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Talent Show Preparation

Karen Allendoerfer

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Published: April 14, 2015 at 4:29 PM [UTC]

I was never in a talent show as a child. I’d heard about them, and even attended a handful, but overall I had a rather negative impression of talent shows. What I believed was that either the performances weren’t very good (if you were in the audience), or the experience was anxiety-provoking (if you were one of the performers). Why would anyone want to do that?

Then, as an adult, I joined the church I attend now in Watertown Massachusetts. Every year there is a talent show. It takes place around the time of the Annual Meeting, at the end of the fiscal year, in the sanctuary. What we call the sanctuary now was the social hall when the church complex was first built, but the churchier-looking building was torn down in the 1970s, leaving only the current smaller building. It’s a nice stage, warm and pleasant, and the acoustics are good. We sometimes rent out the space for professional concerts. Looking back, it’s remarkable how much of my adult musical life has played out on that stage.

From blog

As I am wont to do with a lot of meetings and almost anything having to do with budgets, I skipped the meeting and the talent show too several times running, even as I became a more involved church member.

And then I started playing the violin and viola again after a long break from playing anything. The music director at the time was supportive and accompanied me on some simple pieces during worship services. I remember in particular playing “Fantasia on Greensleeves” as my first public violin performance in many years. But it wasn’t until later when I was investigating new pieces on the viola that I finally felt inspired to try the talent show. I played a solo viola piece that I’d transcribed from the original cello version, a Ciacona by Colombi. Reading my blog about the performance from back then is a little painful—rushing, bad intonation, blown shifts. At least the video seems to have (mercifully) disappeared. And the next year, following a tradition of performing obscure viola music that no one had heard of before, I played the first movement of a viola concerto by Karl Stamitz’ younger brother, Anton.

In those early years of playing, I felt like I really didn’t have anything to lose. The pieces were short, so, even if they were painful, it would be over soon. I got far luckier than I deserved in the piano accompanist department. And I pretty much announced to everyone who would listen, “I didn’t play for a long time so I’m new at this and what’s more, I’m playing the viola now, which I’m a total beginner on!” Contrary to popular belief, I find that low expectations can be a good thing.

But now, more years into my violin/viola journey, that introduction doesn’t hold much power anymore. I’m feeling an urge to experiment, to try something more challenging, to make a musical statement above and beyond the worthy but limited notion that yes, even adult students following their dreams in midlife have something to say.

Last year for the talent show I played a fiddle piece, Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar. This performance was a reprise of the same piece that I had done before for a summer lay-led worship service, and my friend Nick was assigned to be the pianist for that service. So, in the pianist department, I again got far luckier than I deserved. During the service, we played the piece as a Farewell, in honor of friends who are no longer with us.

So over this past year, Nick and I have been messing around a bit with different possibilities. We’ve tried Ave Maria (played at Christmas), Schindler’s List (still looking for the right mood), and now Negro Spiritual Melody by Dvorak as arranged by Kreisler. That and The Pyramid Song by Radiohead. That should be an interesting combination.

I’ve totally changed my mind about talent shows. Whether I attend the meeting or not, the talent show has become something to look forward to every year.

Author's note: I've enjoyed blogging at on violin, viola, and other music-related topics, and I will continue to do so. For non-violin content (geocaching . . . neuroscience . . . parenting . . . science fiction . . . life in general!), please visit my blog at

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on April 18, 2015 at 4:01 AM
Karen, I should have put YOU down as my musical inspiration.
I am about to buy a viola and have been trying to think
creatively about what I can play on it. Of course, I'll be a beginner for quite awhile, but not as much a beginner as I was once a violin beginner, thankfully.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 18, 2015 at 11:41 AM

The viola was what made me not afraid to play solo anymore. I'm still not really sure how that worked.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on April 19, 2015 at 11:20 PM
Karen - it is always good to read your blog. You are an inspiration to all of us amateurs! Your playing the Ashokan Farewell was excellent, and your blog makes the important point of how useful it is for us amateurs to have a friendly place to play our pieces.

It also reminded me of something that just happened. We went to a party for fund-raising volunteers for the local classical station. As entertainment, they had two members of the Ibis Quartet, one of whom was Ed Scheer who is/was the concertmaster of the Boston Pops. He played a beautiful rendition of the Farewell. Afterwards, he said that he had played it at some point in some town in the Midwest (if I recall correctly). The review in the paper said he had done a very nice job with it, but he was not as good as the guy who had played it a week before in a concert in the town. Turned out that that guy was Jay Ungar.

Keep the blogs coming. I am certainly one of many on this site who enjoys them.

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