Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chamber Music Rocks--to Play and to Hear

I've just come home from two days of bass playing with my chamber music pals. Put on by the Chamber Musicians of Northern California (CMNC), the event went apparently without a hitch. Not only did the two pieces I worked on end up sounding good, but I made some new friends--and got lots of exercise walking all over with my bass in tow. The coaching we got from the experts each day was not only tremendously valuable, but delivered with much humor.

I've spoken of these workshops before, as I did in my May 28th, 2011 post. A bunch of people sign up, get placed into groups and assigned interesting chamber music (classical pieces for small groups) at an appropriate playing level. Few, if any, of the participants are professionals, but there's a pretty high level of ability for most, and once a group settles in with its assignment, there's lots of give and take as the piece begins to sound better and better. At the end of the day, you play a section you've worked on for some of the other attendees and everyone gets their moment in the sun.

I enjoyed working on Louise Farrenc's Nonette and Beethoven's Septet. So, I was either with eight or six other musicians, who played strings (violins, cellos, etc.) or winds (clarinet, bassoon, oboe, horn). It's like being part of a mini orchestra, where each player carries his or her own part.

The "dessert" of the Saturday sessions is hearing a high level, professional ensemble perform, and this one was a real treat. We got to hear Trio 180 play music by Frank Martin, Brahms and Piazzolla, plus the Suk Elegy as an encore. The trio, who have been together more than a decade, is made up of three teachers at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California: Sonia Leong on piano, Ann Miller on violin and Nina Flyer on cello (they're in the photo).

Wow, is all I can say. After working all day doing your best it's inspiring to hear how it's really done--while not taking away from the great effort and enjoyment of being an amateur. I got a chance to meet and talk with them on Sunday, too.

I'm happily waiting for the next session, which will be March 3 - 4, 2012 at San Francisco State University.

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