Soloist Spotlight: Christine Todd

Clarinetist Christine Todd began performing with The Chelsea Symphony in 2008. A CPA, Christine holds an MBA from Columbia University and BA/BS degrees in German and accounting from Binghamton University. Since completing her studies and pursuing her professional career in New York (formerly the Vice President and CFO of The Juilliard School, and now CFO of the Kaufman Music Center), Christine has performed with many area musical organizations in addition to The Chelsea Symphony, including the New York Repertory Orchestra, American Chamber Opera Company, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, Musica Bella Orchestra, Protestra, and the Gotham Winds, a wind quintet and chamber ensemble. Her clarinet teachers include Robin Seletsky, Tim Perry, Allen Blustine, and Jon Manasse. In addition to her musical activities as a performer, Christine serves on the boards of The Chelsea Symphony and the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival.

On Friday, December 2nd, Christine will perform Gerald Finzi’s Five Bagatelles with The Chelsea Symphony. Leading up to the concert weekend, we caught up with her for a quick Q&A session.

The Chelsea Symphony: What makes playing with TCS different from other playing experiences you have had?
Christine Todd: Certainly the opportunity to perform a concerto with the ensemble is a big difference! But beyond that, TCS’s collaborative structure makes it a really special and rewarding experience, because you’re surrounded by friends and colleagues even as you’re standing at the front of the orchestra for a concerto performance. In some ways it doesn’t feel that different from playing in the ensemble, because the feeling of mutual support and joy in the shared experience pervades. It’s been wonderful also as an ensemble member to see and hear fellow TCS members shine in their featured roles as soloists, composers, and conductors. I’ve discovered and gotten to play so many incredible pieces that I wouldn’t have known otherwise because of TCS’s approach to programming and its unique model.

TCS: What can you tell us about the process of learning a concerto?
CT: I really enjoy the immersive experience of learning and preparing to perform a concerto (or any piece, for that matter). I like to do my intense work on the piece far in advance and then let it rest a bit before coming back to it as the performance approaches. I find this reveals useful information about what “stuck” from my earlier practicing and what I need to focus on. Preparing for the extra-musical aspects of a concerto performance are important too in making me feel confident and ready—for example, practicing while standing instead of sitting (which reminds me, I need to decide which shoes I’ll wear for the performance so I can give them a test run through!).

TCS: What made you choose this particular solo work to play with TCS?
CT: I first encountered and learned the Bagatelles many years ago when I was in college. Although I didn’t get to perform them at the time, they’re such lovely, lyrical pieces and they stayed tucked away in my mind. Last spring, I heard a beautiful live performance of the original version for clarinet and piano, but they still weren’t on my radar as a concerto possibility. Coincidentally, a few weeks later I was chatting about repertoire backstage at a concert with a fellow clarinetist and he happened to mention an arrangement of the Finzi Bagatelles for clarinet and string orchestra. Aha! I was delighted at the discovery. The pieces seem especially fitting for the holiday season and I’m thrilled to play them on this TCS program.

TCS: What feelings come up for you when you are playing this piece?
CT: The Bagatelles are written so beautifully for the clarinet—it’s a joy to play them. I can’t help thinking about the personal losses that Finzi suffered during his lifetime (of his father, three brothers, and a beloved teacher in his childhood and youth, and of his own health at a relatively young age) and the turbulent times he lived in (World War I during his youth, World War II during adulthood) in contrast with the character of the pieces and the pleasure and respite I imagine they brought to listeners when they were premiered in wartime London. I find the Bagatelles lovely, tender, spirited, poignant, and I hope, with the help of my fellow TCS musicians, to convey that.


Join us at 8pm on Friday, December 2nd at St. Paul's Church at 315 West 22nd Street for Christine’s performance of Finzi’s Five Bagatelles!