It's hard to imagine the holiday season without Handel's "Messiah," but the oratorio didn't actually catch on in North America until more than 70 years after its premiere in Europe.
Originally, the piece premiered not during the Christmas season, but during Lent, on April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland. Thanks to the Boston-based Handel and Haydn Society, it arrived in the New World on Christmas day in 1815, and it's had a great run ever since.
The Handel and Haydn Society, known affectionately as "the H & H," has also had a great run -- the group now prides itself in being the oldest continuously performing arts organization in America. This season marks its bicentennial, and H & H just released a recording of the full "Messiah".
One secret to its success is inherent in its name: from the beginning, it aimed to embrace both the old and the new.
"They chose the name 'Handel and Haydn' because Handel was the old guy and Haydn was the young whippersnapper writing that newfangled music," said current H & H concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky. "As a classical musician, I love reminding myself that at some point, this music was literally drying on the page. I still treat it like new music. To me, it's new every night; it's always something fresh."
Through the years, the H and H had been responsible for premiering an impressive collection of pieces in the United States: Handel’s "Messiah" (partially in 1815, and the full version in 1818), Haydn’s "Creation" (1819), Verdi’s Requiem (1878), and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (1879) among them.
The group has evolved with the times: For that first performance, at King’s Chapel in Boston, the H & H had just been formed by a plucky group of mostly middle-class amateurs, eager to "extend the knowledge and improve the style of performance of church music" in the new country. The chorus of 100 (just 10 women among them) and small orchestra performed an eclectic program that was part-Handel's "Messiah," part Haydn's "Creation" and part hodge-podge, for an audience of 1,000. Over the years, the chorus for the various oratorios grew, ballooning as high as 700 for a five-day Golden Jubilee in 1865.
Here is a picture from H & H's centennial concert in 1915 at Boston's Symphony Hall, with a chorus or more than 200 voices and a sizable orchestra.
But as the 20th century progressed, so did musical tastes and practices -- particularly in regard to Baroque music. The heavy-handed Romantic approach, with its enormous choruses, lost favor as scholarship about Baroque performance practice grew. In 1967, the H & H appointed a new music director, Thomas Dunn, who began a process of paring down the chorus to about 30 and focusing on historical performance practice, though still using modern instruments. In 1986, Christopher Hogwood, a pioneer (some might say The Pioneer) in the period-performance movement who had founded the Cambridge (UK)-based Academy of Ancient Music in 1973, became music director of the H & H and completed the group's transformation into a period-performance ensemble, playing on Baroque instruments.
Harry Christopher conducts a recent performance of the Handel and Haydn Society. Photo by James Doyle
"The mission at the H & H was always the old and the new, and actually in a strange way, by turning the orchestra into a period orchestra, (Hogwood) actually didn't alter that mission," said current H & H music director Harry Christophers. "He was making the old music sound new, using period instruments."
"When you hear an orchestra playing Handel or Bach on period instruments, you are hearing things that you've never heard before: you're hearing phrasing, you're hearing imitation. In something like (Bach's) Matthew Passion, you're hearing an instrumentation that cannot be reproduced on modern instruments," Christophers said. "The sound of an oboe d'amore or an oboe da caccia is so far-removed from anything that can be produced in a modern orchestra. The Baroque trumpet, the sweet tone of Purcell's trumpets, it's like an extension of the oboe -- it's not the same as hearing a modern trumpet. All these colors were re-inventing this music and making it wonderfully new and alive."
Using period instruments opens performers to a different kind of music-making. "The (Baroque) bow is so completely different from a modern bow, and different things are possible," Christophers said. In some ways it is more nimble, allowing for faster speeds - but faster speeds at a lower pitch. The orchestra tunes to an A at 415 hertz (as opposed to the more standard range for modern performance, which is 440-443 hertz), which equates to about a half-step lower. The violinists and violists play without shoulder rests and often without chinrests, as was the Baroque custom, and it's quite a different technique.
And audiences might be surprised to learn just how forward-looking the music of the Baroque period could be.
At a recent concert, the H & H performed Vivaldi, and "a critic said that (concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky's) ornaments were rather showy and bizarre," Christophers said. "But she had actually made a point in this particular concert to say, 'All the ornaments that I'm going to do in this particular Vivaldi are Vivaldi's very own, they survive in the manuscript.' My goodness me, they were even more way-out than some of the things she would normally do! So it's quite interesting."
Nosky, who also plays in the Toronto-based Tafelmusik, said she was first drawn to period performance by a heightened sense of movement and dance.
H & H Concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky. Photo by Stu Rosner
"A lot of Baroque music is either meant to be dance music or is directly related to dance music," Nosky said. The first time she saw a period performance group, she was taken in by "the feeling of the dance that I was getting, being broadcast to me so clearly from these people playing this music. Even though I already knew works by Bach and Telemann, I think that element of the physical, the visceral, the motion of the dancing -- hadn't really been brought so clearly home to me, before I was introduced to historical performance style."
"Since then I've become fascinated by many other facets of historical performance: the instruments themselves, the materials we use for our strings," she said.
In fact, there is no such thing as a standard "Baroque violin," she said. "There was no standardization in the 18th century; each little hamlet or town or city had to do things their own way, to a certain extent, because you couldn't travel around as easily. Ideas and changes and innovations spread at a very different speed than they do nowadays. So if you say 'Baroque violin,' you're actually talking about many, many different types of violins, as they were slowly transitioning from the old instruments in the 16th century to today's modern violin."
Period performers aim to be authentic, which means gut strings. So are they really made of cat gut?
"Our strings are made out of sheep intestines -- either sheep, or less commonly, cow intestines," Nosky said. "It's actually the same material as the casing that goes around hot dogs or sausages. They clean it, they bleach it, and then specialty string makers stretch them out, twist them up and dry them. They try to keep them straight and uniform in their diameter. It's very difficult to do, because if they have any irregularities or flaws, they tend to not resonate properly, not vibrate uniformly, which will make weird noises. It's a real craft, to make them well. They definitely give a different timbre to the sound; there's a different kind of attack, the start of the note will sound very different when you're playing on a gut string. They're also very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity."
Also, they break. Very easily.
"Last spring I could not get through one performance of Vivaldi Four Seasons on one string," Nosky said. "It was warm, and I think my hands must have been sweating more than they normally do. I would play two "Seasons" before intermission, change my E string, then have to play the second two on the newer E string, which would be a little bit unstable." That was exceptional, but even under normal circumstances, the gut strings don't last long. "Normally I can depend on getting at least five days of really intense playing out of an E string and as much as three weeks, but never more than that if I'm playing at all. After three weeks it's just going break. You'll get a few weeks out of an A string, it's already thicker."
The D and G strings last longer, but "they're actually so thick that they take quite a while to become stable. I have a spare violin at home that I'm pre-stretching strings on," Nosky said. "I have a bunch of D strings that are pre-stretched so that when I do put them on, hopefully they will stay closer to the pitch that I need."
And speaking of the pitch, gut strings can be, well, pitchy.
"Sometimes it takes one fierce down-bow to make them go flat," Nosky said. "If I'm playing vigorously, if I'm playing Beethoven string quartets, or even a vigorous Haydn string quartet, I will be bowing on my strings hard enough that they'll actually go flat. You get adept at quickly and quietly adjusting your pegs to get them back into shape again. You just start to hear when they're slipping down you learn to poke them back up again, on your own without making noise. 'Virtuoso tuning' all of a sudden becomes a real thing!"
Considering all this fuss, "it completely makes sense that a traveling virtuoso, at the turn of the century, after the Industrial Revolution, would have wanted to find a more stable material to put on their instrument."
So why bother?
"Something people have shared with me is that they love the tone, the color world of old instruments," Nosky said. Not only that, but certain pieces of the repertoire are easier to understand, when played on the instruments of that time. "Some composers will really push the limits of these old instruments, and it adds a certain excitement. For example, if you play Beethoven on old instruments, certain technical aspects of them become even harder." Until she tried playing Beethoven on a period instrument, "I didn't really see as clearly, the fact that Beethoven was trying to break tradition. Playing a Beethoven symphony on a Baroque violin, you feel like you're going to break your violin! Especially the Fifth (symphony). He was trying to push beyond the limits of everything: of form, of harmony and of instruments. For me it's easier to connect with that pushing-boundary when you play an older violin. The strings on the violin will snap if you play on them too hard, they'll just explode. And for Beethoven that's entirely appropriate, he was trying to explode the world!"
While we strive to find the "new thing" that will connect with audiences, we might well think about the opposite: the fact that music can connect us so with history, and in such an immediate way.
"I wonder if there is some basic human need to feel connected to the past," Nosky said. "While the entire tradition of playing classical music is connected to the past, in period performance we are wearing that connection on our sleeve, in a way. With this old equipment we can make the music fresh and new."
I couldn't find any videos of the H & H performing, but here is a nice one of members of the H & H, (Aisslinn Nosky, violin; Susanna Ogata, violin; Guy Fishman, cello and Ian Watson, harpsichord) playing Vivaldi Sonata 'Folia' at (le) Poisson Rouge in New York:
For many years, violin teachers have been helping their students explore fiddle and folk music in addition to their classical studies. With help from a lot of great teachers (listed at the end of this article) I've compiled a list of some of the best resources to help teachers, students and musicians explore various types of fiddle music and American music. Categories I've included are fiddle (which includes a variety of kinds of fiddle music), Canadian fiddle, and a few entries for jazz, rock and tango. In the future I hope to make other (or expanded) lists for genres like gypsy, klezmer, mariachi, Indian, jazz, etc. (Tell me which you'd like, most!)
Below, if you click on the name of the book, CD or method, in most cases that will bring you to the link for how to buy it. There are also some great books out there that are either out-of-print or not available on the Internet, and I wanted you to be aware of them anyway. If you wish to find those, I have given links that should provide a lead, and you also might check with your local library or university music library.
I hope this list of resources helps in your learning, teaching and exploration of fiddle music. If you have additional resources to share, please do so in the comments section or e-mail me with your ideas. Enjoy!
The Children's Session Book, by Karen Ashbrook
The Fiddle Series, by Greg Baker
Mel Bay books for violin and fiddle
Fiddle Heart Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes, by Göran Berg
The Fiddler's Fakebook: The Ultimate Sourcebook For The Traditional Fiddler, by David Brody (Oak Publications)
A Guide to American Fiddling, by Andy Carlson
European Fiddle Tunes by Pete Cooper
Fiddlers Philharmonic, by Andrew Dabczynski and Bob Phillips
Fiddlin' Favorites, by Lisa Manning Deakins
String Connection Music Book, Vol. 1 and 2, by John Dewey
Top Fiddle Solos, by Craig Duncan
Elmore Fiddle Camp, by Randy Elmore
String Groove, by Edgar Gabriel
Fiddlescapes by Deborah Greenblatt
Fairfield Fiddle Farm, by Charles Hall
CountryDance! by Canadian composer Donald Heins
American Fiddler, by Edward Huws Jones
The Contemporary Violinist, by Julie Lyonn Lieberman
Bluegrass Fiddle, by Gene Lowinger
The Maine Fiddle Camp website
The Fiddle Club, by Dean Marshall and John Crozman
300 Fiddle Tunes, by Ron Middlebrook (Centerstream Publishing)
Learn to Play Irish Trad Fiddle by Tom Morley
Ruffwater Fake Book, edited by Judi Morningstar
The Phillips Collection of Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, by Stacy Phillips (Mel Bay) (Scroll down to find book)
The Portland Collection, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, by Susan Songer and Clyde Curley
Ashokan Farewell, by Jay Ungar
Children's Fiddle Method Books 1 & 2, by Carol Ann Wheeler (Mel Bay)
The American Fiddle Method, by Brian Wicklund
Martha Yasuda arrangements
Fiddleworks 1, 2, and 3, by Zav RT (Frederick Harris Music)
The Dungreen Collection - Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton, by Kate Dunlay and David Greenberg (1996)
Danse ce soir! Tunebook: Fiddle & accordion music of Québec, by Laurie Hart
Teaching CDs by Laura Risk
The Fiddle Music of Newfoundland and Labrador - Volumes 1 and 2, collected by Kelly Russell
The Easiest Dance Tunes from Newfoundland and Labrador, compiled by Christina Smith
Canadian Old Time Fiddle Hits, by Gordon Stobbe
Jamey Aebersold Jazz: Aebersold Play-A-Longs
Stylistic Duets for Two Violins, by Jeremy Cohen
Scott Joplin Ragtime Favourites, arr. by Colin Cowles (Fentone Music)
Jazz Violin by Matt Glaser and Stephane Grappelli
Creative Strings Academy, with Christian Howes
Jazz Fiddle Wizard by Martin Norgaard
Electrify your Strings, by Mark Wood
Folk Melodies of New Mexico and the Southwest, by Susan Kempter and team
Care to Tango, by Michael McLean
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Many thanks to the following teachers for contributing to this list: Jody Harmon, Kristen Herbert Vance, Becky Lennon, Sarah Montzka, Laura Dalbey, Martha Yasuda, Marcos Kreutzer, Jenny Visick , Michael Fox, Redding Farlow Soderberg, Danielle Gomez, Göran Berg, Julianna Chitwood , Douglas Locke, Keenan Christensen Fletcher, Suzanne Edwards, Linda Louise Ford, S Ann Schluter, Rebecca Appert Kaltz, Julie 'Bamberger' Roubik , Sarah Skreko, Rafael Videira , Nathan Allen Wood, Vera Dragicevich, Laura Nerenberg, Aimee Morrill Briant. Thanks also to Kerstin Wartberg and the Suzuki Teaching Ideas Exchange Facebook group.Tweet
What is a music student to do, over the holidays?
Though the holidays can be a very busy time for musicians, music students may find a bit of a lull in their studies during vacation days. Perhaps there was a motivating fall recital or holiday concert, but now it's over. School lets out. Teachers go on break, and lessons go on hiatus. Perhaps one travels to see family or friends.
Should the violin go along, or should it just go on break, too?
I never begrudge people a short break. It's important to connect with family and friends, to do charitable work, to attend a religious service, to throw a party, to do whatever makes that spirit of culture and community come alive for you.
But I'm not ready to tell you to put the bow down entirely! Most people have at least a few days off from work or school during the holidays, and if time and family/religious obligations allow, this "in between" time can prove quite fruitful for you and your violin. Without the pressure of a recital next week or even a lesson next week, you can plan some practice sessions that are purely experimental and a little less goal-oriented. Maybe it's time to sight-read some new music, or just try something that isn't an assignment. Did you stop doing scales, because you were so busy preparing for concerts? Well, do some leisurely scales, or focus on a technical matter that's been on the shelf. Maybe you want to play something from a long time ago, something you just simply liked. Maybe you'd like to just mess around and improvise. If you're lucky, perhaps you will see people who can play chamber music with you, what better way to bond over the holidays?
For some, it's just not possible to take the violin on holiday break, or to get to practicing. If that's the case, then you can still accomplish something by keeping your ears open. Long plane ride? Load your iPod with a recording (or several!) of your new piece and bring some nice headphones. Staying at home? Consider attending a concert or religious service with live music.
What ever the next few weeks holds for you, I hope it will be filled with good music! I welcome your suggestions for making the most of holiday break time.Tweet
Point-by-point, the New York Times refutes all of Mark O'Connor's claims against Shinichi Suzuki in an article published Sunday. Here is a link to the article, if you would like to read it in full. Here is a summation of the major points:
Did Suzuki study with German violinist Karl Klingler?
The article quotes the very well-respected longtime USC Professor Alice Schoenfield:
"'Klingler told me about Suzuki,' she said, adding that while Mr. Klingler did not generally take private students, he made an exception for Mr. Suzuki, whose father owned a violin factory in Japan.
She said that she had the impression that Mr. Suzuki had been an 'on and off' student. 'But he studied with him, and he gave him also a beautiful violin to say thank you when he went back to Japan,' she recalled. 'It was a violin that I played at my recitals. So I know for sure that Suzuki was under his guidance.'"
Did Suzuki have a relationship with Einstein?
Says the article:
'Mr. Suzuki did not claim that he lived with Einstein or that Einstein was his guardian in any legal sense. Rather Mr. Suzuki wrote that when he was a young man in Berlin, a family friend, the biochemist Leonor Michaelis, had asked Einstein to look out for him. He wrote that he had attended some concerts and social events with Einstein and that he had been greatly inspired by him.
Did Pablo Casals go to a Suzuki concert, and was he moved by it?
The NYT interviewed Casals’s widow, Marta Casals Istomin:
"...she confirmed that she had attended the Suzuki concert in Tokyo with Casals in 1961. She said that Casals, who had taken a lifelong interest in children and music for children, had been “very moved” by the sight of so many young children playing music, and that he had embraced Mr. Suzuki, but that he had not endorsed the method or given much thought to it.
So to Mark O'Connor: When are you going to apologize for contriving this "controversy" in an attempt to ruin the reputation of a man who is not alive to defend himself? When are you going to apologize for the personal and public smear campaigns you have waged against legions of teachers (including me) who have simply tried to point out the truth?
You might also like:
Gift-giving is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and each year we compile a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider in your holiday gift-giving, gift-asking — and post-holiday loading of the Kindle, iPod or other device! We hope this allows you to consider a music-related gift.
We would also suggest considering supporting your local live music scene by purchasing tickets to local music events or simply making a year-end donation to a musical non-profit of your choice. I've tried to be inclusive, but I'm sure I have missed some ideas, so please feel free add your suggestions in the comments section. And yes, in this case, you are allowed to toot your own horn and recommend your own CD or book or product! You may also wish to refer to our gift-giving guides from previous years; I've listed links to those at the end of this blog.
Many of the recordings below are linked to Amazon.com. Note that if you follow these links and make a purchase from Amazon, a portion of that will go to support Violinist.com. I've also listed the artists' names in italics, and sometimes those are linked to stories we have written this year about them and their work. And whenever you buy any of these selections, from any source, you'll be helping to support the musicians and other artists who created them.
Happy holidays, and may your season be filled with good music!
The Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album
1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1
Sibelius/Adès: Violin Concertos
Photo by Jeff Gerew
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
Photo by Chris Dunlop
Mozart: Violin Concertos & Sonata
Paganini: 24 Caprices for solo violin, Op. 1
Time For Three
Dance of Shadows
Beethoven: The Complete Violin Sonatas
Photo by Phil Knott
Fantasy and Farewell, Music for Viola and Orchestra
Franck, Dvorak, Grieg: Sonatas for Violin and Piano
Photo by Juergen Frank
Two x Four
Brahms by Heart
Photo by Basil Childers
Middle String Quartets
Schumann: String Quartets [Blu-Ray Audio & CD]
BOOKS, PERIODICALS and SHEET MUSIC:
The Violinist.com Interviews, Vol. 1
A subscription to Strings magazine
A subscription to The Strad magazine
Handel-Halvorsen duet, arr. by Heifetz for Two Violins
Aaron Rosand: A Musical Memoir in Live Performances
Photo by Twain Newhart
Learning from the Legends: the Bruch Violin Concerto and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
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Still need ideas? Check out our gift-giving guides from previous years, which also include recent releases and violin-related projects by current-day violinists, composers and authors!
If you would like to consider a music-related gift other than recordings or books, please visit our Violinist.com Business Directory, and support the music businesses that support our Violinist.com community.Tweet
What is the key to a successful working relationship, as a chamber group?
"Pizza," said violist Patrick Marsh, 17, without hesitation. Marsh is a member of the Los Angeles-based Clemens Quartet, which appears this week on the acclaimed radio show, From the Top. "Order two boxes, and..."
"...everyone just flocks," finished first violinist KJ McDonald, 17.
"If you bring pizza to every rehearsal, then we all have an incentive to come," continued second violinist Jason Corbin, 16.
"We meet once a week, usually at 5:30, and we spend a half-hour eating, and talking and relaxing a little bit," explained cellist Alex Mansour, 17. "Then usually we rehearse for about an hour. We'll rehearse whatever repertoire is most pressing -- if we have something to work toward, or a competition, or if we have a performance opportunity, we'll work on that repertoire, as well as sight-reading other pieces."
The Clemens Quartet: L-R: Alex Mansour, KJ McDonald, Patrick Marsh, Jason Corbin
In conversation or in performance, this group of young men communicates with an easy rapport, finishing each other's sentences and phrases to make the meaning complete. I had seen them perform once before, and I spoke with them a few weeks ago, between their trip to Connecticut to perform on "From the Top" and the date when it was to be aired. (Today online, and throughout the week on various NPR stations.) Their performance features the (modern and ear-bending) first-movement "Allegro" from String Quartet No. 4, Béla Bartók. (You can click here to view the show online.) For the uninitiated, "From the Top" is an hourlong show hosted by pianist Christopher O’Riley that is broadcast on 250 stations across the U.S. to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners. Each show features five acts, all young musicians, with performances, interviews, sketches and games. They tape about 20 episodes per season in front of a live audience, at various locations across the country.
As for the Clemens Quartet, the group came together two years ago, assembled by the private teacher of both violinists and the violist, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) violin instructor Lorenz Gamma, and coached through the program Junior Chamber Music. Some members had been playing together before they officially became the quartet they are today, and for a while they just called themselves the "Hangout Quartet" -- named by one of their moms for their part-rehearsal, part-pizza get-togethers.
When they entered the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition this fall, they decided to go with a different name.
"We needed a more official name than the 'Hangout Quartet,'" Patrick said, and Jason continued, "a more professional name, a name you would actually bring to a concert."
The first piece that they played together as a quartet was Dvorák's String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 "American." "That kind of reminded me of Huckleberry Finn, on the raft, going down the Mississippi River and having a lot of fun," KJ said, and that gave him an idea: "Samuel Clemens -- that would be Mark Twain's real name."
Thus they became the Clemens Quartet.
To audition for From the Top, the quartet had to record two pieces and to write essays about arts leadership and about their group. They chose to write statements about one another.
Once selected for the show, the quartet traveled to Storrs, Connecticut, to record it, with "From the Top" paying for most of their related expenses. Their moms went with them, as did their teacher.
"It was a very detailed program that awaited us when we got there," said Lorenz Gamma, their teacher. "It gave them the freedom to concentrate on their music-making."
The program included not just the performance, but also outreach concerts and a workshop on arts leadership. On their first day, they performed outreach concerts at two schools, with a rehearsal in the morning. Their first school was a rather bustling middle school, on Halloween morning.
"The PA kept going on, with the parents dropping off costumes," Alex said. "But some of them, I think, got a lot out of it."
Then they went to a music school, where the performance was more of an exchange, with kids from the school also performing. For those concerts they played excerpts from the Bartók quartet and also, "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay.
The second day was devoted entirely to the show itself.
For their performances they like to all wear red shirts, with black ties.
"It's fiery..." Jason said, "...and it kind of matches our personality," KJ said.
"We've actually been criticized for being too energetic," Alex said. "We do try to work on that, but everything we do is really passionate, there's a lot of adrenaline. I think red is a good color to communicate that. It makes a statement, certainly."
And why do they all wear the same thing?
"When you're in a quartet, you need to conform to one mind, one sound," KJ said. "It's not like four sounds, playing four different solo parts, that happen to be together."
For the From the Top performance, "there was a rehearsal in the afternoon, where they do the sound check, they mike you," Alex said. "They record you playing it (for the rehearsal), and they try to get a perfect take. Then they ask you to do sections again where you may have messed up, so what they ultimately air, they can splice and make it as polished as it can be."
The pre-recording is just a little insurance against the possibility that an audience member has a major coughing fit during the performance, or perhaps a fire truck roars through the room with engines blaring during the live performance. But it's also a great comfort to the performers, freeing them up for some spontaneity.
"For the most part, they want to air what we played live," KJ said. "But that way, we have the comfort of saying, okay, if we make one mistake..."
"...they have a Plan B," Alex said.
"But that didn't stop the adrenaline" for the live performance, KJ said.
"I think part of us thought, why not have a lot of fun with it? We already have it in the bag, worse case scenario, we might as well take risks and make it very exciting and really get into it, rather than playing it safe to make sure that we don't make a mistake," Alex said.
"You can see for yourself, but it was pretty fast!" Jason said.
After playing, they were interviewed by Christopher O'Riley -- who actually made them sing Bartòk! (You'll have to check out the performance for that!)
The Clemens Quartet with From the Top host Christopher O'Riley
On the day after the performance, they participated in an arts leadership seminar, and this seemed to be their favorite part. It gave them a chance to get to know the other young musicians who were performing: cellist Derek Louie, pianist Chelsea Guo, oboist Cassie Pilgrim, violinist Charlotte Marckx and cellist Olivia Marckx.
"I felt like I made a lot of great friends, and I thought that the things they were talking about -- how we need to go out and spread music -- were very inspiring," Jason said. Jason is already involved in such efforts, as vice president of a group called Musicteers, which aims to increase interest in classical music by playing at places like malls and senior homes. Has he had any success, spreading music? He shared a favorite story: at one of those concerts, in a mall, he and KJ were playing a Korean drama song called "B Rosette" and "we inspired this one kid who had put down the violin, because he wasn't interested in it, to pick up the violin and start playing again!"
The seminar allowed them to consider some new thoughts and ideas, as well.
"The biggest one for me was the idea of music needing common ground," said KJ, who also studies with Itzhak Perlman for part of the year at The Perlman Music Program. That common ground doesn't necessarily have to be something simple. Though the quartet they were playing for the outreach concerts is very complex, "the more we played the Bartók for many of these kids, they were actually able to keep up with the rhythm. It wasn't just 1-2-3-4, they were able to do the syncopations and keep along, you could see them nodding their heads a little bit. So I felt like we're not giving these kids enough credit. They do have the common ground, they just don't know where to start with classical music, and I think that is what our job has to be."
"Sometimes when people hear things they don't know about, they'll shut their ears," Patrick said. "But if we can communicate what it is to them, how it relates to the music they listen to and love, they'll show more appreciation for it." Patrick is a mentor at the El Sistema-inspired program called YOLA, and he works in an outreach program at his school, LA County High School for the Arts, called LACHSA on the Road. "We try as hard as we can to organize groups, to listen to different types of music and communicate what all this music is and what it means, so we can culturally extend it to people."
"I think it's very profound how any art -- music, dance, visual art, cinematic arts -- can really translate across the world," said Alex, who also composes film music and is class president at his high school, Chaminade College Prep. "It's very much a universal language. Everybody understands basic human emotion and human experiences, and it's evoking that emotion and making people feel something and changing them in some way through that."
* * *
Below: the Clemens Quartet performs Beethoven String Quartet Op. 18, No.4, 1st movement:
Previous entries: November 2014
Hear more from the world's top violinists in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which includes our exclusive conversations with Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, and David Garrett, and others, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.
We've compiled a list of some of the year's best new offerings from violinists for you to consider.
Laurie Niles is from Pasadena, California. Biography
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