Printer-friendly version

My first concert in California: Honoring those Who Have Served

Karen Allendoerfer

Written by
Published: October 19, 2015 at 5:15 PM [UTC]

In spite of the days getting shorter, it's still warm and sunny out. It just doesn't feel like time for a concert yet. But it is.

Poster

FullSizeRender 63

This was my first concert in California, with the Nova Vista Symphony. The West Valley College Theater is not Symphony Hall, but it is a nice theater, with good acoustics and an air of excitement. It's also not the church I've been used to playing in for the past 8 years. Gathering in the theater were the orchestra members, veterans, an honor guard, a chorus, and service dogs from Canine Companions, who are in training to help wounded vets.

I've been very impressed with how well thought-out this season is, the orchestra's 50th. The whole season has a theme (Season of Heroes), and each concert itself has a sub-theme. This concert's was a tribute to those who have served in the armed forces. Our conductor, Anthony Quartuccio, gave a pre-concert talk about the music, and then Mr. Tuttle introduced the service dogs from Canine Companions, the co-sponsor for the concert.

IMG_3400

Everyone knows two of the pieces on the program, Rossini's William Tell Overture and Beethoven's Eroica, and I've written about my experiences with those pieces before, so I'd like to say a little bit here about the other major piece we played, "Symphony for the Sons of Nam" by James Kimo Williams. Williams is a Vietnam Veteran, and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. He wrote the piece about his own experiences in Vietnam. It is intended to have 4 chapters, but only 2 have been completed.

The two chapters are written in a wide variety of styles: ominous, elegiac, martial, triumphant. It begins with a snare drum and a rousing fanfare-like melody in the brass. One section, depicting the jungle, is marked to be played "ominously" and it doesn't disappoint. The sheet music itself looks plenty ominous already. A steady drumbeat of 16th notes starts low in the cellos and spreads to the violins and woodwinds, the pattern rising in pitch until it hits a high A and slides back down in a siren-like portamento. A beautiful violin solo memorializes fallen soldiers.

You can listen to it here (not us playing), accompanying Williams' own photos from his time in Vietnam:


In the past several years I have been pleasantly surprised by how listenable and relevant the contemporary orchestral music is that our conductors choose. It's probably past time to get over my lingering hesitations against it. I was glad to have been introduced to this piece at this concert. I thought it worked especially well to have the juxtaposition of a contemporary work on the same program with something so well known and loved as the Eroica. I'm guessing there were some in the audience who enjoyed the Williams even more than the Beethoven.

My feelings playing the Beethoven were complicated. It's one of my favorite symphonies, possibly the favorite, although its melodies are not necessarily as beautiful as those of the 9th, or the 6th, or the 7th. It's a cliche, but I still marvel at how I can leave everything behind, fly 3000 miles, and walk into a room full of strangers whom I've never seen before, and in a few short weeks, still do something as complex as play the Eroica with them. Are we all--the Greater Buffalo Youth orchestra, the Belmont Music Festival orchestra, the Nova Vista Symphony--and all the orchestras back to the private orchestra of Prince Lobkowitz, at the castle Eisenberg where the Eroica first premiered -- still all somehow playing together through the ages, linked by this universal language of music?

The problem is, when you start thinking about things like that in the middle of the concert, you can lose your place in the music. (Or at least I can). The need for concentration really never lets up. I am curious what other people, including professionals, think about when they're playing. Just the nuts and bolts of putting the music together? Or is it more?

My family came to the concert too, and afterwards, while we were enjoying the nice reception with Halloween cookies, peppermint bark, coffee, and other goodies, and more visiting with the puppies, we noticed this tree. So climbable, but not while wearing long black.

 My daughter and I, after the concert My daughter and I, after the concert

Clarence: one of the service dogs in training to help wounded vets. Only 11 months old, he's still a puppy! Clarence: one of the service dogs in training to help wounded vets. Only 11 months old, he's still a puppy!


From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 20, 2015 at 3:05 PM
Wow, you jumped right in! Very cool, and welcome to the Bay Area! What fun that I just might get the chance to attend one of your concerts some day. : ) Enjoyed what you wrote here.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 20, 2015 at 5:26 PM
Hi Terez, Thanks! It's been quite a busy time. And there are so many orchestras here, it's really cool.

I actually can't play in the next concert because it's on my birthday, and I'm going out of town for the weekend to celebrate. Moving really brought home to me how big a part of my life it has been to play in an orchestra.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 21, 2015 at 5:17 PM
Karen - sounds like a terrific concert, and you seem to have hit the ground running out there in CA. That is all wonderful, although I think most of us who know you expected that you would do fine. May you have a future there filled with concerts like that one!

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Johansen International Competition

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe