I am back and have "recovered" from a full week of chamber music at Interlochen. My teacher recommended this program to me last winter when I asked him about summer programs for adults.
The whole experience started with one VERY long trip: from Hong Kong (from a business trip) to SFO, to Portland, home for about 6 hours, back to the Portland airport the next morning to fly out to Michigan. The next afternoon the real fun began. Before signing in, I was approached to join a "dis-organized ensemble". These were apparently the norm that I looked forward to during the week.
How this works is someone decides that they want to play a particular piece (or just play), then go off recruiting for the instruments needed. Everyone meets at an agreed upon place and time. These ensembles can last anywhere from one hour to several hours. I never quite knew what I was going to be playing at any given time.
There was one "dis-organized" ensemble that I enjoyed tremendously. We ended up dubbing ourselves the "Dvorak Quartet" after playing from 10pm until midnight, ending up on the American Quartet.
However, the core of the program was not these dis-organized groups (although at times it seemed that this was the other way around). Each morning began with a large ensemble learning new chamber pieces. During the week we played several Brahms quartets, Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, and had the opportunity to attempt Bartok's 3rd Quartet - a piece that I never even dreamed of picking up under normal circumstances. After this, we headed off to our assigned ensemble group for the remainder of the morning for a coached session. The group, piece, and coach changed every day. It was a great way to get exposed to alot of new music, different musicians and coaches. I never did get my teacher as a coach, however on the last day I did get his wife Ines as a coach.
After lunch in the cafeteria with several hundred band camp teenagers, the afternoons had various activities scheduled, from master classes to concerts, with free time for those dis-organized ensembles.
The Chamber Music Master Classes were quite interesting. It started with a group playing a piece of their choosing. Often the group was from one of the organized ensembles that took the brave step to be critiqued in front of their peers. The master class coach would then work through everything from where to sit on the stage, how to balance a piano with strings, how to "communicate" as a group, to style and technique. After two of these master classes, my head was spinning with all the new information I was trying to absorb.
At the end of the week, I had played more new pieces that I had never even heard of before, with more musicians and coaches than I had in the past two years. It stretched my sight reading skills to the limit.
After making it back home, I re-joined my quartet group for an evening of chamber music. I had found a substitute violist while I was away, so that night we played Mozart Viola Quintets. After our break, we started talking about the Brahms' quartets. The second violinist mentioned his sextet - which I happened to have with me. Much to my surprise, the first violinists knew of another cellist close by and called him! Soon afterwards, he showed up and we started playing the Brahms Sextet in Bb Major.
On the drive back home, the cellist said to me, "That week at Interlochen did wonders for you!".
I will post more later. But for now, I will leave you with this picture of Bayla Keyes, the Artistic Director of the Interlochen Adult Camber Music Camp.
I made it home safe and sound, but nearly had a terrorizing viola experience. When getting on the plane in HK, they do extra security checks on your carry on luggage just before boarding. I requested to the inspector to open my viola case myself for inspection. I have done this many times in the past with no issue. No sooner than the case was open, the inspector dropped his hand heavily on top of the bridge (it was still covered by a blanket). I yelled at him "CAREFUL!!! GENTLE!!!", then removed the blanket and inspected for damaged. Luckily there was no damage (the old man is a tough old bird). I hate to admit it, but I gave the inspector a tounge lashing for nearly damaging my instrument.
The flight was delayed for 3 hours while our flight path was modified due to volcanic activity up in Alaska. They had to shift around cargo for the longer flight. Why I don't know, but I assume the airlines knew what they were doing. My 13 hour flight from HK to SFO turned into a 14 hour flight. I missed my connection, but got a later connection. Instead of getting home at 1pm, I got home at 7pm. OUCH! Tomorrow morning I get on a plane again to go to Interlochen. I'll be more wary of pre-boarding inspetions from now on!
This project that I've been working on seemingly forever is now officially complete. I headed from China back to Hong Kong today. On the bus, we drove by where the equestrian events were going to occur. Seemed quiet. The only thing I got to do Olymics-wise while out in China was to watch the opening ceremonies live on a large screen TV in the hotel bar with the rest of my team and a small spattering of locals (and a few Russians).
Tomorrow I get back on a plane for the 13 hour flight back to SFO, then on back to Oregon. Just in time to do a little laundry, stow away the 15" viola (that didn't get much use while I was on this side of the pond), gather up my 16" viola accessories, take a short nap, then back on a plane again to Interlochen - another all day travel adventure. Good thing that the folks at Interlochen will be picking me up at the airport!!!
Talk about "Hurry up and have fun NOW!". It reminds me of a Star Trek Voyager episode where 7 of 9 was gaurdian of some Borg children and rigidly scheduled their fun time. I just hope that I can recover from the jet lag quickly enough to not fall asleep during masterclasses. At least I will be wide away for the rumored "all night Hayden Quartet Readings" :)
Every software project has one - a bug. Ours was a literal one, and about 3 inches long.
This particular bug fell out of the "woodworks" (the air conditioning vents from above) and onto someone's laptop in a conference room full of people (about 40 or so) in the middle of a conference call. The owner of said laptop froze in terror, let out a little squeal, and backed away very quickly. This got every one's attention. The project manager, doing his duty to keep things under control, took it upon himself to chase down this critter and isolate it. By that time, all the camera's were out to document the "EVENT" for our "Lessons Learned". However, the "documentation" allowed for the bug to escape and run rapid across the conference room table until he was isolated once again.
The bug was later returned to the wild from whence it came. No cockroaches were harmed during this blog.
What does this have to do with music? Absolutely nothing! But it makes a good story.
PS - There is a music related theme afterall. Some team favorites while working on this project have been “Bolero”, “Rubber Ducky”, “Squirrels”, and “Jackie Chan” from INSIDEOUT A Cappella.
Not quite classical, but definitely entertaining!
Here I am in Southern China. Not Bejing for the opening of the Olympics, but in the far southern end of China - working. This project I have been working on for 8 months is now coming to a close. The implementation starts tomorrow.
At the last minute I decided to bring by trust worthy old man (15" viola) rather than my 16" (Hilda) as I originally planned. The flights were bound to be booked solid, and the weather - think hot and steamy. So, the old man came with me on this trip once again. However, he has languished in the hotel room for the past week. He was only taken out once for a checkup and tuning, then back in his "bed".
Our days have been beginning at 7am, with breakfast, lunch AND dinner served in the office. We don't get back into the hotel until sometime around 8-9pm. I'm beat. I'm tired. I want to practice but have ZERO energy. By the time I make it back to the hotel, I take a hot steaming shower to try to loosen up my shoulders and relax my back. Then right off to bed to start a new day doing the same thing all over again.
Maybe tomorrow I will have time to practice, just a little bit at least. Ten minutes would make me happy. But for tonight, I blog, then go to bed to start another long day.
Just one more week, this project will be over. Just a week. Then I can play again. Just one more week...
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