Tonight: Babi Yar, Berkeley Symphony @ Zellerbach Hall.
Spending this week with Shostakovich 13 has been heavy, meaningful, timely, and even physically painful. This picture is the part where Anne Frank is taken by the Gestapo. The text bemoans the loss of the belief in *real truth,* as thousands of Jews went to their deaths with no historical record of the event, no acknowledgement, no monument in Babi Yar. Someone had to speak up and thus this symphony was born. The necessity of speaking up in and for truth is a message plainly relevant today.
Interestingly, I have not experienced prolonged physical pain in my career, ever. Never before have my arms burned, passage after passage, as they did this time. For me, this experience has been exceptional; that my own physical discomfort seemed to mirror the struggle and fears of the piece seemed appropriate and even in a melancholy way, welcome. It was a chance for me to remember.
We need to remember. We cannot forget that place from whence we have come, or truth retreats... and history repeats itself. And music helps us to remember. Therefore we need to boldly make more music with meaning and intention. And as consumers, listeners need to take up the mantle of wishing more than to be 'entertained' by what they hear or experience in the arts.
Music has the power to help us to memorialize, process, grieve, heal, learn, adapt, find joy in sorrow, satirize, hope, laugh, escape and confront. To be our better selves. To join with others and partake in something bigger than ourselves. And to open the door of human imagination, where we can lead others into a place of hope, beauty, renewed perspective, and mutual respect.
Tonight, I gratefully enjoy the renewed sense of privilege that comes with wielding such a gift.
Please enjoy these recordings of the first four movements of the J.S. Bach Partita for Unaccompanied Violin in D Minor, No. 2.
Composed in the early 1700's, there are six unaccompanied works written by Bach for the violin. Each work is comprised of multiple movements, which was the style at the time these wonderful pieces were composed. I'm posting four of the five movements which together make a complete work. Even 300 years after composition, the complexity, technical difficulty, and sheer musical genius of these pieces make them remain the bread and butter of the violin repertoire.
The Allemanda was the very first unaccompanied Bach I ever learned. My childhood teacher, BIll Hunt, patiently took me through each measure to show me how attentively crafted music could really be. I am indebted to him for his guidance as a mentor in both music and life.
I thought it would be fun to share this Dec. 2009 performance with you -- it is performance of Piazzolla's Le Grand Tango with my dear friend, pianist Oomi Banchinda Laothai. Banchinda is now at the University of Minnesota, working toward her doctorate in piano. I'm hopeful we can get a chance to work together again, and soon! (Who knows, maybe it will be sooner than we think? wink wink)
Banchinda also arranged a beautiful Thai song, "Home," which you can hear on the media page. Thanks so much for listening!
Ok, so the idea of an 'annual' commission went out of the window just a little -- I blame life for getting in the way. However, I've been waiting for an opportunity to have another work written, and for several reasons, now seems like the right time for something new.
I've spent this past year enjoying a new and amazing miracle (my daughter), all while observing the new balance of life and work. The joys and sacrifices have gone both ways. During this extremely happy time, my heart burns for those who have suffered such uncountable loss, either at home (like those in the south who are so often stricken by tornados and floods) or abroad (like those in Japan who experienced the devastation of earthquakes and tsunami). And the loss is ongoing.
Sometimes it can feel wrong to have so much joy in my heart when others have so little. We all have joys and sorrows -- it doesn't have to take a natural disaster to bring sadness and loss into one's life, and believe me, I've had my share of both. Yet, this time, as I experience for myself the complexities of grappling with such mixed emotion, I look at my little one, at the news screen, and back at my daughter and realize there is something bittersweet. Something stretching my heart -- I realize that these things come hand in hand. I need to grieve life in order to celebrate it. I need to celebrate in order to grieve.
I want to live alongside with my brothers in the world (known and unknown). I choose to do it through my craft because that is what I've got. I want to express the heart -- joys and sufferings -- of humanity with my own heart and abilities, however frail.
This is why in June of this year, I chose to commission a new work. For some reason it was obvious from inception that Jeremy Allen should write the work.
As with the last commission, Mercury Retrograde (for string quartet), I haven't given Jeremy too many parameters for the new piece, because I want to see what he comes up with on his own... I already know I love what he does. However, I do know that the piece will be for solo violin and I'll see the final draft sometime in December 2011. Unlike MR, this new piece will be one movement. I've given Jeremy a few words to think about as he writes: the stages of grief, seasons, and a book from the Bible, Ecclesiastes.
I've got the first two pages on my stand right now, and I look forward to sharing those and more with you in the coming weeks.
On my way to Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth, WA, land of snowy mountains and high desert and beautiful music. My thoughts turn to travel...
As I transfer from plane to plane, starting with big ones flying out of Cleveland and O'hare to a smaller one in Seattle (en-route to Wenatchee, WA), I am reminded of stories from colleagues and friends of baggage mishaps and heartbreaks, especially with regards to precious cargo. For some, the unfortunate item be a fragile souvenir purchased during a vacation, for others, it may be the means by which one makes their vocation.
In the field of music, a damaged piece of equipment, or worse, an instrument, means not only a financial setback that could cost years of a musician’s income to remedy, but sudden painful separation from an artist’s closest friend. Sometimes, a simple repair can do the trick to restoring the functionality of one’s damaged instrument; other times even the most exquisite and complex repairs, no matter how skillfully executed, will never return an instrument to its former glory.
Fortunately, there are some things that are replaceable -- at a cost. But who is there to help? In the world of independent travel, the responsibility (and liability) is largely left to the ticket holder. Some instruments are simply too large to be carried on to the coach section of an airplane. If an instrument must be checked, it is important to know that airlines often do not accept liability for damage and have limited liability for loss. Airlines are not liable for damage to any instrument not presented in a hard-sided case, and also are not liable for damage to the instrument unless the exterior case is also damaged. I have heard more than one story of a friend checking their instrument (with “FRAGILE” stickers pasted all over the case) and watching from their seat on the airplane as it was chucked out of the plane or fell off the baggage ramp. Our cases are built to be strong -- so strong, in fact that a fall like that may not even make a scratch or dent on the outside, but any owner of a fine instrument will immediately envision their precious cargo turning into firewood tinder and scrap metal.
What to do? I don’t play a huge instrument, so I would love for others to share what they have learned from their own travel experiences.
In the meantime, here are a things that I’ve found really helpful.
Insurance: the no-brainer. There are tons of companies that can insure your valuable belongings, and lots of policy types to choose from. You should be able to find plenty of options at an affordable price, no matter where you are in your career. Since my husband and I now own a house, my instruments and music and all equipment related to my work is covered under my home-owner’s insurance, under a special “valuable personal property” rider. Sure, you say, you can afford that now that you’re ‘all grown-up!’ Well, when I was a student, I still had insurance for my musical property, even when I didn’t have health insurance. I’m not necessarily advocating for that path -- I think both are essential -- but at that point it made sense for me.
Imagine it this way: Your instrument disappears while you’re sitting in a train station on your way to your next big east-coast gig. If you’re not insured, you have the police report and the ‘power and flexibility’ of your ‘extremely large’ bank account to fix the immediate problem so you can still play the gig, and the long-term problem of recovery and repair or ultimate replacement. OR, if you are insured, you’ll be able to quickly procure a short-term, equal-value replacement at little or no cost to you, and you’ll have a network looking out for your stolen article. In the long term, if your instrument is recovered but damaged, the repairs will be covered. If your instrument needs to be replaced, that will also be covered. Which door would you choose?
Here are some insurance options (I'll list some specific options on a later post):
Lots of people have been asking to hear music from the November 2009 concert, so I've uploaded the first of a few clips here... enjoy!
Here's the last movement of Mercury Retrograde, performed by yours truly with the other members of the Mauthe String Quartet. This is a live recording of the world premiere. I love the imagery of Jeremy Allen's writing -- and make sure you listen to the end. You'll hear Bekah's impromptu fork hitting the strings. Yes, I did say FORK. (She wasn't too far off; Jeremy originally asked for a spoon... can you tell the difference?)
You can now listen to songs from the album at www.myspace.com/ronkentband
Let me know what you think, and hope to see you on February 28!
Deal ... Or Ordeal?
My husband Andrew and I came into Phoenix on Wednesday night -- or should I say Thursday morning? We originally had a bargain flight from Akron/Canton to Phoenix via O'Hare that was due to arrive in Arizona around 11:30 pm. Naturally, this being the beginning of December, inclement weather is par for the course. Our flight was delayed first by twenty minutes due to weather, then by almost an hour because of a mechanical problem. Incidentally, that hour was the length of time we originally had to make our connection in O'Hare -- one which (naturally) we missed.
Thankfully, United has some pretty helpful people standing behind the service counters. They put us on a plane ("You'll need to hurry, it boards in five minutes at another terminal") bound for Denver, where we were to stay the night (where?) and catch the first flight of the morning to PHX (arriving at 11 am local time). It wasn't ideal for Andrew, who works east coast hours wherever he travels, but it was the best they could do. We found ourselves running the entire length of the airport, because the handy dandy shuttle could only take one more person, and we were two. I found myself not feeling so bad for not making it to the gym that day.
Time to Think
While en route to Denver, we strategized the next part of our trip -- Should we stay overnight in the airport (where there was free but SLOW wi-fi for Andrew to use at work in the morning) or add to our financial losses by booking a hotel in Denver (in addition to the one we had booked in Phoenix for the same night)? Websites like Hotwire came to mind as a way to find a cheap hotel, but we had a ten-minute window once we landed to find a place online before they stopped booking for the night.
Salvation Comes From the... Board
The beauty of the Denver airport and surrounding mountains did much to ease our anxiousness about the situation, and so the eight minutes I had to set up my wi-fi connection and search for a hotel seemed like plenty of time... Plenty of time, that is, for Andrew to have a look around and see on the announcement board that the plane from which we had just disembarked was immediately boarding for (wouldn't you believe it) Phoenix. It had been a delayed flight with literally fifteen minutes turnaround time, so wouldn't have shown up as an option when we booked our re-route back in O'Hare.
Thanks again to United, we changed our flight once more, and headed for our final destination. We arrived at our hotel shortly after 1:30 am AZ time, or 3:30 am EST. Four hours of sleep and we were up again so Andrew could start work on time. I spent a good part of the next day retrieving our rental car and finding my lost luggage, but in the end all worked out. It was a crazy ride, but we couldn't have been more thankful for how things turned out. Seriously.
Business or Pleasure?
While we were making this trip for personal reasons (a friend's wedding), the logistics of the trip had/still has potential to affect both of our work -- mostly Andrew's schedule on the way out, and both of ours on the way back. We have a concert just a few hours after landing back in Cleveland on Sunday (Let's see how THAT turns out...). I've also brought my fiddle along because I still need to practice for other performances later in the week.
While we're not completely out of the woods yet, I'd like to share with you a few bits of wisdom I think I've already gained from this trip:
If you've just GOT to know the outcome of this adventure, come to our concert at SRBC on Sunday at 7pm and see if we've made it. :)
Thanks for reading!
This photo is from our November 22 concert, which went splendidly!
Banchinda and I continue our very enjoyable collaboration with another concert on December 10... if you're in the area and have a hankering for great music, stop on by! (For more info, visit the Calendar)
I'm Erica Ward, formerly