About three years ago the second violinist in my string quartet ("the Osprey String Quartet") was no longer able to travel to New Denver for rehearsals. Our quartet owned four nice hardwood folding chairs, for use in small-town venues where the only other option was uncomfortable stacking chairs. The fourth chair has been empty for the past three years. We made ourselves into a trio (my mom on violin, me on viola, and a cellist friend rounding things out), and grasped for repertoire among the much more paltry body of string trio repertoire. We kept performing our regular recitals, but wished a second violinist would materialize in the area -- there's so much great quartet music!
Three weeks ago I heard Erin practising her Beethoven Romance and realized what a huge leap she's made in technical and musical ability in the past 6 months. I talked to my mom about maybe giving Erin the chance to try playing a quartet with us for the experience. They thought that would be lovely, a great opportunity for her, and kind of fun for us. We handed Erin the first movement of a Mozart quartet in a friendly key and told her to look it over. My mom, who is Erin's official violin teacher, even thought that we might be able to perform it with her at some point, though she thought we'd have to be patient with her over stylistic and ensemble issues. She worked with Erin on the music a bit at her lesson.
This morning we had a trio rehearsal scheduled and told Erin we would run through the Mozart with her at the beginning of the rehearsal. We started reading through it ... and never looked back. We did the first movement. The blend of the quartet is terrific. Erin's 3/4 violin (the new one, with a huge sound) holds its own just fine. There were a few stylistic things up until the first repeat... but by the second time through the first section, she'd absorbed the weighting-and-unweighting stuff that we were all doing on the syncopated motif and had adjusted her bowing style to match ours. Her solo passages were confident and beautiful. She was doing so well, we decided to sight-read through the third movement. Erin played as well as the rest of us, I think. And then the more challenging last movement. Same deal. Our cellist said "Well, it sounds like we have half a recital here. Erin you're hired. Let's figure out what we'll do for the other half." So we started talking about romantic quartets.
Our quartet is whole again. And it's my kid who has suddenly blossomed as a born-and-bred chamber musician who has filled the empty Osprey chair. I am awed. I am proud. I had no idea her musical maturity had grown so far.
She was thrilled. She knew how well she was doing. She knew that in the space of an hour the equation had shifted and she had become part of the quartet, and not "some kid we were doing a favour for."
When we came home, she spent almost three hours delightedly playing with playdough. What a bundle of incongruities she is!