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Mendy Smith

A Little Morning Music

March 29, 2010 at 5:16 AM

Every few weeks I perform at the early service at church.  There are several musicians at my church and we rotate performances throughout the year at the early service.  It is challenging to find pieces that meet the criteria:  5 minutes or less in duration, requiring no more than two rehearsals with the pianist, and appropriate for the setting.  Every so often, we collaborate for an ensemble, but mostly solo works are the norm.

In three weeks, it will be my turn to play again.  To date I've stayed within the realm of baroque music, but this next performance will break from that tradition.  Instead I'll be playing a piece written by Rebbecca Clarke, both a composer and violist.  I first became familiar with her work a few years ago with her Sonata, an emotionally provocative piece.  However, the Sonata goes well beyond the 5 minute rule.  Instead, I'll be playing the Passacaglia.  It is written in C minor, one of my favorite key signatures for viola.  Not only is it easy under the hand, but it also resonates well on the viola.  The piece takes advantage of the full range of the viola spanning three octaves and the dynamics ebb and flow quite naturally.

There are endless choices of fingerings.  It could be played quite easily in mostly first and third positions, but doing so would rob the piece of its depth of colour.  The better choice is to stay on a single string throughout a phrase.  Much beyond 5th position becomes quite unwieldy  for any duration and can sometimes cause the viola to not "speak" as clearly, especially in the lower register.

Over the next week I'll be searching for a compromise between what is musically appropriate and what I will be able to manage at 8am on a Sunday morning.  My first pass at fingering choices seems promising at the moment with the highest position being 6th for a short period of time on the upper strings and  I've made a few adjustments to the bowings to make the chords easier to execute.  It will take a bit more effort than past performances, but I think that I can manage this in the span of a few weeks. 

So much for starting from the end of the alphabet. I seem destined to start from A and work my way towards Z.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 5:31 AM

I love your headlines, Mendy! Which do you suppose is better, a little morning music, or a little night music? :)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 5:55 AM

Given that I'll be playing Clarke at 8am, "A Little Morning Music" seemed most appropriate :)

From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 12:52 PM

As a fellow violist, I am always looking for new repertoire.  I shall look up Rebecca Clarke.  Thank you.

----Ann Marie

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 29, 2010 at 12:55 PM

 I really like this piece.  I played it last year for a recital.  There are a couple of places that I thought needed 7th position--and they were the most challenging to get in tune. (E, EE, F# F#, G A B BCB . . .)

From Sara Richards
Posted on March 30, 2010 at 11:40 AM

 I've played Chinese Puzzle, that's a lot of fun!  I might check the rest of my book and see what there is, I haven't actually looked at it since university...

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