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Mendy Smith

Back into the Chamber

January 30, 2010 at 3:00 AM

Since migrating south to Houston, I've performed more in the past year than I ever did in my three years living in Portland.  Mostly the venues have been with larger groups, though I've performed a few solos and duets.  Though my musical calendar is quite full, there is still an empty space begging to be filled:  chamber music.

There is an intimacy in chamber music that cannot be duplicated in a larger orchestral setting: no "hiding" in a sea of instruments, no 3rd party conductor, no "following the leader" (principals).  Just you and a few friends relying on each other to make beautiful music.  Every note, entrance, tempo and dynamic change must be made with intent and thoughtfulness.  You have to be mindful of when to play under or over your partners.  Things like tonal color and minute tunings with each other become important.  Group rubato without a conductor is an art form in and of itself. 

Let's not forget other things like having a bit of apple pie and hot tea during break while sharing personal stories, coaching each other, choosing what to play next, deciding when and what to perform.  These things don't happen often in a larger group setting.

After going so long without these small musical pleasures in life, I'm getting back into the chamber again.  I've made friends who are interested in playing together that cover the span of instruments needed to form a chamber group.  Next weekend promices to be our first gathering.  Time to clear off the extra stands, pull out the chairs, and warm up some tea.

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