The school community recently welcomed members of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) as Francis W. Parker School’s inaugural Joan W. Harris Visiting Music Scholars in Residence. This program was established with the aim of expanding opportunities for students to find inspiration, learn, appreciate and understand the transformative power of classical music.
At a daytime Morning Ex and a public event in the evening, Principal Dan Frank welcomed all in attendance and spoke to the establishment and mission of this new endowed series at the school. Members of Parker’s Music Department provided background and biographical information on the visiting performers, then welcomed CMS violinist Sean Lee, cellist Mihai Marica and teaching artist Janey Choi to the stage.
Lee and Marcia burst into song moments, demonstrating virtuosic proficiency on their respective instruments, taking turns contributing to the whole while distributing leadership of melody and accompaniment throughout the piece without the hand of a conductor guiding them.
Choi followed their initial piece offering her thoughts about what it means to means to be in a chamber music group: “As a soloist, the role is pretty clearly defined. Get out front and center. Perform like a superstar. In an orchestra, each individual musician is an artist, but our voices are more important as part of a larger voice, kind of like a corporation. In chamber music, I think we have a role somewhere in between as active citizens in a democracy, where teamwork is paramount.”
She asked the audience if they felt one of the performers was clearly the “leader” in the piece they had just performed. Choi then led the audience in comparing between the instruments. Students and adults commented on the difference in size between the violin and cello, their shininess, the fact that one can play the violin standing or sitting while the cello requires sitting, as well as the similar ways to play each while emitting different sounds. In this animated exchange, Choi worked with Lee and Marica to offer audible examples of the various characteristics they described from pieces in their repertoire.
Before the musicians performed each subsequent piece, Choi provided background on its composer, the piece and tips on things for the audience to look and listen for. In asking Marica to share his thoughts about what makes a good chamber music ensemble, he offered, “Working on a team. One of the most important things about playing chamber music is listening. It is important to have a voice, but it is equally important to listen, whether you are leading or supporting.” Lee added, “When you play together enough, you develop a real connection and start doing things musically together without even talking about it—like musical telepathy.”
After their final number, the musicians fielded a range of questions from the audience, and all left with a better understanding of and appreciation for music.
We look forward to next month, when members of the CMS will return to Parker to work directly with students as Parker’s first-ever Joan W. Harris Visiting Music Scholars in Residence!