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Karen Allendoerfer


April 6, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Last night was our church talent show, to my knowledge the first time the Colombi Chiacona was performed on a modern viola (by me).

My husband took a little digital camera movie of it, which I've been going back and forth about posting here, but have so far chickened out of doing. The video and sound quality are poor (aside from the content), he was too far away for the little camera and mic to get anything but grainy footage, and I was backlit by a stained glass window, which made the lighting flicker in and out as the camera tried to adjust. And there's the whole "digital camera recorders dampen the dynamics" problem that Jim pointed out.

But I still feel that I learned something from the process, up to and including the recording. For one thing, I talked to the audience, a new thing for me. Given how much I hate public speaking, I hadn't first planned on doing that when I signed up for the talent show, but I'm glad I did. I was inspired by the recent "state of classical music" threads on, in particular some comments made by Kimberlee Dray, Marina Fragoulis, and Jim Jonah about how much more enjoyable they find concerts when the performer talks to the audience. I realized that I agree with them wholeheartedly. At my last concert with the Arlington Philharmonic, the "family concert," the conductor said a few words before each piece too, and I think that made a difference for the kids.

I introduced the piece and how I came to be playing it, and told them that a Chiacona is a theme with variations. I played the 4-measure theme first and then said it would be followed by 16 variations and come back to the same theme an octave lower at the end.

The Talent Show follows the annual dinner, a celebration of finishing the year's fundraising and pledge drive. I spent quite a bit of the day rushing around making bread in the bread machine and getting my daughter ready for her own performance. Then, during the dinner itself, I opened the bottle of selzer water in the middle of the table, and it exploded, showering us with raspberry-flavored Poland Spring.

In a creative bit of programming, I, on solo viola, followed a kick-a** karate show by the "Red Dragon Demonstration Team" (my daughter and three other kids who go to our church and train at the same dojo), and while the audience was warmed up, my fingers were not. My skirt was nearly raspberry-seltzer-free, but my fingers were cold and stiff. And the talking made it worse, not better. By the time I started playing, I was shaking.

The recording shows the piece starting out pretty well: it's in tune and the sound is good and strong. However, when I got to some fast 16th notes, I started rushing, and the intonation went south (or actually, north--it was sharp). Apparently rattled by that, I blew a shift to third position. But, I recovered for a strong finish with nice double stops and ringing recap of the main theme.

What I find remarkable is that what I remembered most from the inside were the cold fingers and the blown shift. I have no memory at all of the rushing or the poor intonation in the fast 16th note passage--it was like someone else played that (and I wish it had been someone else!) I don't think any of it was particularly noticeable to the non-musicians in the audience. But from listening to the recording it seemed as if the rushing was linked to the poor intonation, and that both of them were linked to the blown shift. Recordings are a good thing. And, even better, I felt okay afterwards. I'm looking forward to improving and playing this piece again at the farmer's market--always on to the next project!

Okay, my husband put it on the web. So I'm going to give it a try posting it. It takes a long time to load, though.

Colombi Chiacona

From Shailee Kennedy
Posted on April 7, 2008 at 11:24 AM
Nice job, Karen! No wonder you like the viola so much, when you get to play pieces like that.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 7, 2008 at 1:05 PM

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