Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Last Concert

Since we moved here to our small town almost fourteen years ago I have been involved in dozens of concerts.  Just two months after we arrived I played in the orchestra of a local production of Handel's "Messiah."  I was thrilled to live in a small, rural town where that was possible.

Following that I was part of many wonderful productions in the "Masterworks" Series, ranging from Mozart's "Requiem" to a musical theatre presentation of "Oliver!"  For some years I functioned as the orchestra manager for the local college.

When the college eliminated their music department I organized a series of concerts with a string group which we called "The Atrium Players."  We presented three concerts per year for three years in a row.  Unfortunately, many of our good string players moved away to pursue other activities.  Some of the high school students moved away to attend university.  A teacher moved to another area to take up a new teaching post.  College students graduated and left to start a career.  For the last concert that the group gave I was reduced to begging two young players not to desert the group with only one more rehearsal before our concert.  That more or less finished me in terms of organizing concerts.

There had been, for many years, a very small student group at the local music school, and I attended many of their rehearsals, just as a helper, first on violin, and then the last few years on viola.  It was fun, but it was also a little sad in comparison with my first years here when the "Masterworks" series presented truly classic programs with great depth.

These past two years I have been teaching violin at the local music school, filling in for a teacher who took a post overseas.  Part of that teaching involved conducting the small student group, called The Wildrose Strings.

The first year I was conducting them we enjoyed the addition of two cellists and a string bass player to our basic complement of violinists.  This second year we lost two good violin players, a viola player, a beginning cello player and the string bassist.  We retained one of the cellists, picked up another quite young student on cello.  Later a local woman joined the group as a helper, someone who is advanced on cello.  In addition we have nine violinists (varying in age from eleven years old to middle aged moms) five of whom (not the moms) had had no experience playing in a string group.

When we first met last fall I was, how can I put this?,  crestfallen at our big step backwards in terms of how well we played!  But the group is, after all, meant to be a learning experience, and so together we learned.  We started our rehearsals with a "repertory class" in which a few of them performed solos for the others.  This was meant to give them experience performing in a non-threatening situation.  Then we did some ear training, identifying intervals and attempting to play back melodies.  We followed that with some sight reading of simple music, and then we worked on music for performance.

Our first big performance was at the end of November when we were part of the annual "Community Christmas Program."  We gave a creditable performance.

In the new year we continued to learn music and especially to work on achieving "ensemble"--the ability of a music group to listen to each other and coordinate to produce a good blended sound.

We gave a few other performances, for example, a Christmas concert for family and friends; two  performances at seniors' facilities, and we entered the local Music Festival in March.  Just this past Wednesday, we ended our year with a gala concert for family and community.  The concert this past week was our last performance together.  I'm retiring in June and they will, hopefully, have another teacher next year.

This last concert, our "Gala Performance," was an astonishing achievement!!!  The distance they have come from last September is mind boggling!  Here's a copy of the program:

Brandenburg Concerto #5,                                            J. S. Bach
     first movement (abridged)  
Three German Dances                                                  Joseph Haydn
Fantasia on "Dulcimer"                                                Glenn Spring
Slavonic Dances, #1 and #8                                         A. Dvorak
Ancient Dances and Airs, Balletto                                O. Respighi
Suite from Simple Strings                                             Patrick Hawes
         (four movements)
Bluegrass Country                                                        Carold Nunez
Tango                                                                           I. Albeniz
William Tell, Finale from the Overture                        G. Rossini
Swallow Tail   (An Irish Jig)

There were also two solos by students and one duet.

Those in the audience who have attended most of our concerts were unanimous in their surprised praise of the performance.  I was totally pleased and gratified.  I'm so thankful and happy to end on that high note.  It's been a lot of hard work, for all of us, but it has also been a wonderful, uplifting experience.

1 comment:

  1. It appears that you have once again had a very successful, busy year with your students and yourself!! Lucky the ones who were able to study and perform under your tutelage! You are an inspiration to all - enjoy your time - you will find other avenues to keep you busy I am sure! Also thanks for the offer on the DVD - !!