Bow Master at All Play Day

On Tuesday March 11, Bow Master Jesse offered all CMW violins and violas a bow class during the studio class portion of All Play Day!


Students worked in partners on their "Bow-lympics" exercises, practicing their spider crawls, crunchtastic voyage (making a good heavy crunchy sound near the bridge), and pinky push-ups and Captain Hook (first finger) pushups.


One of the most challenging exercises was learning how to shift the weight of the hand towards the first finger (at the tip) and then towards the pinky (at the frog). This keeps the bow hand relaxed, and helps develop smooth bow changes. Which would make anyone smile!


Thanks to Jesse for sharing his wisdom and offering a fun and helpful class!


Bach to the Future II


Don't miss this year's J.S. Bach marathon!

The Bachfest is an all-night-no-intermission celebration of community and music presented by Community MusicWorks. The event features more than 50 performers, including the CMW Players, Phase II students, and local experimental musicians, who will keep the music going throughout the evening. The marathon is a mix of traditional and experimental performances and interpretations of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and will be held once again in the magical space of Brown University’s Manning Chapel.

View photos of last year's marathon here.

You are encouraged to bring your pillow & blanket.
Get comfortable and enjoy the music of Bach!

Sakiko Mori

Curator, Bach To The Future







Friday, April 4 – Saturday April 5
Bach Marathon

The overnight Bach Marathon returns!
7 pm to 7 am Bach performances.

Manning Chapel, Brown University, Providence

Teaching Moments

One of the great (and sometimes terrifying and intense) things about the Daily Orchestra Program is that we see and work with the same students every day of the week! This means that student transformations can sometimes happen over a surprisingly short period of time. Often I am so engrossed in each moment that I forget to see this big picture. Just like when I’m at home staring into the mirror and seeing all my flaws, in my teaching I am easily caught up in the details I want to improve – the lessons that don’t go according to plan, the student who still has trouble keeping his viola’s scroll up, the orchestra’s responsiveness to instructions, and of course my own teaching’s effectiveness and flow.

Every now and then moments occur that do make me step back and remember the whole. Some of those moments are the obvious ones, like the performance party back in January, but more often than not they are private, witnessed by only a few (well, maybe thirty max).

Today I had one of those moments when I was faced with the task of calming a student down who had become so angry he had run away right before orchestra and disappeared for several minutes. When he resurfaced (as if by magic after my frantic and unsuccessful search) he seemed on the verge of breaking something. I learned later that another student had kicked him by accident. I listened to his story and said I could understand why he was feeling angry. But then I asked him calmly whether in that moment it was more important to sit there and feel angry or whether participating in music was more important. He answered softly and immediately: “music.” Something changed. He became a calmer, more collected and purposeful student than the one who ran away from me only moments ago. By realizing he wanted to play music that day he was able to if not forget his anger, at least put it aside for the duration of orchestra.

One of the most difficult tasks we face as human beings is having to deal with our emotions. I notice children struggle with this, especially when those feelings are scary, like sadness or anger (heck, I still struggle with those!). Adrienne and I both share the vision that in our Daily Orchestra Program we are not just teaching students to play string instruments, we are teaching them to be kind, compassionate, healthy, and happy human beings. Helping our students to handle their emotions is part of that vision, and even though my moment alone with an angry young boy didn’t involve teaching him to play music (there wasn’t even an instrument in the room), it somehow felt like a small success.

Whether in the future he’ll be able to draw anything from that one moment in time I don’t know. My hope is that he will, but if he doesn’t. . . well, we’ll be seeing him again tomorrow. Each day presents opportunities to guide our students through that harrowing and beautiful landscape of human emotion. Luckily for us, all of music could be seen as humanity’s way of dealing with its feelings, so we’ve chosen our vehicle well.

-Lisa Barksdale, Associate Resident Musician, the Daily Orchestra Program

Nyman’s Quartet No. 5

Resident musician Chase Spruill writes about the North American premiere of the Michael Nyman's Quartet No. 5:

In the early 1980s, Michael Nyman attended a performance by Arditti Quartet whose program housed a performance of the mighty Opus 133 Grand Fugue by Ludwig van Beethoven. Their performance and interpretation of the music left quite an impression on the composer who would later go on to remark that it was the most theatrical performance of the Fugue he’d ever seen or heard, leaving him with the impression that Beethoven was attempting to burst out of the music and compositionally transcend the confines and limitations of the sound world for a string quartet in order to create something orchestral. When Arditti Quartet commissioned Michael Nyman to write his first string quartet in 1985, it was their performance of Beethoven which helped inspire his idea to “exorcise the impressive and oppressive history of the string quartet” through a series of quotations by composers like John Bull, Arnold Schoenberg and Alex North. The end result was a pulse-pounding, relentless, hyper-rhythmic, uplifting and continuous world of sound that never allowed a listener’s ear to wander. Nyman wrote three more string quartets between 1988 and 1994 which touched on and explored inspirations from Scottish Folk Music to traditional South Indian rhythmic cycles. The 20 years after that were devoted to the continuous writing of film scores for acclaimed movies like Jane Campion’s The Piano and large-scale concert works for the Michael Nyman Band and world-class orchestras like the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, but with no sign of whether he’d ever write for the combination of a string quartet ever again.
I had the fortune to begin a long-distance correspondence with the composer a couple of years back while premiering his newest chamber music arranged for the combination of piano, flute, clarinet, violin and cello. The plan was to premiere and to record these works over a period of a few years, and ultimately, to release these recordings the year of his 70th birthday, which would be part of a larger celebration of his career thus far. This plan led to a quiet dinner meeting I had with his manager who happened to be in New York City on business, and during this dinner, I got the answer I’d been hoping to hear:  “He’s got this intense notion of writing ten symphonies in one year and releasing recordings of them with The World Orchestra. Also, there’s a new string quartet!”  The piece was to be premiered in the UK by the Smith Quartet—champions of contemporary string quartet literature—but without being able to hear a recording of the new work, I asked her if she would kindly describe the piece for me. She went on to say it was a wild, six-movement exploration of song and dance which included ballads, tangos, and dances that would be dangerous to dance to.  I only had one question for her at that point:  When was the U.S. Premiere so I could hear this piece?  My entire drive back to Providence, I kept replaying her answer to my question in my head, which was something like,” “Oh, we haven’t planned a U.S. premiere of this piece yet. Do you have any friends that you think would like to play it?”  I was new to Community MusicWorks at the time, but as it happened, yeah, I had a couple of people I thought might be interested. Sebastian had been talking about the next season here at CMW and the possibility of a quartet program in 2014. He was enthusiastic about the idea of premiering a new work by Michael Nyman knowing it was the first string quartet to be written by the composer in almost 20 years.  It seemed like the kind of news that should go along with fireworks and balloons. When he asked if I’d like to be part of that program, I think it’s quite possibly the fastest I’ve ever said yes to anything.  He asked what the piece was like and I told him what I knew. One year later, we’re a few weeks away from the North American Premiere.

-Chase Spruill

Join us for the weekend-long celebration of Nyman's Quartet No. 5:

Friday, March 21 at 5 pm
Salon at the Athenaeum: Nyman & New Music with the CMW Players
Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, Providence
Saturday, March 22 at 4 pm
Community MusicWorks Players
Westminster Unitarian Church, 119 Kenyon Ave, East Greenwich
Suggested donation: $10
Sunday, March 23 at 4 pm
Community MusicWorks Players
*Please note change in location*
First Unitarian Church of Providence, 1 Benevolent Street
Suggested donation : $15


This Sunday: Ars Subtilior No. 2


Our resident cellist Laura Cetilia curates the Ars Subtilior series and gives us a preview of this Sunday's concert:

The second edition of Ars Subtilior this Sunday, March 9 at 4:30 pm at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket will feature works for piano and cello by composer Alvin Lucier. I am extremely excited to be presenting this program, as I consider Lucier truly one of today's greatest living composers. My initial intention of starting the Ars Subtilior series was due in part to the influence of Lucier's ideas on my own musical life and aesthetic.

Much of Lucier's work is influenced by science and explores the physical properties of sound itself: resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media. What results from such deep exploration of sound is something that I find completely mesmerizing and beautiful. Listeners sometimes forget that sound is having a physical effect on them, especially sounds other than those that are loud or abrasive. What happens in Lucier's music is so subtle it can easily be lost if one doesn't know what to listen for.

On Sunday's concert Sakiko Mori, myself, and the adventurous and generous engineers and producers from the Machines with Magnets recording studio will be presenting three of his works. In Music For Piano With Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators, two pure electronic soundwaves start on the same note, and then diverge and converge over 16 minutes. Meanwhile, sparse droplets of piano notes follow their movement, but never quite hitting the same pitch, leaving ripples of disturbance in the pure waves' wake. This gentle "beating" also occurs in Twonings for cello and piano, but on a much subtler scale. The cello plays only (high and difficult to reach) harmonics throughout. The pianist attempts to play in unison with the cello, but due to the different tuning systems of the instruments (equal temperament of the piano, compared with just intonation of the cello), slight audible beating occurs. 

Finally, in Music for Cello and One or More Amplified Vases, you will hear the sounds of the cello magically resonate through a variety of amplified glass vessels. Each one of these vases have been hand-made specifically for this event by RISD Glass faculty member Jocelyne Price. You can see samples of the vases that will be used at the concert below.

I invite you to experience this stunning and unusual music in person on Sunday, and don't forget to change your clocks before heading over.


Ars Subtilior No. 2

a concert series on subtlety in experimental music

featuring Sakiko Mori, piano and Laura Cetilia, cello


Sunday, March 9 at 4:30 pm

at Machines with Magnets

400 Main Street, Pawtucket

$5-15 suggested donation