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Emotions drive musicians, and musical artists aim to convey their feelings to audiences through the medium of their instruments.
This was the theme of instruction by The Aeolus Quartet, a nationally renowned string quartet that visited Hamburg Area Middle School on Friday. The intent of the quartet’s performance and interaction with students was to pass along knowledge and inspire the young musicians to continue in their efforts toward mastery of their instruments.
“We’re going to talk to you a little bit about how song and communication work through the notes of music,” said Aeolus second violinist Rachel Shapiro, during her introduction of “Chrysanthemums,” a piece by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, which the quartet played for the students. “It really is about singing with your voice through your instrument.”
The quartet, which according to the group’s website has been awarded prizes at nearly every major competition in the United States and has performed across the globe to great acclaim, played a few selections for the students and then broke the learners into small groups according to their instruments.
“I think, because the instruments are so difficult to play, it’s easy sometimes to lose sight of the reason we started playing,” said Aeolus first violinist Nicholas Tavani, to the students in the group consisting of violin players. “And the reason is that it inspires us. In fact, that’s the most important thing, the most important reason why you’re playing.”
Tavani then encouraged the students to perform their scales and musical exercises, despite the fact that the young learners may deem the activities a bore.
The exhortation by Tavani for students to practice was appreciated by the school district’s orchestra director, Angie Dowd.
“They’re a professional group and they have so much experience and so much knowledge on their particular instruments, and to give that knowledge to or just inspire them to practice a little bit more ,” said Dowd.
Along with Tavani’s encouragement to practice, cellist Alan Richardson communicated to students the constant need for musicians to convey the emotional character of a piece to the audience.
“That’s something that we have to do all the time,” said Richardson. “We have to identify that and say ‘what do we need to do with our sounds to express that to the audience?’ ”
Richardson said the Puccini piece played by the quartet for students was tragically romantic, in that the music was very loving but there is something very sad about the piece. He then asked the students if they perceived the emotion of the piece when the quartet played.
“That’s the goal at the end of the day,” said Richardson, of transmitting emotion from the instrument to the audience. “We want to have played something and we want the audience to have felt an emotion, and hopefully the same emotion that we’re feeling while we’re playing.”