Saturday, November 26, 2005


Last night the quartet played in an unusual setting: a BBQ restraunt called the Smokehouse in Rio Rancho, NM. The owner had found us via the web and asked us to play on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It's not the classieset joint in the world so I wasn't sure what to expect. Nevertheless I had invented a scenario in my mind about what would happen. I figured that since they don't serve alchohol at this place, people would most likely come in, get something to eat, put up with us for 30 minutes or so, and split. Based on this, we came up with a set list that lasted about 1 hour, figuring that by the time we got through the list, most of the patrons would have rotated through and we could start over on the list again.

What actually happened was more interesting. First off, a number of people from the company where I work, Lectrosonics, Inc., came to hear us. Each of us had family members there. So in essence, we drew our own audience and thus patrons of the restraunt. Without our audience, it would have been a slow night at the Smokehouse!

But more importantly, what we noticed is that once people arrived, they stayed for quite a while. Some people who arrived fairly early actually stayed for more than an hour. Some even stayed right up until the end of our performance! Also, we specifically chose a wide variety of material so that we would appeal to a range of tastes. What surprised me was the strong positive reception towards the classical material. Not just favorites like Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, but more obscure stuff like the finale from Beethoven Op. 18 #2, or the Minuet from Beethoven's Septet. The moment where I was most struck, however, was when we played the Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile from his Op. 11 string quartet. It's a quiet piece, and fairly delicate. After we got started, I noticed that the room became quieter as people began listening. Towards the end, where it is like a lullaby and a baby's heart beating, I could hear the hush over the room. It was an eerie feeling, but I was appreciative of the fact that these patrons were really paying attention and enjoying this music.

So much for getting what you expect! I think the variety of music kept a lot of the audience interested, but my faith in classical music was again bolstered because it seems to come down to this: people enjoy good music. Perhaps the audience was skewed because we knew a lot of them. But nevertheless, the effects of the music on the patrons was unmistakable. It reminds me of when I lectured at West Virginia University in Morgantown at the behest of my aunt, Kathleen McNerney. She had asked me to talk to her students about music, since whenever I visited her I would wax poetic on the subject. I think I lectured two different times and was met with a strong positive reaction both times. The main point of my lecture was "musical imagery" in that classical music ties directly into our emotions. Even students who claimed that they "did not listen to classical music" came up with very interesting interpretations of Bach, Rachmanninoff, and Berlioz.

Just writing these ideas gets me to think about looking for avenues to teach again. Something in me compells me to try to find ways to impart the things I've learned, believed in and wish to share. There is very little time in my schedule right now for such an undertaking, but if the opportunity arose, I would want to find a way.

That's all for today.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Old Violin

What songs do you have, worn into the very grain of your wood? Who's soft hands have caressed you over the decades - coaxed sweet sound from your strings? Maybe you've propeled people to dance, or entertained the family in a warm inviting home. Or perhaps you've even kept someone from lonliness by providing a willing partner for making soft music from the heart.

And what of the miles you've traveled, in your well-worn case? Starting out as trees - maple, spruce, ebony. Then under the skilled hands of the master craftsman you took form and were given a new kind of life. Perhaps somewhere in Germany or Austria? And while you made your long journey across miles and through time, wars were waged, lands were settled, cities were built, science discovered new things and governments rose and fell. And yet your function never wavered. When called upon, you made music!

After lying fallow and indeed in disrepair for these recent years, again a craftsman has restored your health, mended your wounds, and prepared you for the return to a life of music. And from the first few notes it is already clear you are ready, once again, to warm the hearts of willing partners and listeners alike.

Photo of the Old Violin