Program Notes: Sonatas this Thursday


Join us this Thursday, December 19 at 7 pm for another fabulous and free performance in our Sonata Series at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Our performers are Jesse Holstein, violin, along with Sakiko Mori, piano and Annalisa Boerner, viola with Aaron Jackson, piano. Enjoy these program notes by Jesse and Annalisa, which include the much needed explanation of the marking "conslugarocko" and an unlikely sports metaphor.

Charles Ives (1874-1954) Violin and Piano Sonata No. 4, "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting".

Composed in the fall of 1916, Charles Ives' Fourth Sonata for Violin and Piano paints scenes from the Children's Day service at Brookside Park in West Redding, Connecticut. Perhaps Ives himself can best introduce this work:

There was usually only one Children's Day in these summer meetings, and the children made the most of it-often the best of it… The first movement was suggested by an actual happening: the organist's postlude practice and the boys' fast march to to joining in each other's sounds, the loudest singers singing wrong notes. Most of the second movement, quieter and more serious, moves around an old favorite hymn (Jesus Loves Me) while the accompaniment reflects the outdoor sounds of nature on those summer days: the west wind in the pines and oaks, the running brook. The third movement is the boys marching again-some of the old men would join in and march as fast-to "Shall We Gather at the River.

One deliciously entertaining passage in the hymn-based second movement that Ives does not mention is marked with Ives' own onomatopoeic marking, conslugarocko. In between floating strains of the hymn Jesus Loves Me comes a truly wild interlude for the piano alone. It is meant to represent young boys sneaking away from the ongoing service to run down to the river to throw rocks and stones into the water. It is hard to miss.

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus from Quatuor pour la fin du temps.

Drafted into the French army at the outbreak of World War II, the  composer Olivier Messiaen was captured by the Germans in May of 1940 and imprisoned at a POW camp in Görlitz, Germany. There he met a violinist, a cellist, a clarinetist, and some sympathetic guards that provided staff paper and a semi-secluded work space to compose. At Görlitz, Messiaen composed the eight movement Quatuor pour la fin du temps, or Quartet for the End of Time, for himself and his fellow prisoner-musicians. A deeply religious man, Messiaen himself wrote that the piece was inspired by the Book of Revelation, particularly Rev 10:1-2, 5-7:

And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire … and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth …. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever … that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished ….

The quartet received its premier in the camp for fellow prisoners and guards on January 15, 1941. Messiaen famously later said: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."

The final movement, Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus, or Praise to the immortality of Jesus, is scored for violin and piano alone. Being in a camp surrounded by suffering and death, Messiaen's own words about the Quartet's concluding movement suggests how the composer contemplated his own mortality, and through his faith in God, transcended the prison walls at Gorlitz.

It is especially aimed at second aspect of Jesus, Jesus the Man, the Word made flesh, immortally risen for our communication of his life. It is all love. Its slow ascent to the acutely extreme is the ascent of man to his god, the child of God to his Father, the being made divine towards Paradise.

-Jesse Holstein

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) Sonata for Viola and Piano (1919).

I have a penchant for sports metaphors, so I can't resist the urge to tell you that on Thursday, at our Sonata Series concert, I get to play quarterback (or, at the very least, wide receiver).

Rebecca Clarke's Sonata is a beautiful, part-Romantic, part-Impressionistic duo that features both viola and piano equally. Aaron (Jackson, pianist) and I toss stretches of melody back and forth, each taking turns at directing the play. Sometimes he's the offensive line, covering for me as I step back and make a long pitch (movement 1), or bolstering my sound for a quick quarterback sneak (movement 2). Sometimes I'm called upon to play wide receiver, running a route and playing a line that sets up or sets off his melody. Sometimes the piece doesn't really fit my tortured football metaphor, but it's a beautiful one to listen to nonetheless.

In an orchestra, the viola often plays a supporting role – I'm that defensive lineman who doesn't attract attention until he misses his block. In a chamber group, I might even get to play tight end – though I will settle for kicker. I love playing those positions: I derive artistic and personal satisfaction from supporting my teammates, even in subtle ways.  But, every once in a while, it's nice to hang out in the pocket (or, should I say, the RISD Museum Grand Gallery), and play quarterback.

-Annalisa Boerner




Fellows Update: Carole Bestvater

Hello CMW Family and Friends!

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post much sooner, but wanted to wait until I could unveil some exciting news! As many of you know, I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland to pursue a Masters Degree after completing my Fellowship at CMW.

St. John’s is the eastern-most tip of North America. It takes an hour-long flight (or an eight hour ferry ride) to get to the closest body of land (Nova Scotia). I'm closer to Ireland (2,043 miles away) than I am to my hometown of Saskatoon (3,479 miles away). It’s amazing having the North Atlantic Ocean practically in my own back yard, profound scenery at every turn… 


          Cape St. Mary’s, NL…


 …a view of the St. John’s harbour…







                                     …and local dogs that are as big as black bears.

Time has flown. It still feels like yesterday when I was in Providence! Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how CMW, and all the great people and friends I have in my life now because of my fellowship experience.

Last May, I came to visit CMW for the yearly Institute for Musicianship and Public Service. For the few months previous to IMPS, I had spent a lot of time and thought trying to figure out what my next move was going to be. I was searching for the right next step for me as I was finishing my degree. Would I move somewhere else to start something? Would I join an existing organization? I sleuthed a few intriguing opportunities, but there was always something tugging inside me. I realized that my fondness for this rugged place was making it hard to leave. By the time I got to IMPS (the Institute for Musicianship and Public Service), I had determined that I was going to stay in St. John’s and try to start a program from the ground up. It was clear to me that I Couldn’t NOT Try. There was a dream within me, and I wasn’t going to find it anywhere. I needed to create it.

IMPS was the perfect opportunity for me to sit down and come up with a game plan. In true Carole fashion, this involved lots of arts and crafts, flow charts, and colours.  Carole_1
I was ready to get down to the planning stages.

In the 1990s, the government of Canada declared a moratorium on the cod fishing industry- Newfoundland’s main economy. Fishing wasn’t just a job, it was a way of life for families and communities. Newfoundland went through an economic crash and many families and communities were left in poverty because there was no work for anyone. An entire generation had to leave their homes to find work in order to feed their families.

By the time I got here in 2011, St. John’s was in the midst of a renaissance. The combination of emerging industries and an expanding academic community is strengthening the community. CFAs (Newfoundland Term: CFAs: “Come From Aways” definition: a person who moves to Newfoundland for work or study who is not originally from Newfoundland.) often fall in love with the place and the way of life, and decide to stay. But, there is a lot of work to be done. There is a disparity between old traditions and new ways of life, and there are still entire neighbourhoods who are suffering from the rifts of the last few decades.

One thing that has been bringing people together in Newfoundland despite the hard times is music. Music has an integral role in the hearts of Newfoundlanders. I think that is one reason why the program vision has been met with such enthusiasm. The vision is to bring people together and strengthen communities that are already here through the learning and sharing of music.

After months of planning, proposals, meetings, and conversations, I am happy to announce that the vision that has been simmering for years is now unfolding!

This new after-school program is a blend of all the flavours I’ve been immersed in in the past four years. I have partnered with the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra, which is already developing into an enriching partnership. Right now, we are working with elementary aged children from two elementary schools on the west side of St. John’s. Three days a week, we meet at the neighbourhood community centre for music time. From now until December, we’re going to be singing, learning about rhythm, notes and proper posture. In January, each student will be taking home their own violin, viola or cello, creating our very own orchestra.

Early on in the planning process, I recruited four enthusiastic Masters’ Students from the university to work together with me. These four are already proving their brilliance- as educators and as a cohesive team. They have been demonstrating good teamwork and passion already, and we’ve only just begun! We’re planning our first chamber music performances and concert trips for our students, their families, and the community.

The program is starting small, but dreaming big. On our first day, nine Grade 2s and 3s brought their parents and families, and everyone had a wonderful time getting to know each other. The Teaching Artists (myself included) played a smattering of chamber music to demonstrate our instruments for the kids, followed by name games to get to know each other better.


This is only just the beginning of something wonderful. I have adopted the “Build it and they will come” philosophy. Now that there are kids willing to learn, teachers willing to teach, and parents willing to listen, we’re going to stay close to the mission of the work- to strengthen our communities through music. All the details (like, nailing down a proper and catchy name…) will become clear as this program starts to develop its own pulse. Now that the music has started, we’re going to play, learn, and grow together.

With Much Love!

Carole Bestvater

Fellowship Class ’09-‘11

CMW alums: Rhode Island Latino String Quartet


Earlier this fall, I left Boston and several hours later found myself landing at San Francisco International Airport. I transformed myself from a full-time Clinical Research Assistant to a violinist on my plane ride, soon to become a part of the Quinteto Latino’s American Chamber Music Festival. When I reached San Francisco what awaited me were a couple hours of rehearsal with the rest of the quartet. In between musical pieces and yawns, we prepared ourselves for the busy days that lay ahead.

Over the summer, Natasha, Luis, Joshua, and I decided to form a quartet, which we named the Rhode Island Latino String Quartet. We had the opportunity to meet up and practice each week, sight read as well as perform at a couple of events. We were fortunate enough to meet Armando Castellano, a French horn player and educator from San Jose, California, through CMW’s Institute for Musicianship and Public Service. There, we learned about his organization and his quintet. Throughout his musical education, he did not have the opportunity to learn and play music by Latin composers and so his quintet makes it their mission to play only pieces written by Latino and Latin American composers. Recognizing the importance of being connected with the community in which the both live in and play their music in, Quinteto Latino plays in local elementary, middle, and high school, from which a large majority of the students are of a Latino background.


This year, Quinteto Latino decided to host its first Latin American Chamber Music Festival, which lasted about one week, and to which we were invited to take part. During the week, we had the opportunity to host workshops at a couple of different public schools in the area and really took the time to not only create a musical connection with the students but also get to know them as individuals. We were fortunate enough to perform with them at the end of the week in San Jose and San Francisco. During the time that I was there I had the opportunity to interact with musical professionals that all came from very diverse cultural and musical backgrounds. We let go of the classical music that we are constantly exposed to in our respective instrument lessons and introduced our five senses to a different kind of music. The sounds of the Argentine Tango, classical Mexican Folk music, the sounds of Venezuela that were transformed into a musical masterpiece, and the thoughts transcribed into musical notes of a young Brazilian Composer all made their ways into our ears and into our hearts.

Being there reminded me of my musical experience growing up while I learned the violin at Harry Kizirian Elementary School in Providence, where one teacher was expected to teach us music in the one forty-five minute time slot allotted to us. When we walked into Hoover Elementary School, all the kids took out their photocopied piece of music with fingerings and eagerly played Mary Had a Little Lamb for us. I exchanged a couple of words with the teacher and said, “Must be hard to teach so many kids at once,” to which she replied, “Well, I’ve been doing it for a while now.” This sheds light on the need to create not only better music education programs in our schools but also the need to create more individualized learning time into education in general. We also had the chance to collaborate with a nonprofit organization, Enriching Lives through Music (ELM), which provides individual and group music education for youth in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood. It was through this organization that I was able to understand CMW’s mission of transforming lives and minds through music even more. Their respect towards us gave me goosebumps; they looked up to us. They wanted to be like us and their emotions and attitude, and their eagerness to listen to us left me in awe. While a student at CMW, I looked up and continue to look up to everyone at CMW for their passion and eagerness to intertwine the transformative aspect of music to their every lesson and interaction with students.


Although this is just a snippet of the whole festival, it is what stood out for me the most. It was an incredible opportunity and we’re really grateful for that. Sunday morning, we each headed back to our respective lives. I think it was a good opportunity to really reflect on our musical careers, what music really means to us, and why we continue to engage in music despite our careers and lives. As someone who did not end up studying music as a career, music still remains a part of me, that allows me to connect to others and exchange much more than the notes on our music-filled pages. It allows me to continue to create a social impact and connect to those who use music as a way to create social change, and to me, that’s the most beautiful part of it all.

-Sidney Argueta, CMW and Brown University graduate and violinist for the Rhode Island Latino String Quartet.




Bach, Shapiro and Gorecki on Saturday


Join Community MusicWorks Players this Saturday, December 7 at 4:00 pm for a concert featuring music by Bach and Gorecki along with a world premiere of a string quartet by local composer Gerald Shapiro.

The event is free and presented by the Cogut Center for the Humanities and located in Pembroke Hall, Room 305, 172 Meeting Street on Providence's East Side.

Photo by Don Tarallo.