Kirk O’Riordan and Holly Roadfeldt
Composer Kirk O’Riordan and pianist Holly Roadfeldt began performing together as a saxophone and piano duo. Their most recent album with Ravello Records, AUTUMN WINDS showcases O’Riordan’s compositions with Roadfeldt’s pianistic prowess throughout.
Who is the designated “DJ” when you’re traveling on the road together? Do you share similar tastes in music?
Holly: I drive a lot (I have 261,000 miles on my car!), so I let Kirk do the driving on a road trip. Because I think it is only fair that the driver chooses the music, Kirk would be the DJ. There are long stretches in the car, though, where we are not listening to music at all. Kirk is “composing” in his head and I am “practicing” in mine. It just happens to work out that way. It is a really wonderful ritual that we have developed. We are not sitting in silence; we are making music side by side.
Popular music tastes: nope, not the same. My tastes are more eclectic and I cannot listen to the same type of music for too long. Kirk is more loyal to his bands of choice (Depeche Mode, in particular).
Kirk: I think this is absolutely true. We talk, or work, or both. To be honest, it is physically taxing to listen to music as intensely as I do, and it isn’t always the best thing for me on long trips. I think I can also add that we both have a lot of music going on in our heads all the time. Sometimes it is nice to have some quiet to balance that out.
Have you learned anything musically from performing with your partner that you wouldn’t otherwise discover?
Holly: When we met, we performed together as a saxophone and piano duo. We have also performed concertos where he was the conductor and I have been the soloist. The musical relationship that suits us best, though, is the composer/performer one. We talk about music quite a bit and we acknowledge how we listen for different aspects during a performance. Yet, our musical values become integrated with each project. What I think I have learned most over the years from Kirk was the power of space — stillness — in music. When many performers focus on playing faster and louder (a mantra for many saxophonists!), I love that it was a saxophonist/composer who taught me the significance of breath and allowing sonorities to linger.
Kirk: I think pretty much everything I know about the piano I have learned from listening to Holly practice. We don’t get to perform together as much as we used to, but I learned a lot about hearing ensemble precision in real time, in the midst of performing. This is something that has helped me be a better conductor. Learning how to be clear on an entrance… giving a collaborative partner what they need to play their part well… these are things Holly and I worked on a lot when I was performing a lot more. Those lessons have stayed with me and have manifested now with my Concert Band.