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Karen Allendoerfer

Thinking and Puttering

June 14, 2009 at 12:41 PM

Our POPS concert was great.  For the 1812 we left the howitzers at home and the party poppers we used instead were not too bad on the ears.  Some of the confetti that came out of them landed right on me and hung dangling from my right arm while I was playing the long bridge section that goes from doubled 8th notes to triplets to 16th notes (4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1).  And I'm feeling like I need to get those pictures processed for the Facebook page, but that's really my husband's job ;-)

This is going to be a weird summer, music-wise.  We're going to Europe for 3 weeks in July, and I just don't have space or time to take an instrument along.  I'm also missing the opportunity to play in the MIT symphony and maybe some quartet opportunities as well.  Furthermore, when I get back, it will be August and it will feel like summer is practically over.  It will be time to start preparing for the next school, church, and orchestra season already. 

After discussing this with my teacher, we came up with a plan of sorts.  Until I leave for Europe, I'm going to work on the rest of the Stamitz first movement on viola.  I want to finish that movement; I was making good progress with it earlier in the year, until violin/orchestra needs came to the fore and I put the viola away.  I have about a third of it to go, and I had some time yesterday to spend on fingering the parts I hadn't started yet.  I now have about half a page left.  Lots of triplets and stuff like that, but it's very tonal and nothing unexpected.  It's also high, but a lot of it is in treble clef, which makes it easier.

After I get back from Europe, it will be time to go back to violin, and by then the sheet music for "Simchas Torah (Rejoicing)" by Ernest Bloch will hopefully have arrived, even with budget shipping.  I found a recording of this piece by Joshua Bell on iTunes.  It's beautiful, about what I expected.  But high.  I also read online that the piece commemorates the end of the Sukkot harvest festival, the end of which is Oct. 11 this year, Columbus Day weekend. 

I emailed the music director about playing it in church.  I have some more thinking to do there.  Our church, being UU, studies world religions and knows a bit about Sukkot.  We did a unit on Sukkot in RE last fall, in fact.  But apparently we just scratched the surface because we didn't talk about the ending holiday celebration of Simchas Torah; looking up this music online was the first I'd heard of that part of it.  Being too superficial is always a danger when learning about another religion's holiday. 

That got me to thinking about music in general and its uses.  There's a long history of people playing and singing Christian-themed music:  the Messiah, all the cantatas.  At some level, for some periods of history, if you don't play religious music, you don't play music.  Its enjoyment can't be limited to followers of that particular religion.

So, as a non-Jewish musician, I don't think it is inappropriate that I learn and play this piece, but I do think it's important that I understand the history and intent behind it.  What do others think about listening to, enjoying, and performing music from religious traditions not one's own?

From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 14, 2009 at 4:19 PM

 No comments right now about religious music/tradition, but I had to say I just loved this bit and the image it left:

>For the 1812 we left the howitzers at home and the party poppers we used instead were not too bad on the ears.  Some of the confetti that came out of them landed right on me and hung dangling from my right arm while I was playing. 

From Marianne Hansen
Posted on June 14, 2009 at 4:18 PM

Hi, Karen,

More than just the end of Sukkot, Simchat Torah marks the end of the yearly cycle of public reading through the Torah.  I believe (because I was also brought up in a different religious tradition) that the Wikipedia article is substantially correct (  Some congregations mark the occasion with outdoor processions, which are a lot of fun.

There is a great performance of a song for the partying that ccompanies this occasion on the CD "In the Fiddler's House", where Perlman plays, with the Klezmatics, "Simkhes Toyre Time."  Make sure you're in a place where you can dance when you listen to it!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 14, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Karen - glad the POPS concert went so well and your ears survived.  Have fun during your time in Europe.  Taking the time off will not hurt your playing and make you more excited to get back to it. 

Marianne is correct about Simchas Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah): Jews read and study a portion of the Torah every week, going through the five books in a linear manner, and Simchas Torah marks the end of Deuteronomy and the restart of Genesis in the yearly cycle.  The bloch piece is lovely.  I have Isaac Stern doing the three parts of what is known as the Baal Shem Suite.  It is a lovely CD (it also has a Hindemith sonata and Copland's sonata with Copland on piano).  I have never heard Bell do it, but Stern was much closer to that culture than Bell. 

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 14, 2009 at 9:59 PM

You know, now that I think about it, I really haven't played much religiously themed music period. A few classics like Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus for weddings and such, but that's really it. I agree though, that its definitely good to know the story behind the music you're playing, especially if it's from a different religious tradition than your own.

Oh, and have fun with the Stamitz! I'm working on the 3rd movement as we speak . . . so much fun! It's like a cross between Mozart and Haydn, which is really refreshing.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on June 14, 2009 at 11:22 PM

Ruth, are you working on the Karl Stamitz concerto (the famous one)?  I might do that next, but right now I'm working on an Anton Stamitz concerto, also in D major.  I think both brothers have that refreshing style you're talking about.

When I was living in Germany before college I studied violin for a while at a Musikschule and played in their orchestra; a viola soloist played this concerto and I played the first violin orchestral part accompanying her. 

That was a looong time ago at this point, but I always remembered the piece and when I started to play the viola, it was one of my goals to learn it.  It wasn't easy to find, either.  And, there are no recordings of it on You Tube--maybe I'll be the first, if I can get it up to a level I'm comfortable performing it, and convince a pianist  ;-)

From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 15, 2009 at 1:45 AM

 Echoing Tom's comment, have FUN in Europe. My favorite playground! Is it just Germany, or all around? (I am partial to France and francophone Belgium, my husband prefers Italy, and we lived in London, so that will always feel like home base. Germany will always be the home of my ancestors. Switzerland is neutral to me - ironic, that.)

Posted on June 15, 2009 at 9:34 AM

Karen, we're all waitng with baited did the Disney solo go?

From Mendy Smith
Posted on June 16, 2009 at 2:09 AM

 I have no qualms playing pieces from different religious traditions. I found the Suite Hebraique as moving as any of the other pieces written for the Church - even played it for a Lent service for the same purpose in which it was intended for (though a different faith) - a call to prayer.  It is interesting learning about the music written for religous reasons of all faiths.  The one thing they have in common is evoking the emotions that are appropriate for the purpose - a call to prayer, celebration, mourning, meditiation, praise and hope.  Like mathematics, music is indeed a universal language.

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