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Mendy Smith

Interlochen 2010

September 20, 2010 at 1:21 AM

Last month my friend, stand partner and roommate made my annual trip up to Interlochen Michigan for a week of chamber music.  This time, it was a road trip.  We left Houston at 8am on Sunday morning and drove straight through - a 24 hour drive, with one sleeping in the back of the Subaru while the other was driving.  We arrived at Interlochen 9am Monday morning, took a nap and began the week of musical indulgence.

Of all the music I played that week, a few pieces still stand out in my mind.  First and foremost was Beethoven's Op. 132 and in particular the 3rd movement.  We studied it as a larger conducted ensemble at first and there was no a dry eye in the house.  Having been introduced to this piece, a few of us got together later in the week to play it through again.  The tear-jerking effect was the same the second time around.  I look forward to playing this again some day.

The second piece that was memorable was not a singular piece, but a menagerie of pieces played with only violas, a viola-fest of sorts:  'Arch' by David Robertson, 'Reflection' by Michael Kimber, and 'Fantasie' by York Bowen - all very modern works, but each unique in their own way.  When we played the Arch, we lined up four stands, spread out the music and literally 'walked' our way through the piece.  It was quite humorous at times.  While playing through either the Robertson or Bowen, a fellow camper poked his head in our practice room to ask us what Shosty we were playing, then did a double take when he realized that there was nothing but violists in the room.

Lastly, my friend and I had a few coached sessions for a few pieces that we were going to perform:  Brandenburg #6 and a  Frank Bridge piece.  During the Brandy 6 coaching, we got the best bit of advice I'd ever received:  rehearse back to back (not facing each other).  It resolved a problem we were having making two violas sound like one instrument immediately.  By not looking at each other, we were forced to listen to each other, really listen.  By removing all visual queues, the only thing we had to rely upon was the audio queues.  It was quite amazing on how effective this little trick was.  My friend and I are still using this practice technique with much success.

At the end of the week, we made our goodbyes to friends old and new and began the long drive back home to Houston.  I'm looking forward to Interlochen 2011.


From Marsha Weaver
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 7:52 PM

Mendy --

Thanks for the Interlochen update.  I've always thought it sounded like a fascinating place.  Considering my experience level on the violin, though, I think my main function at a place like this would be as doorstop.  : /


From Susan Jeter
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 4:11 PM

Mendy - I went there a long time ago, and the memories are still vivid.  Playing in a large group first thing in the morning, then quartets, lunch, more quartets, possibly a master class, more quartets, dinner, maybe a concert. I played so much that I had to soak my hands (mostly my left) in warm water, they ached so much (but it was so worth it).

The Cleveland Quartet was the participating ensemble that year, and I remember one of them suggesting in the morning quartet rehearsal that you think of the tempo as being in the middle of the circle of stands. It was a poetic way to think of it, and it helped.

Interlochen is a wonderful place - I went there the summer of my junior year of college, and it was so idyllic.


From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 4:44 PM

A couple of years ago I had a chance to read through the Bowen quartet (at a summer camp).  It's a great piece.  Too bad it's so rarely performed.  Are the other pieces of equal quality?

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