Music for on-the-spot moments
I'm sure everyone has had a moment where you conveniently have your violin with you and there is a friend/family gathering. After seeing your instrument, people urge you to play something for them. And my problem is that I never know what to play. Long, lengthy, dramatic, and depressing concertos do not necessarily appeal to a wide audience, and most people do not have a long attention span.
Sometimes I will try to play a short part of Bach partita, but even that really isn't too interesting to general audience.
What pieces do you all play in these situations? And nothing too easy - something that is short, sweet, but can demonstrate some complexity of playing.
Don't try to predict what your audience will enjoy. You just never know. That said, I think improv would be a cool thing to incorporate into your bag of tricks. You can even have the audience participate by giving you notes and/or tunes to which to base your material.
As Lieschen said, I'd just play what I love at the moment and enjoy. I often improvise something in middle of a piece that I can play from memory. If I'm having fun, my friends can feel it and will also enjoy. That's the whole point of playing for friends and family, as opposed to play for your teacher or a formal performance in front of other violinists.
When I play at my mother's assisted living facility, I play show tunes, patriotic songs, hymns, and just a few short classical works (usually Thais and Czardas). Those performances aren't for me to show off and the audience wouldn't make it through a full sonata or concerto movement anyway.
Things that have made it into pop culture.
Yixi and Lieschen said they'd just play what I love at the moment and enjoy. That's fine for some folks, others need to feel like they've got something prepared especially for that purpose.
If you can play it Carneval Venise, a few variations. Maybe some vivaldi summer.
Oh, I missed the "demonstrate some complexity of playing."
Mary Ellen is so right. Non-violinists have no idea what's hard. For them, fast = hard (Czardas) and slow = easy (Bach Sarabandes).
I second Kreisler pieces and Monti's Czardas. Also Bach E major prelude can be a crowd pleaser.
I usually play twinkle twinkle little star, and if I like the people enough, I might play it in tune.
As far as audience pleasing, the one tough thing, I admit, is when they enthusiastically request popular theme songs that you have never heard after you have already impressed them with music of your choice.
I'm with Christopher Sinkule, except that I never like people enough to play it in tune*
Lieschen, part of playing gigs is dealing with requests. As you found, some kind of fake book is quite valuable. I am building a large electronic one so that I can keep it all on my tablet.
I like the idea of doing stuff like Thais and Czardas. If you are up to it, I bet a Paganini caprices would work fantastic.
Q: Do you know the police are towing your car because it is illegally parked?
On such occasions I usually play the first Irish tune that comes into my head - likely a lively polka, jig or reel - or something from the English morris repertoire, mainly because nearly all my classical violin repertoire is symphonic or other ensemble.
I can only play No. 1 accurately, but I think the Brahms Hungarian Dances are great for that sort of situation.
All great suggestions. I find that Scottish or Irish airs are excellent, too, and often move people to tears. "Leaving Lerwick Harbour", or "The Coolin" for example.
@ Trevor, This is what I would do as well.
If you're just going to play for a minute, and not the whole piece, the opening of Zigeunerweisen is fun.
Just play the intro to "game of thrones" for the plebs.
Meditation from Thais!
Living in the south, I am always asked to play Orange Blossom Special and Devil Went Down to Georgia when people find out I play violin. Orange Blossom Special is fun to play and it is always a big hit.
Under no circumstances would I ever play solo Bach in this situation. LOL
Oh man, Stephen, that was hilarious. I actually laughed out loud. There really are so many Irish tunes with titles like that too.
Appalachia Waltz by Marc O'Connor
Thais. And, uh, did Jerry Jeff Walker win a Nobel Prize for Literature?