The Quartet Sessions No.1

5 04 2008

Today was the first day for the summer-long chamber music sessions at my boarding house. For lack of a better title, I call it The Quartet Sessions, and I try to get at least four people form The Orchestra together and we go through simple pieces for string quartet with the goal of trying to have as much fun as possible while trying to produce the most beautiful playing possible with the least amount of pressure.

So this time, there are no deadlines, no dates for a performance. I’ve chosen easy but tuneful music, and we try to go through it measure-by-measure then phrase-by-phrase until we get a cohesive thing going. It makes for slow progress, but hey, we’re not in a hurry. The point is to enjoy the process. Afterwards, we all have lunch together, care of yours truly 🙂

Today we had Jessie the second-chair cellist and her brother, Jael. We had Miss Faith over to provide the first violin parts, and I took the role of violist.

I’m impressed by Jael’s progress over the years: he’s entering 6th Grade now, having been my student since he was Grade 2, and I’ve really noticed the change from whiny kid to not-so-whiny and much-more skilled kid. Of course, I adore all my students, and when I see they are capable of marking their own fingerings, I do a little dance of joy. Hehe.

Jessie seemed to benefit greatly from the pressure-less situation – no conductor breathing down your neck to get your parts right, no irritated side-glances from your stand partner; if you don’t get your part right, we laugh at ourselves and try again; when you do get your parts right, the grins are from ear to ear. The musicians slowly learn to want to play well; not because they are being made to, but because they owe it to themselves and to their session mates.

I served tuna sandwiches for lunch; apparently, most people underestimate the humble tuna sandwich – but slap on some olives, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and homemade salsa, and spread it on a warm baguette…Miss Faith put-up a tremendous fight trying to finish just one! I served some red wine as well, although everyone turned it down. Oh well…more for me.

We worked on a simple tune called Simple Gifts, as well as a French Christmas Carol (in the middle of summer!), Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. We finished neither, but the first four measures of each sound promising.

I find it to be a real joy to serve my students this way – and having people slice and dice tomatoes, olives, and cloves of garlic is a surefire way to get to know them better. Maybe this way, the joys of making music will be revealed to them in ways The Orchestra cannot.

…but I need to find a cheaper way to feed them…

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