and I consider these activities to be the perfect date.
Hobbies outside of music: Reading, languages.
What do you draw inspiration from as a musician? I'm inspired by the music I'm playing and by the musicians who surround me.
Fun facts about James: I write with a fountain pen. The instrument I play most often in the Orchestra was made in Brussels, Belgium, c. 1903, by Hilaire Darche. It has five strings, which enables some extra lower notes. It was owned by two CSO bassists before me, and has been played in the Orchestra since 1926. I am pleased to be the custodian of this special instrument and to provide continuity of the CSO’s sound.
Funniest concert memory: This occurred many years ago, in another orchestra, before I joined the CSO. We were playing a concert with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” on the first half of the program. We were near the end of the piece, just after the big climax depicting the shipwreck, and all of the lights went out. If you know the music, you will remember that the “road map” indicates a number of places where the music pauses and recommences before finally ending with a short violin solo, making a conductor’s presence pretty much essential. However, the orchestra kept playing without a break, and we finished the last minute of the music in the dark!
But wait! There’s more...
During the intermission, the lights having proved impossible to rekindle, many members of the audience volunteered to retrieve flashlights from their cars and hold them over our music so that the concert could continue. And so we were able to finish the concert in the ever decreasing illumination from people’s flashlights.
Where is the strangest place that you’ve ever practiced? I don’t know what qualifies as unusual. As long as there is room for me, my bass, and possibly a music stand, it’s fair game. I’ve practiced in most rooms of my house, church sanctuaries, gyms, outdoors, classrooms, hallways, and stairwells.