Musical Meanderings

This is a blog centered around some of the musical encounters and experiences that I come upon in my daily life as a musician.

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Location: Alameda, California

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Judging for Alameda's Got Talent

Alameda's Got Talent! Does it? It was fun judging for this competition. I was on the highly esteemed panel with Drew Harrison, the John Lennon guy from the Alameda Beatles imitaters group called "The Sun Kings," and Abra Rudisill, the founder and head teacher of the Alameda Ballet Academy on Park Street. I had already known these two a bit, as Drew had been talking to me about possibly putting the string parts behind some Beatles songs for some shows of his, and Abra was my little five year old daughter's ballet teacher this summer.

So anyway, when I got to the competition in Alameda's Town Center, the judges table was all set up nicely, with complimentary wine glasses holding little chocolates and bottles of water for us. I felt very special! (This was the work of Natasha Miller, who was putting the event on, I think.)

Judging a competition is not so easy. This one included kids between the ages of 5 and 16. There were singers, dancers, and pianists. How to compare the 12 year old boy who played a Bach Minuet to the 8 year old who was doing hip-hop dancing? What about comparing the 7 year old twins who sang little songs with no musical accompaniment to the 13 year old girl who seemed to be a good singer and had great attitude, but who for the most part, was lip syncing to a seemingly karoake track?

Yes, it was nuts. But I enjoyed the judging. It really reminded me that there all all kinds of factors going on in a competition of any kind. And it also convinced me not to let my five year old cello playing daughter get lost in any of these kinds of contests. People and their talants can't really be fairly compared. Better to just let her perform and allow everyone to appreciate what she can do!

Speaking of performing, the Enchante' String Quartet had our first concert in a long time on Saturday night. It was at the Crosstown Coffeehouse here in Alameda. I think we all had alot of fun and we played quite well. I really enjoyed the different Alameda folks coming out to support us. It was nice to see them all in one spot.

When we finished the concert we got some dinner and then we hopped on over to KPFA, where we were interviewed by Doug Edwards and we played a few numbers on his late night show "Ear Tyme." We played the Bachiannis Brasilieras #5, and we played Manha de Carnival. But we didn't play until about 12:15, so we were al trying to stay awake. I am not sure how we sounded there, but I'll let you know when I get the CD this week.

The Enchante' String Quartet's next concert is this Friday night, August 31st, at the Pro Arts Gallery in Jack London Square, at 7:30. We will be performing Beethoven Opus18 #4, Bachiannis Brasilieras #5, and a wonderful new piece by a good friend of ours, Durwynne Hsieh, his String Quartet #1.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Enchante Baby in August

The Enchante' String Quartet will be performing a free concert in Alameda tonight! We are playing at the Crosstown Coffeehouse at 7 pm. On the program will be the Villa Lobos Bachiannis Brasilieras, the Beethoven opus18 #4 String Quartet, and piece by our friend Durwynne. It's exciting. Although we play for weddings and parties and everything else you can imagine, we have not performed a recital in a long time.

We have been getting all the rehearsal time in that we can, although it is certainly not enough. The pieces are coming along but there are still alot of rough spots. The Beethoven is just very intense and it takes alot of concentration and brute strength to get through. The Bachiannis is lovely and flowing and a treat, I think. But Durwynne's piece has been a complete struggle and a joy combined. What a great thing to play a piece like this that was written by a peer.

We all love the Durwynne String Quartet, but it is very difficult. It is filled with energetic rhythmic shifting meter motifs that we sometimes get and sometimes don't. The other side to the music is this lovely Barber-like, VaughWilliamsesque twisty turny bittersweet melodic material. It's beautiful and we love putting it all together.

Our group has an awesome new violinist named Anthony Blea. Anthony is a very fine musician and he's a fun guy to work with. So far we have all worked together pretty well. No major fights, and everyone feels pretty good about the group.

Playing in a string quartet can at times be like being married to three people. You have to make important decisions together and you don't always agree. What pieces should we play? Where should we be performing? How much money should we ask for? How fast should this piece be? What should the bowing be? What should we wear? What should our business card look like?
These can all seem like life and death decisions at any given moment...

After tonight's performance at the coffehouse we will all go out for some dinner and then head on over to KPFA studios in Berkeley where we will be interviewed on Doug Edward's radio show "Ear Tyme". The show is so late it's difficult to stay up for. We will be cramming into a sound booth and performing a few pieces to promote our upcoming recital on August 31st at the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland. To find out more information about this recital, you can check my website at and click on the groups page.

And now, I have to go practice for tonight's performance!