March 2010

Snowless Quartet

March 17, 2010 02:15

The last two meetings of our ACMP quartet took place on nights with heavy snowfall. By yesterday, all the white stuff had quietly melted away, except for some residual, packed snow heaps in the shade. Just about time, too - today I will have the summer tires mounted on my car.

The hosts' house is currently being remodeled: a door walled shut, a wall taken out. We played in the middle of the unfinished construction site - cello and 1st violin on the one side of a little ditch in the living room, viola and I on the other. The homemade music stand perched perilously on a tiny wooden plank bridging this gap. A very romatic setting - and with all the furniture grouped in the middle of the room under plastic wrapping and the carpets rolled up, the acoustics were even better than normal.

We played Beethoven's op. 18 no. 5; though it was just intended as a familiarization session, we managed to "nail down" some of the beautiful parts of this gem right away. Afterwards, we gathered in the basement - which houses the drum set of the hosts' son in a room for partying - for some snacks and a chat. It is always amazing how complicated it is to find a common free evening for four busy amateur musicians, but we managed that also.

I'm looking forward to our next meeting - planned for April.

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International Klezmer Festival F├╝rth 2010

March 8, 2010 08:51

Saturday and Sunday, I attended some workshops held as part of the International Klezmer Festival Fürth. They took place in the town's music school, right in the middle of what used to be the William O. Darby Kaserne - originally the home of the 6. Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment (back before 1918) in which my paternal grandfather served as trumpeter. After the Nuremberg Military Community (which, ironically, was mostly located in Fürth) disappeared in 1995, the barracks and the housing area were razed or converted to civilian use.

I grew up some blocks away and enjoyed being back in my old home town. The workshop panelists came from the A-list of the international Klezmer scene: Cookie Segelstein, Joshua Horowitz and Stuart Brotman  (Veretski Pass), Alan Bern and several other living legends. There were three fantastic fiddle coaches: Cookie from the US, David Hoffman from Israel and Marin Bunea from Moldova. The latter was especially fascinating: using not much more than one inch of bow, moving the fingers of his left hand at the speed of a hummingbird's wings, he played faster than his own shadow. 

For those who play slower than the speed of sound (e.g. yours truly), Cookie offered a special slowed-down session on Sunday - patiently spoon-feeding us "the DNA of a Doina", several other Jewish tunes and helpful hints for surviving in a jam session. The workshop participants came from far and wide in Germany; the workshop was subject of a newspaper article on Monday.

Zwischen Konzertess und Workshop-Spaß

Many festival participants could not talk to each other without somebody interpreting - in extreme cases using a third language, e.g. a Russian talking in French to somebody who translated this back to German. Music provided the common ground - we all learned a great deal and had loads of fun.

The whole event culminated in an energetic, exuberant open jam session on Sunday afternoon which sent everybody off on a musical high. I bought "The Ultimate Klezmer Book" as well as a CD and sheet music by Veretski Pass.

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