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Gracias, señor Polo

Muchas gracias, Marco Polo!!!  (Does that count as a mixed metaphor?)  If the great explorer had never made it to China, would we have had to wait a few more centuries to learn about the incredible tradition of Chinese music – or firecrackers, or paper, or gunpowder, for that matter?  But let’s just stick to the music, ok?

If you had the pleasure of attending the concert presented by the Shanghai String Quartet, you heard music I’ll bet you never heard before.  With Wu Man, who is the equivalent of a classical music rock star in Asia, the very polished quartet played evocative, calm music.  Then the quartet launched into Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet in F minor; I suspect they did it just to prove that they are masters of Western music, too.  I think “impeccable” is the word I’m looking for….  Finally, a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

…a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

And let’s discuss this very small Chinese lady with her beautiful Chinese lute.  She is a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement  eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.  And here’s a very good reason to join the SA Chamber Music Society as a Patron:  over dinner, we had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Honggang Li, the Shanghai Quartet’s magician of the viola.  He spoke about the music, of course, but he also analyzed modern China for us.  He allowed his dinner companions a view of where modern China has come from and where it seems to be headed.
…a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.

So muchas gracias, señor Polo!   Not only did we learn about the pipa and the evocative music of China and how these particular musicians came to and mastered Western music, we learned something about China.  I’d call that an afternoon well spent.

– E Doyle

Out of “ex”es and “so”s

So… (don’t you just hate it when someone starts into a discussion of something with “so”?)  So, did you catch the Gryphon concert?  So, whadidja think?  I’m so glad you asked!  Me, I thought the concert was – what’s the word I’m looking for? – excellent?  exuberant ?  exceptional? extraordinary?

Okay, I’m out of “ex”es and “so”s.  Here’s the straight skivvy:  if you missed this one, you should now feel badly that you missed a beautiful performance from three uncommonly talented musicians.  If you were there, you left the Temple with a smile and, I hope, a feeling of satisfaction at having spent a Sunday afternoon learning about classical music and how trios can perform beyond their number.  One + one + one = more than three; these three musicians seem to equal more than the sum of their parts.

San Antonio Chamber Music Society presents the Gryphon Trio for the Las Americas Festival! Here's a glimpse of "Love Triangle" by Canadian composer from Sri Lanka, Dinuk Wijeratne -

Posted by Suhail Arastu on Sunday, January 24, 2016

A glimpse of “Love Triangle” by Canadian composer from Sri Lanka, Dinuk Wijeratne. Video by Suhail Arastu.

Furthermore, if you are a member of SACMS, you also enjoyed a really good dinner at a, well, a stable (in this case, the very classy stable at the Botanical Garden).  Not a member?  You would have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with these 3 delightful Canadians (that would be Gryphon) over a gourmet dinner, and our after-concert dinners are always a great way to end the day.  You might want to look into it.

So, this is the kind of quality musical performance you’ve come to expect from the San Antonio Chamber Music Society.  Seventy-three years of Excellence.  That’s really amazing!  And there are two more concerts to come, don’t forget:  The Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man on February 28, and the Dover String Quartet on April 3.

So…see you there?  I hope so!

Memo to Ruth Jean

Dear RJ,

This was a concert you would have loved!  It was a progressive musical feast:

Hors d’ouvres –  Concertino Strings from YOSA, the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio, expertly directed by our friend Eugene Dowdy.  These young musicians (some so young that their parents are, no doubt, buying new concert clothes every six months) demonstrated their considerable talent and musical understanding.  Janacek and Purcell must be smiling – I certainly was!   I was thinking about the hours of practice that went into their performance; all the more remarkable when considering the electronic temptations that must pull at them.

First course – the YOSA Alumni String Quartet. This youthful foursome performed with confidence and mastery of the chamber music genre. Their abilities place them on the road to classical stardom. They are young, but very classy and professional.  Again, evident hours devoted to their craft.

The Temple filled with the glorious sounds of the music as I’m sure it was meant to be heard.  It left everyone with the feeling that they were hearing this music for the very first time.

Main course – the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble. Here, having exhausted my meager supply of adjectives, I defer to those around me in the audience: gentleman behind me trying to find a way to wrap the word “impeccable” around what he’d heard after the Rossini; lady next to me who could only say “Wow!”; a lady in the row ahead, who I know to be a professional musician, not saying a word – just smiling, enraptured. The Temple filled with the glorious sounds of the music as I’m sure it was meant to be heard.  It left everyone with the feeling that they were hearing this music for the very first time.

RJ, you would have loved this afternoon’s concert!  Even though we had a huge audience, in the pauses between movements, you wouldn’t have heard a sound – no one talking, no dropped programs, no coughing,  not even a hearing aid pinging!

And at the lovely dinner afterwards, the Academy violist, Robert Smissen, spoke of something near to your heart.  He said that the eight musicians who had provided such a splendid concert had been listening to the young musicians who had preceded them on stage and like me, marveling at their skills.  Then he talked about how important it is to teach the young the “language of serious music,” how, like any other language one learns, the young are quick to pick up the accents, the phrasing, the metaphors of music.  That is a truth I know you understood very well.

I’ve gone on,  rhapsodizing, long enough, my friend.  I can’t help but think you were there, too, smiling.

– E Doyle

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