Parents at my child’s school start a string quartetmain
Anthea Kreston’s weekly diary:
I am in bed, surrounded by an ocean of books, papers, electronics, coloring supplies, with a cup of tea precariously balanced upon the corner post of the tall, queen-sized upper deck of a loft. I am supposed to be staying down, giving my incision a chance to fully heal this week. Quartet starts up again soon, with a schedule which puts last year’s to shame. We will be pounding out the new repertoire, as well as recording our next (my first) album for Warner. In the mean time, I am taking full advantage of my time stuck in bed, getting a long laundry list of overdue items taken care of, one painful item at a time.
On this list is our US taxes, German taxes (both had extensions which are expiring soon), working to get my Professorship at the University of the Arts turned into a concrete, long-term appointment, cramming German grammar (my tutor comes three times a week), working to extend our work visas for the next 5 years, and turning our Oregon Vacation Home over to a rental company for long-term rental (gutters repaired, heating and power wash, new furniture).
Also, this past Tuesday Jason and I had our debut of the Kennedy String Quartet – three of us are parents to JFK students, and we put together a concert for a National Public Radio tour passing through Berlin, performing on the top floor of a deluxe hotel, a wall of windows overlooking the Berlin Dome, and on the other side the famous Radisson Blu 4-story aquadome (the elevator slices through an amazing vertical aquarium). The only rules we had were that we weren’t allowed to talk about bowings or intonation. Oh my god, I need a break from all that “Quartet” stuff!
In the mean time, Jason and I are beginning a concert series at the JFK school – a mix of formal concerts and family-friendly concerts (which I would also like to present at the US Embassy – I am working on it). Besides the Kennedy Quartet and the Beethoven Sonata concert, I could do everything else this week from bed.
There are endless emails for quartet – rehearsal schedules, travel choices, meetings being organized – and as I see my google calendar for November turn dark with obligations, I am steeling myself for my toughest year yet. I have had time to reflect on my mistakes from this past year, from my unrealistic expectations, think about what realistic expectations might be, and to think of ways that I can anticipate struggles and head them off before they become solid and permanent. With this in mind, I have jotted down some ideas for basic intonation preparation – intonation being a constant issue which can easily create tension and misunderstandings.
The third pillar of the three-legged stool of quartet playing – the other two being interpretation and analysis.
To make sure we are working with as much fundamental group consensus as possible.
1- list of keys and general rules for each – this can serve as our flexible “intonation bible”
2- decide on several ways of practicing tuning, then specify which way we will be practicing
3- warm up as a group in a certain key, to start to build a library of intonation. Bach Chorales work well for this.
4- remain humble, flexible, patient with oneself and others, fix your own house before fixing others, agree on group ideals of intonation (expressive vs. just, horizontal vs. vertical, as the situation calls for)
5- frustration and tension are the enemies of technique and will affect all technique, including intonation, negatively