Yesterday I experienced one of the most uplifting community events ever! The evening began with a delicious spaghetti dinner, where families, friends, and children communed with one another in an informal, welcoming environment. The dinner was followed by a performance by the Community MusicWorks Fellows and the Providence String Quartet.
Three works were performed, two of which were by Providence composers (one of which was me!). The first piece [by Mitchell Clark] was an excellent example of beautiful melodies that can be varied to create beautiful colors and textures. The Fellows performed this piece with excellent nuance and expression!
Next on the program was an exhilarating performance of my piece! I give my most sincere gratitude to the Providence String Quartet for performing it with such expression and understanding!! I also enjoyed talking to the audience and getting their reactions after the concert!
The evening ended with such a musical, emotional performance of Beethoven’s string quartet Opus 74. This piece explores some of the deepest feelings that one can imagine, while maintaining perfect form and proportion and interesting harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic ideas. What a wonderful end to a lovely evening!
The sight of a string quartet in a gymnasium filled with an audience full of children and adults alike warmed my heart. It is something that I have never seen before, yet somehow seemed a necessary part of community development. More people should see this positivity in community! Positivity yields more positivity, and music helps to move and spread this idea. To be a part of this development is truly an honor, and I hope the success of Community Music Works continues forever!
-Anthony Green, composer
It started out like any other concert trip: our bus was running late and we had an excess of tuna fish sandwiches. Thirty people, including members of ten CMW families along with Jessie, Arlyn, and me, climbed aboard a school bus to hear the Boston Philharmonic at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. It was a warm blue sky day, perfect for the regatta we spotted as we crossed the Charles River on our way into Cambridge.
The centerpiece of the concert was to be a concerto for violin and tabla by Shirish Korde, a composer local to Boston. The sound of the Indian drum combined with the violin captured the interest of many students, particularly because it was “different than what they usually have” and because of “how fast he was going!”
The orchestra also performed Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes & Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. From our seats in the balcony, we were able to notice elements about the concert that those on the ground floor couldn’t see. Students pointed out the giant tuba mute and the “sound effects” coming out of the percussion section, from ratchets to cymbals to the giant chime. These were particularly appreciated as one student put it because, “this time, I didn’t fall asleep ‘cause the music kept waking me up!”
Pictures at an Exhibition is a piece of many contrasting movements, and a student on the bus ride home commented not only on the range of feelings in the music, but told me, “it was alive, like a human being.”
Despite some trepidation about losing our bus driver to the black hole that is pre-Red Sox game downtown Boston, Arlyn was able to sprint, flag our driver down, and guide her back to Sanders Theatre. With some post-concert snacks in our bellies, we rolled up at 1392 Westminster Street right on time.
-Rachel Panitch, Fellow (07-09)
Kyle Dillingham, a fiddler from Oklahoma, is tall and lanky with a shock of straw colored straight hair. The instant he was introduced to CMW, he started rhythmic clapping; with an inclusive gesture at the end of his first rhythmic pattern (which took about 10 seconds) the audience joined in, and echoed the pattern, and continued to do so in a call and response dynamic that was vigorous and joyful.
Kyle talked and played in a variety of ways; he was so engaging in his interactions with us, you couldn’t wait to see what was coming next. At one point he held up his fiddle. "How shall I play it?" he asked. "Maybe like a cello?" Some in the audience cried out "No!", but he sat down and, holding the violin between his knees, started fiddling at great speed. Everyone laughed and clapped. "That’s too hard," he said, "maybe like this?" He called for a volunteer to hold his bow for him. The small boy was instructed to hold the bow very firmly in a perpendicular position. Kyle, holding his violin out in front of him, rubbed the violin against the bow, while incredibly fingering the same lively piece he had just played in the cello position. Everyone cracked up with amazement and delight.
Kyle dismissed this remarkable feat lightly, saying he once had a teacher who taught him to do some tricks like that, and it liberated him to explore his violin and try things out. He urged the CMW youth to do the same. When he launched into Russian gypsy music, he called out open strings by name as he played, and got great harmonic support from the many violins, violas, and cellos that were there. His playing was impassioned, full of cadenza-like passages and romantic gestures; he stretched tall on tiptoes, while all the time one foot tapped the rhythm. His upper torso was in constant motion and his eyes moved from face to face as if communicating directly with each person.
Toward the end, after he had told us of his travels to 29 countries in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe, he launched into La Vie en Rose, and strolled around the room serenading young and old alike with great charm. When Kyle was about to conclude, he said "I would like, finally, to play again Anais’ piece." (The piece that a very young beginning student had composed herself using open strings, and which, at Sebastian’s invitation, she had played for everyone at the start of the workshop.) Kyle remembered the piece perfectly and played it with warmth and simplicity. It was the best possible finale for a workshop that was vibrant with vitality and the celebration of the MusicWorks community and the joy of music-making.
-Karen Romer, CMW Board
Some thoughts about the upcoming concerts next week. As you can read on our website calendar page, the Providence String Quartet and CMW Players are presenting concert programs at the West End Community Center (Oct. 25) and the Bell Street Chapel (Oct. 26), two familiar venues in Providence’s West End that we visit annually.
In addition to Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets opus 74 and opus 18 No. 4, the PSQ will perform Chance by Anthony Green. Minna, Chloe, and Laura will perform Was That the Rain Thrush Singing in the Blue Olive Tree? by Mitchell Clark.
Anthony Green and Mitchell Clark are two of nine local composers that we have asked to contribute works to be performed during CMW’s 11th season. Last weekend, Jesse and guest artist Amy Cheng performed Garrison Hull’s sonata for violin and piano in Providence and Bristol, and coming up in mid-December, the PSQ will perform Steve Jobe’s 4 Movements for string quartet and soprano. [Read about these nine local composers here.]
How did this Listen Local project come about? It seems a natural fit for a neighborhood-based organization like Community MusicWorks, since the PSQ is often approached by artists that they meet around town who are interested in collaborating with Providence’s resident string quartet. Kate Sullivan’s Pinocchio, for instance. Or Sheri Wills’ Light of Bach at the Athenaeum and West End gym.
When we all sat down last March to start thinking about programming ideas for the 07-08 season, there were plenty of votes for Beethoven quartets and an all-Dvorak program, but there was also considerable interest in the idea of putting CMW "on the map" as a resource for new music. We thought about the idea of presenting an all-Providence composers concert at some point during the season, but quickly realized that there was the potential to include more composers than it would be feasible to fit into one concert program. As part of CMW’s commitment to achieving an impact locally, it seemed clear that here was an opportunity to effect Rhode Island’s music scene by providing opportunities for Rhode Islanders to hear music written by their neighbors.
We’re lucky to have Laura as a Fellow, as that has created the opportunity for CMW and Mem1 to co-present CTRL+ALT+REPEAT twice in Providence, providing a venue for experimental electronics and new music.
And it certainly is a bonus to have a resident composer at CMW in Jessie Montgomery. Truly "resident" in that she is a member of the Providence String Quartet AND she lives just three blocks from the office! Jessie is reworking Strum for string quintet into a quartet version that will be featured during the PSQ’s January performances, including visits to New York City’s Symphony Space (January 25) and Jessie’s childhood alma mater, the Third Street Music School Settlement (January 26).
Back to the upcoming concerts next week. Unfortunately, Ludwig is unable to make either performance, but Anthony and Mitchell will be there to introduce their works. I feel confident predicting their attendance because they have both been over to the CMW office to listen in on recent rehearsals. And we didn’t have to reimburse their travel expenses.
-Heath Marlow, CMW staff
CMW’s good friend and adviser Jonathan Biss has a new website and blog. Jonathan invited Sebastian to be the blog’s inaugural guest contributor, and you can find Sebastian’s essay Music and Social Justice by clicking here.