Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tutti Night

Here is the SVI event I enjoy the most of all. We call it "Tutti Night." It happens in the early evening on Wednesday, and it's just for fun. Faculty, teacher-observers/trainees and community members come together to create the core of a string orchestra. Our students come and play together on the solo parts of various Suzuki repertoire pieces, chiefly concerto movements like the Telemann Viola Concerto and the Bach "Double" Concerto in d minor for Two Violins -- though we also play a selection of simpler repertoire for the youngest students. The children play whatever pieces they know, and watch and listen as the more advanced students or cellos or violas take their turns. The children love playing with orchestra backup rather than simply a piano accompaniment. They also enjoy seeing their teachers playing together under the direction of our conductor. The parents love watching and listening. For an unrehearsed event, the quality of the music is pretty darn high, because the 'soloists' know their parts exceedingly well and have learned through years of group classes how to play well together on the fly.

But there's a lot more magic that happens beyond that. The orchestra members have a blast, making mistakes, bantering back and forth between sections and with the conductor, and the sense of humour and good fun permeates. The children enjoy the orchestral blunders a lot, because they are pretty bomb-proof on their parts. It all feels real and collaborative, and not the slightest bit 'top-down.' We're all in it for the fun together. Erin was thrilled that the Bach Double solo lines were played by two student groups without any adult leaders playing along -- and they sounded great!

And this year, the most senior violin, viola and cello students began drifting into the orchestra when they were not needed on the solo lines. It started with Erin and a few of her violin cohorts padding out the violin section during the cello solos. And then, after the cellos and violas had had their moments of stardom, while Erin and her buddies pulled off their lovely Bach Double, Noah drifted into the viola section, quickly followed by the rest of the brilliant quartet of advanced student violists. In no time we had eight violists playing together -- and then the senior cello students joined the orchestra too, and the teen violinists drifted back in as we moved to repertoire for the less advanced violinists. Our orchestra got bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger and there were the kids playing alongside their teachers and mentors, sharing stands, being part of the same good-humoured banter the adults were sharing.

And why did we all rush our suppers and hurry back after a full day of classes for an optional event that involved yet more music playing? Just for the sheer pleasure of playing together. What an amazing experience the week was. Tutti night epitomized the joy of the week for me.

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