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Driven to Distraction

Has this happened to you? You’re cruising along on your way to work – or whatever – and you’re listening to some KPAC music while trying to drive the speed limit so that the cop that hangs out in the hidden driveway at the bottom of the hill doesn’t snag you (again!) and present you with a ticket to the Texas Drivers’ Safety Course ( which is probably the most boring six hours you’ll ever spend) and a summons to the JP Court where you’ll pay a big, fat fine; well has this happened to you?

...turn up the volume on your radio and let the calming music soothe your jangled nerves.

As in the aforementioned, you’re just cruising along when all of a sudden the fool in the left lane who’s driving some monstrous SUV suddenly pulls in front of you, hits his big fat brakes and turns right. Now why couldn’t he just have pulled in behind you since he knew he was going to turn right? No. He’s just got to pull in front of you and you have nowhere to go but over the curb or up in the air. (Where’s that cop now?!) Now you could make some very uncivil hand gesture (which the fool in the SUV won’t see because he’s already a mile down the side street, but maybe you’ll feel better) or you could just turn up the volume on your radio and let the calming music soothe your jangled nerves.

Such is the power of music.

Or try this one on for size. You’re at the grocery store, trying without success to find the chocolate-covered onion stuffed olives you just must have for that recipe. How many aisles have you been up and down? How many squats have you done – only to be disappointed again? How many clerks have given you the idiot treatment or, alternately, sent you off on a wild goose chase down Aisle #87?

...turn on the radio and there it is: beautiful, beautiful music and you’re ready to take on the next challenge.

Having finally resigned yourself to the idea of going to the expensive specialty store, you’re headed for check-out with your meager purchases. Oh, look, a “limit 15 items” checkout line! The day’s not a total waste. You push your wobble-wheeled cart over – only to find that the woman who’s slipped in front of you has probably got 96 items in her cart and by then, someone’s pulled in behind you and you’re stuck. Finally through the line, you wobble out to the door – only to have your foot creamed by the idiot careening through the lane in a motorized cart. Why oh why oh why me? It’s okay, though. You get in your car, start the engine, turn on the radio and there it is: beautiful, beautiful music and you’re ready to take on the next challenge.

Such is the power of music.

Life’s little wrinkles seem to smooth out to the sound of music. Have you noticed? And if you have some wrinkles that need smoothing, may I recommend the glorious music in store for you at the 74th season of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society? Trust me: nothing will bother you after the Sunday afternoon concerts you’ll spend at Temple Beth-El with the Danish String Quartet, the Brasil Guitar Duo, the Aeolus Quartet, Les Amies Trio and the Calmus Ensemble.

Life’s little wrinkles seem to smooth out to the sound of music. Have you noticed?

You’ll be so tranquil and laid back that not even a monster SUV or motorized grocery cart will ruffle your feathers. You really should get your season tickets now to avoid the rush. Just go back to the web site where you found me, sacms.org, and check it out. I really look forward to seeing you there. (I’ll be the utterly tranquil one….)

– E Doyle

Join Us For A Spectacular 74th Season!

SACMS continues to bring to San Antonio world-class chamber music season after season for your enjoyment. Our 74rd Season opens October 23, 2016, and we cannot wait for you to join us for five amazing performances that are sure to delight and enthrall! Get your tickets now, and skip the lines at the door on concert day.

Danish String Quartet

October 23, 2016

Brasil Guitar Duo

November 20, 2016

Aeolus Quartet

January 22, 2017

Les Amies Trio

February 26, 2017

Calmus Ensemble

April 23, 2017

Buy a Season Subscription and get bonus tickets!

Plus, tickets are interchangeable.
That’s right, Season Subscription tickets are good for any SACMS concert!

Politics

Hey! It’s an election year! Aren’t you just all aquiver with excitement??! Just imagine: months of our elected and wanna-be elected officials blathering on about issues they actually understand but little, nevertheless expounding wonderful (awesome?) solutions to every problem the nation faces. Just imagine!

But if you prefer not to imagine, I have some escape suggestions. To begin with, surely your TV has a “mute” button on it somewhere; use it! When it’s announced that so-and-so is giving an exclusive interview on a major channel, check out what’s on the Food Network. A little vicarious dessert will not expand your waistline nor affect your cardiac function and might even help you retain any vestige of sanity you may have left.

If you find yourself at a gathering, be it Sunday school, a cocktail party or a dinner, and someone says something like, “Can you believe that [fill in the blank}?!  [He/She] said that….”  Well, you get the picture.  After you’ve politely said, “How interesting,” you say, “And did you see that column by Martha Stewart on drying flowers?  Such a talented person.”  At that point your companion’s eyes should begin to glaze and you can continue to a more reasonable topic or just quietly slip away.

Things are a little trickier if The Other happens to be your spouse – but still not impossible.  There’s always the time-honored and always useful, “Huh?  Did you say something?”  And if there’s persistence (as there often is when couples have been together for more than two years), you might try, “Were you talking about the dishwasher?  It is making a funny noise, and I wish you’d have a look at it.  I guess we could just call the appliance repairman.”  I can almost guarantee that statement will change the conversation.

And last but not least, there are those really tricky situations when you find yourself trapped in an elevator or a carpool or across a bridge table, and there’s just no getting away from the venom.  That’s when, with tremendous self-restraint, you just nod your head – just like you’re hanging on every bead and drop – and send your mind off to some other more pleasant place.  With luck, the speaker will be so frothed about his/her subject, he/she won’t ask, “Don’t you agree?”

…we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves…

Of course, we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves and I hope the foregoing will help you avoid the pitfalls.  If not, and you find yourself unable to extricate yourself gracefully, try this:

“By the way, I’ve got a couple of extra tickets to the next San Antonio Chamber Music Concert.  Wouldn’t you like to hear beautiful music for a change?” Might work. Try it.

– E Doyle

Crystal Ball

After Concert Dinner with the Dover Quartet
I am now gazing into my crystal ball. Some may call it a computer screen, but just between us, it’s really a crystal ball. And what do I see? A very, very bright future for four remarkable musicians. It’s coming in clearer now: it’s Joel Link, Bryan Lee, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Camden Shaw. It must be the Dover String Quartet!

You really don’t need a crystal ball to see successes after successes for this group. Although they’re so young you’re tempted to ask, “Do your parents know where you are?” they are truly brilliant. If chamber music quartets came with trophies, this group would already have a room full. They have so much sparkle, so much perfection that my crystal ball is in overdrive.

Be sure to remember the name Dover String Quartet. You will certainly see more of it in the years to come. My crystal ball sees them alongside the greats of classical quartets. We are so fortunate to have been able to book them now, because before long, we’ll be booking them years out!

Wanna know what else my crystal ball sees? It’s the 2016-17 season of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society. You will be amazed, giddy with emotion and utterly flabbergasted by the talent that’s coming our way: the Danish String Quartet (Oct. 23), the Brasil Guitar Duo (Nov. 20), the Aeolus Quartet (Jan. 22), Les Amies Trio (Feb. 26) and the Calmus Ensemble (April 23).

My crystal ball sees them alongside the greats of classical quartets.  We are so fortunate to have been able to book them now, because before long, we’ll be booking them years out!

Well, I’m sorry to say my crystal ball has begun to fog over with the steam of pure joy, so I must stop predicting – except for just one little thing:  when you come to the SACMS concerts, you will forget your worries, your heart will be glad and your mind will resound with music.

– E Doyle

Dover String Quartet

Coming to San Antonio on April 3, 2016

Considered one of the most remarkably talented string quartets ever to emerge at such a young age, the Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom following a stunning sweep of the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, becoming one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world.

In 2013-14, the Quartet became the first ever Quartet-in-Residence for the venerated Curtis Institute of Music. In the Fall of 2013, the Dover Quartet won not only the Grand Prize but all three Special Prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition.  The Quartet also won top prizes at the Fischoff Competition and the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition, and has taken part in festivals such as Chamber Music Northwest, Artosphere, La Jolla SummerFest, Bravo! Vail, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.  They are the most recent recipients of the Cleveland Quartet Award and the Hunt Family Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award.

During the 2013-14 season, the Quartet acted as the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Festival. Additionally, members of the Quartet have appeared as soloists with some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Tokyo Philharmonic.

The Dover Quartet draws from the musical lineage of the Cleveland, Vermeer, and Guarneri Quartets, having studied at the Curtis Institute and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where they were in residence from 2011-2013.  The Quartet has been mentored extensively by Shmuel Ashkenasi, James Dunham, Norman Fischer, Kenneth Goldsmith, Joseph Silverstein, Arnold Steinhardt, Michael Tree, and Peter Wiley, and is dedicated to sharing their music with underserved communities and is an active member of Music for Food, an initiative to help musicians fight hunger in their home communities.

“The Dover Quartet players have it in them to become the next Guarneri String Quartet — they’re that good. Expert musicianship, razor-sharp ensemble, deep musical feeling and a palpable commitment to communication made their performances satisfying on many levels.”

Chicago Tribune

“These young musicians play with remarkable attentiveness and an astonishingly even tone, as if they were four limbs of one instrument.”

Montreal Gazette

Members:

Joel Link (violin)
Bryan Lee (violin)
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola)
Camden Shaw (cello)

Program

DVORAK Quartet in F Major, Op.96 “American”

BERG String Quartet Op.3

—Intermission—

SHOSTAKOVICH Quartet No.2

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

Congratulations to the Dover Quartet – the most recent recipient of the Cleveland Quartet Award and the Hunt Family Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award!

Ugly music?

On this we can agree:  there is music that sounds like melted caramel, and there’s music that sounds like shards of broken glass caught in a meat grinder.  Let’s discuss this a little.

You have your “Moonlight Sonata.”  It’s pure molten caramel crossing your senses and easing  you  into a state of well-being and calm.  You can almost hum along (if you can hit that second note without your voice cracking).  It’s the kind of music you can taste – and, for me, it tastes like something sweet and ineffably good, makes you want more and more.

Then you have your very modern, atonal compositions (some don’t consider them “music” at all).  Mostly recent compositions, they were created to grab the listener, evoke strident emotions,  even cause pain.  Why would anyone write such sounds and subject classical music audiences to them?

I think these compositions are like looking through a kaleidoscope:  the little shards of color constantly changing shape and arrangements as the viewer tries to make some sense of them.

I think these compositions are like looking through a kaleidoscope: the little shards of color constantly changing shape and arrangements as the viewer tries to make some sense of them.

And there’s the major difference.   The great classical composers of the distant past wrote music that was predictable.  The line goes up, the line goes down.  The phrase repeats, then repeats again in a slightly different form.  Always  predictable.  There’s no predictability in atonal compositions.  Keys change abruptly, scales are altered, what goes up may just stay up.  Strings screech sometimes, and you wonder if they will suddenly break.  The audience is uncomfortable, not soothed.  Could it be they’re thinking?  Maybe thinking, “When will this end?”

Think of this as a musical Rorschach test.  Everyone who hears these compositions has a different idea of what the composer is trying to transmit – and it’s worth your time and effort to make your own interpretation.  Remember that some of the most traditional composers, by our modern sensibilities, horrified their contemporaries with their unique turns of musical phrase.

Some of the most traditional composers, by our modern sensibilities, horrified their contemporaries with their unique turns of musical phrase.

Now consider the music of Gershwin:  is it classical?  That can only be the judgment of time.  But is it evocative?  You bet!  You just can’t listen to “Rhapsody in Blue” without seeing New York.  Let’s try something a little more difficult, say “Blue Cathedral,” by Jennifer Higdon.  Okay, they’re both “blue,” but Higdon doesn’t give the listener the same kind of clues as Gershwin.  Her music is abstract, but it grabs the listener’s attention nevertheless.   Up the scale of difficult enjoyment, you might come to Philip Glass.  I grant that some of his music makes your toes curl, but if you uncurl and just focus, you might just find understanding.

So why bother?  It’s all about attention.  You can just stay all comfy with your Beethoven and Mozart; nothing wrong with that.  Or you could reach your musical mind up to, say, Charles Ives, Alban Berg, or Arnold Shoenberg.  The music that crashes and slams against your sensibilities demands attention.  It says, “Sit up and listen to me.  I’ve got something important to say to you.”  It is definitely not “easy-listening” music, would never be background music for an elegant dinner,  but it can be remarkably clear.  This “ugly” music is an exercise for your brain to understand, to learn something new and, believe it or not, eventually, to enjoy.

– E Doyle

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