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Mendy Smith

T - 2 Days and Counting

January 11, 2008 at 9:55 AM

It is now 2 days before the competition. So what do I do tonight? Do I practice Bruch? No, I play with my quartet group (minus the cellist) and we practice Mozart's Dissonant quartet! It took awhile to determine who would start the measure playing the cello part to start us going and set the tempo. We then proceded to practice the quartet minus one. Although it is a bit difficult playing a quartet without the cellist, we worked through our parts, took a break and discussed where I should place my new piano due to arrive tomorrow, then resumed practice.

Towards the end of our 2 1/2 long session, we discussed the tempo we have been playing (very slow) at vs. "concert tempo" (very fast) compared to a recording our second violinist has been listening to. I suggested that we attempt the final movement at "concert tempo" for at least a few lines just to see what happens and where it falls apart. After a few protests about the disaster ready to face us, we dive into it, full speed ahead. Instead of stopping after the first few lines, we ended up playing the entire movement. We ended the piece stunned. We looked at each other in silence with jaws gaping. OMG! We actually did it! And better than ever before!

After an excited discussion on how well we pulled off a seemingly impossible feat, we began a brainstorming session on WHERE we could perform this piece for the public. Retirement homes, hospitals (our 1st violinist is an MD), the break-room at the office during lunch or after hours... We are READY to perform as a group in public!

Nine months ago, we started as a trio, then became a quartet. Over time we've worked through how to play with each other: queues, tempo matching, intonation as a group, dynamics, inter-play of the different parts, how to support each other, etc... We've critiqued each other's work, helped each other on various personal musical challenges. We even used our own literal Dr. Beat (the 1st violinist has literally counted out loud while the second violinist and I worked on some tricky rhythmic parts between us).

After all this time, we have finally reached that point when we are truly a single musical entity. No speech is necessary (except when one of us gets lost and someone shouts out "C!!!" - the practice mark). Even this limited speech is prompted by our intense focus on each other. The end of a fermata and the start of the next section is queued by a simple glance and a slight raising of the scroll. The interplay of parts is like dancing with each other.

I LOVE quartet night!

Oh, I guess I should practice Bruch a little more tomorrow!

From Marsha McCoy
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 2:52 PM
I love "Dr. Beat" and his quirky, robot voice.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 8:02 PM

Play the Bruch Romance well — enjoy it!

Sounds like your have a very cohesive ensemble — everyone leads everyone and breathe!


From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 5:03 AM
Thanks Drew! Those pointers you gave me on shifting has helped 1000% percent. Those shifts up to 7th and beyond are no longer on "shaky ground". I'm ready to go!

My ensemble is a great bunch of folks. We always look forward to "quartet night". Its alot of fun to share your passion of music with others of a like mind.

From Samuel Thompson
Posted on January 12, 2008 at 6:11 AM
It has been wonderful reading your thoughts here as you have been preparing! Good luck, sing to the heavens, and have a great time!

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