Monday, June 13, 2005

year-end concerts

One of my many jobs involves teaching every Saturday at a private music academy. My responsibilities there include teaching ear training classes, accompanying the performance hour every week, and coaching two chamber ensembles. Last night was the annual spring chamber music concert, in which all the ensembles perform. The level of musicianship is extrordinarily high at this school, and the 10 or so groups performed at an amazingly professional level. Mostly, they consisted of small groups (trios and quartets), each made up of a pianist and a few string players, because that is the instrumentation available among the student body. My groups were different. I coach one piano duet and one vocal duet (see pictures below).

Watching your students perform is a nerve-wracking, exciting, satisfying, and touching experience. My piano duet, had very few rehearsals this semester where all three of us were present, but they pulled their two short Schubert pieces together in the end and did a marvelous job. My vocal duet is made up of two high-school girls, ages 15 and 17. They are currently the only two vocalists enrolled at the academy, though hopefully that will change soon, as I am working on starting a "singers only" program next year. In any case, both girls are excellent musicians, hard-working, and have lovely voices. The challenge lied in the fact that their voices are very different. Ashalyn (the one with the amazing curly hair) grew up in Hungary, and both her vowels and vocal tone tend to be quite dark and rich. Carina is slightly younger, and has a smaller, higher voice, with a pure sound and very little vibrato. I needed to get them to blend with one another, so I chose a gorgeous Monteverdi piece for three unaccompanied voices, and sang with them. Once they saw that I, with my operatically-trained voice, could blend with either of them (even though I'm nearly twice their age), they started listening to each other in a new way, and eventually, their very different voices melted together into a beautiful blend with great intonation. It was extremely gratifying. For their other piece, I wanted them to have fun and to have an opportunity to do some acting and movement while they were singing. I chose Rossini's Duetto Buffo dei Due Gatti, which translates basically to "Silly Duet of the Two Cats." The only word in the entire thing is the italian "miau." You can imagine the rest. At first the girls were very shy about acting silly in front of people, and making movements that were full and confident, instead of self-conscious. However, by the time they had their fuzzy cat ears on last night, they were giving it their all! The audience absolutely loved it, the girls had a great time, and it gave everyone a nice break in the middle of a wonderful (but somewhat long and heavy) program. Congratulations everyone!

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