Saturday, February 10, 2007

Runescape quartet

Noah had a heady experience with his first string quartet last summer at our local Suzuki Institute. In the fall he made noises about wanting a regular quartet to participate in. With holidays and the busyness of getting activities started in the fall, nothing really happened. I thought he had lost interest, but then he mentioned it again, out of the blue, around Christmas time. "When do I get to be in a quartet again? Can I start one?" And he didn't let it drop. After Christmas I got a couple of reminders from him too.

A beautifully obvious mix of kids occured to me. They're two brothers (cello and violin) and a mutual friend (violin) plus Noah. Ages are 10-12. The four not only all take lessons locally, but they live within about 5 minutes drive of each other, and are well-matched in their playing level. A year ago this mix of kids wouldn't have worked, but the playing levels and reading levels have evened out between them and it all seemed likely to click. So we approached the other kids and their parents and everyone was keen.

They've been together rehearsing weekly for almost a month now. It's fantastic. They seem to have fun. Noah comes home grinning and talking a mile a minute. They have two simple quartet movements that they've worked on each time and things are starting to gel and sound pretty decent. I'm coaching and Noah doesn't seem to mind at all. He is relishing having a musical pursuit where he is in absolutely no danger of being in the shadow of one of his sisters. He loves having social time with these kids who are just a little bit outside his normal social circle.

With three tween boys playing in the quartet, two of whom have been observed spontaneously trading computer-game soundtrack riffs at group class, it was not great leap for me to hit on the idea of arranging Runescape theme music for string quartet. I've been hearing the stuff for months and months, but not wanting to do any more work than I needed, I found a big MIDI pack of theme music, downloaded it and started picking through the scores of tunes for a few of the most accessible, recognizeable tunes. I slotted them into Finale®, transposed, simplified, re-scored, and pasted together a medley. Pretty easily playable by these kids, nothing too complicated except for a few double-stops, some augmented fourths and a bit of third position work here and there. Today they sight-read through it and I think it's destined to be a big hit with them. They were thrilled to see the odd collection of notes on their page turn into tunes they knew inside and out when melded with the notes on the pages of their compatriots.

Next rehearsal, by popular request they're going to start working on the 1st movement of the Bach Double Violin Concerto in d minor, BWV 1043. That will be quite a combination -- Runescape and Bach. Perfect for them, actually!


  1. We would love to hear the Runescape tunes!

  2. Hi Stephanie, it'll be a while before the quartet is ready to be recorded playing this, but the MIDI file of the arrangement is is here.


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