After Music in May ends I like to find a seat at a local café (preferably in the sun!) and put pen to paper, reminiscing the weeks’ activities. This year I thought I’d share some of my reflections, our highlights, in order to give you a behind the scenes snapshot.
Something I mentioned as we raised a glass at our final reception was how close I felt to the musicians, even those I had met just days before- this closeness we feel to one another impacts how we play with one another. The musicians who perform at Mim are tremendous talents but in addition I am so proud to be associated with such warm spirits. Unlike the large personalities of performing artists often talked about, the kindness of our featured musicians not only made my week doubly enjoyable but I believe it also emanates from their playing.
It remains surreal to have the opportunity to spend time over meals, in rehearsals, and on stage with the legendary Michael Tree. Michael is so easy-going, calming, plays with such ease and command (I’m still scratching my head at how he can make his viola so easily overtake the sound of the violin!!), and has a killer sense of humor! I’m convinced that the best musicians I know should have a dual career in comedy! Having the opportunity for a second season to witness his devotion to music, whether in conversation or while warming up backstage, is truly inspiring. Reflecting on this (with Amy Yang last season) I realized there is an additional mission of Mim- a beautiful world of mentorship where younger musicians have the opportunity to learn from those like Michael and Richard.
We reached more students this year. – John Wineglass, Amy, and Danielle were troopers! After getting in late the night before, I was at their door by 7:15am (!!) to make our first 8:30 show- all in the name of those kids! It was great to recognize some of the kids from last year at Tierra Pacifica. One highlight was when we asked the kids to describe what they thought “living composer John Wineglass” was thinking about as he composed the middle movement of his piano trio. The first child I called on at Westlake said, “It reminds me of a car chase from an old Italian film.” The movement is entitled “The Chase” and depicts the car chase that led to Princess Di’s death. We purposely avoided the morbid aspect of the topic in front of the children but were blown away by the intelligence and creative minds that the kids possess!
In Friday’s concert there were a few kids from Starlight elementary school. Kai Christiansen (pre-concert lecturer) was sitting in front of them and engaged them between pieces. Before the Shostakovich he asked the kids to listen intently and afterwards he’d ask on a scale from 1 to 10 how much they liked it. Following the piece, Kai followed up and a spiky haired boy exclaimed, “1,000!”
Preparing for such “ambitious” programs as we had (especially Friday) with only two days to rehearse made it imperative for me to do my homework long before the musicians arrived. Once they arrived it was also important to maximize our limited time. This year the work even happened in John Orlando’s driveway (during a short break). I’ll never forget standing with Richard, Janacek score laying in the trunk of the Prius, humming through our parts of the piece, –analyzing and confirming how the parts fit together, discussing tempo changes (Danielle was sitting in the car, listening to a recording of Janacek and studying separately). What a sight!! All this work made it all the more exhilarating when after performing Mr. Tree seemed very pleased with how it went (he was the only one in our group who had performed the work before!).
Working on Wineglass’s piano trio was also extremely gratifying. Amy, Danielle and I had fun exploring and “breathing life” into John’s latest work. From the opening chord “Con sordino” that I play with Danielle I felt possessed by grief and horror at such loss of life. After the ugliness of “The Mystery” (mvt I) and the relentless motor that led to her death in “The Chase” (mvt II), as images of Princess Diana entered my mind, I was nearly moved to tears in the beauty of her lament (mvt III). Lilly, who page turned for Amy reported seeing tears in people’s eyes. A standing ovation confirmed the electric charge was felt throughout the venue.
Until we meet next May…