Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Quartet

Noah plays in a string quartet. He was the one who pretty much created it, about a year and a half ago. He'd been telling me for several months that he wanted to play in a string quartet, and asking if I would please set one up. And we brainstormed who might be available to be involved and realized that if two brothers we knew of were interested, we'd likely have a pretty well-matched group. When they first started, we used simplified arrangements of short pieces. They needed help from their private lesson teachers to master their parts. Noah would sometimes veer close to tears over the sight-reading demands. Musically they were at the beginning of a big learning curve.

But they had fun together. Despite being four very different personalities, from three rather different backgrounds, with different strengths and weaknesses, the group began to gel. They bonded socially too, which was something I wasn't at all sure would happen. They genuinely like each other.

In from February to May they performed four or five times. Their biggest moment was a set they performed in May for an almost full house at the orchestra concert. It consisted of the first movement of Mozart K. 157, and arrangements of the Beatles' "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby." The latter was their favourite since they'd picked it up only three weeks earlier. After that we all needed a breather, and what with an overload of concerts, then school trips and vacation travel and summer camps and music programs, I figured we'd just wait until fall and jump into some new repertoire then. The kids all have a lot of repertoire to prepare for their summer music programs anyway, so I figured they had their plates full.

But then the 1st violinist called. She wanted a rehearsal. Even in the thick of a head cold, Noah mustered a fairly enthusiastic 'yes.' What about the other boys? Yes, they were keen. And yesterday we had a rehearsal. I brought them some Haydn/Hoffstetter and the first movement from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and suggested they try it out.

So in the heat of a sunny summer day they all hunkered down inside and played for an hour and a half, punctuated by a snack of popsicles. They "played" in the best sense of the word. They made music, they goofed around with trills, they imitated each others' parts, they sounded out weird riffs, they'd get ready to start at the pick-up to letter B and then fall into a discussion about a computer game or somebody's cat ... and then make more music. They did a respectable job of reading their way through the new Haydn and Mozart (and Noah is now at least as capable a sight-reader as the others) and enjoyed the fact that the could delve in with success at the outset. They played through Ms. Rigby (of course), and a selection of 'gig music' from an album of folk music they'd read from in the past. And they were doing all this not because some adult expected them to be, but because they had chosen to take a summer afternoon to do chamber music with friends.

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