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Nova Vista

Karen Allendoerfer

Written by
Published: September 9, 2015 at 7:52 PM [UTC]

The last time I blogged, I wrote about moving to Mountain View CA from the Boston area, and having my Last Lesson with my violin teacher. It's been a crazy 6 weeks, but I'm starting to get back on my feet a little bit, violin-wise.

One of the things I miss most about my life in Belmont is the Philharmonic Society of Arlington. I was the creator and admin of the group's Facebook page, so I can recite this by heart: "The Philharmonic Society of Arlington, Inc., established in 1933, consists of three performing groups, The Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra, The Arlington-Belmont Chorale, and The Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus." Yes, you read that right: 1933, which makes it older than many professional symphony orchestras. The orchestra performed a mix of old favorites and premieres by local, living composers. We also provided playing opportunities for a diversity of musicians, from adult starters and re-starters, to professional music teachers, to up-and-coming Young Artists' Competition winners.

I don't feel up to recapping the last 8 years of my time there right here right now, but I blogged about a lot of it while it was happening, from the first rehearsal, to becoming concertmaster, to my first real solo with an orchestra in the Tchiakovsky "Mozartiana" suite, my stand partner who became a chamber music partner and one of my best friends, a fond farewell to a beloved senior conductor, and finally a new start with a fresh face on the podium.

I don't think it really sank in until this morning, though--until I shed a few tears here at the computer--that that chapter of my life is over. Tonight, the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra has the first rehearsal of its 82nd season, and it will be without me.

When I told people that I was moving, I got plenty of recommendations for orchestras--so many, in fact, that I wasn't sure what to do with them all. I felt overwhelmed. Many of the recommendations centered on the conductor, which I understand, since the tone that the conductor sets is very important. Names I don't know, don't recognize . . . I can google them and find out how many awards they've won and where they've studied, I can see which orchestras have recorded CDs, who has the best reviews, and who has the most professional-looking website. I can see where they rehearse and how far that is from my house. But none of that was helping.

Way back when we were first talking about moving, I just looked on the web for orchestras that rehearsed in the general area of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. I found one called the Nova Vista Symphony. I liked the name immediately: I pictured standing on a mountain and looking out into one of the many valleys around here with their green (or brown) rolling hills. I also liked the fact that they played with a chorale sometimes and had a Young Artists' Competition. They had the right number of concerts--not too many, not too few--and a mix of repertoire, both familiar and new, with different types of challenges. The website said they had auditions, and when I inquired I was told I should prepare 1 fast piece, 1 slow piece, and a 2-octave scale. I took this seriously and started preparing. I figured a 3-octave scale would be fine too.

Not sure which instrument I wanted to play, I thought about viola again. I brought my viola with me on the plane and shipped my violin, because I couldn't carry on both instruments. I practiced the viola in the guest apartment we were staying in while we waited for our furniture to arrive so we could move into the house. I played the 3rd movement to the Anton Stamitz viola concerto in D, and recorded it for the Adult Starter and Restarter Facebook group. I wrote about my viola as a cherished object for a blogfest that I was trying out. I met up with a buddy from the Facebook group, and we tried to play some chamber music, as well as sight-read the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia and the Barber Adagio in his large fencing studio in Redwood City with You Tube accompaniment projected on the wall.

The furniture, and the violin, finally arrived, and life kept accelerating. Our kids started school already on August 17. My daughter was asked to switch to viola in school orchestra and she has taken up the challenge. She needed a viola to practice at home, and so I loaned her mine. I also volunteered to be an assistant soccer coach to get my 12-yo son a spot on a team. Team practice schedules reduced the number of hours available for violin and viola, and conflicted with rehearsals of the South Bay Philharmonic, another group I had been considering, Through all of this, I heard no more about an audition, until last week. I got an email from the personnel manager of the Nova Vista Symphony saying that I had enough experience they didn't need to audition me, and the first rehearsal was a week from then, i.e. last night. They included a list of the repertoire, which included both the William Tell Overture, and Eroica, two of my favorite pieces of all time.

I could interpret this in different ways--after all, not everyone wants to always be playing old favorites that they've played before--but in this time and place, it felt right. In this strange and wonderful and horrible season where everything is slippery, and is changing too fast, and I'm grieving one too many losses and goodbyes, it felt like coming home to see and hear and be part of these pieces again. I brought my violin and my little folding stand, and parked it there in the back of the firsts, shook the rust out of my fingers, and said hello to my old friends.


From Christina C.
Posted on September 9, 2015 at 8:09 PM
so nice to have a post from you about all kinds of new things after your string of 'lasts'! Sounds like you had no shortage of choices of orchestras to choose from and where there's orchestra, there's chamber music. Glad things seem to be going well & I'm sure you'll have no trouble tapping further into the local scene. I'm also sure will be seeing a blog about ricochet bowing from you sometime in the near future. :-)
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 9, 2015 at 8:27 PM
I think ricochet is a useful thing to be able to do when you're bow shopping. When I was buying my current bow a couple of years ago I made sure I could do a decent ricochet with it--you never know when you might have to play William Tell again ;-)
From Christina C.
Posted on September 10, 2015 at 4:08 PM
yup... and doing ricochet as part of a section... that adds a whole level of fun.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 13, 2015 at 12:40 PM
Karen - thanks for bringing us all up to date. It sounds as if things are working out for you out there on the Left Coast, although the adjustment must seem difficult after all of those years in the Boston area and all the long-time connections you have had to let go. Please keep us updated on your progress in finding your way out there and in fitting in to your new orch and life. We all wish you the best.
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 13, 2015 at 8:35 PM
Karen, when I saw the title of your blog and didn't yet know what it referred to, I thought it very apt: You're in a new place, seeing things from a new perspective. I'm glad everything is falling into place. One of my best friend has two sons on serious soccer teams and I hear the gory details every week so I have an idea of what you got yourself into. Best wishes! Now to read your "viola as a cherished object". Just from the title, I'm sure I'll relate.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 14, 2015 at 5:08 AM
Francesca, Yes, the title was meant to have a sort of double meaning. I like it as a name for an orchestra, but it's also a new view from another coast.

Soccer is taking up a lot of time, for sure. But at least I'm starting to be able to watch it more intelligently. This is the first year that his team seems to really understand positions and stick to them and not bunch up.

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