Journey of 100

Chaconne #28 – August 14, 2015

Private performance while serving as Artist Faculty at Bennington Chamber Music Conference.  Greenwall, Auditorium, Bennington College, Vermont 10:30pm

The work is certainly changing, literally under my own hands.   Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, Gigue, Chaccone: deep within that one continuous flow of thoughts and feelings some core element is starting to emerge, beginning to come to my awareness. Look to this page for more on this in the next months.

Bach’s 3 and 4 independent voices are starting to emerge more clearly and simply through my bow; that’s great, makes me think of being able to more easily apply that bow technique to the three Fugues.

Thank you to my friends and colleagues for sharing this late night Passage after a long day and week of work.


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Chaconne #27 – August 7, 2015 Bennington, Vermont

Tonite, 10:30 pm in Greenwall Auditorium on the campus of Bennington College.

2 responses to “Chaconne #27 – August 7, 2015 Bennington, Vermont”

  1. Phil Coonce says:

    Greenwall 8/7/15

    Open vault, a cathedral’s vast arc
    Contained in space, but beckoning the Infinite,
    Become the ambient chamber
    of Eternity’s expression in time.

    A fiddle and its guide,
    with two listening vessels,
    Shorn of formalism and absent of artifice,
    All reliquaries of Bach’s communion.

    The human dimension—
    Stately Allemande, rugged Courante, sorrowful Sarabande and gamboling Gigue—
    Each an unfolding of the tetrachordal descent,
    Limited by style, and constrained by cadence.

    The divine Chaconne—
    Tetrachordal Descent now not as limit, but as progenitor of infinite variation.
    4 bars of rising inspiration, 4 bars of falling expiration,
    Peripatetic figures exploring endless chains of rhythm.

    One theme, but three sections—
    Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    Or: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Or: Wotan, Thor, and Fricca; Zeus, Poseidon, and Adonis)
    All manners of approaching the infinite,
    Standing in the Shadows of the Sacred.

    After the final cadence,
    a fiddle, its guide and two listening vessels
    Left in sweet silence to
    Wander to wonder.

  2. sgwp_a1 says:

    Phil, thank you for such an eloquent tribute.

    Part of the Journey of 100 is to share my thoughts and feelings about the performance with my listeners, writers and readers. Phil’s poem takes me back to my previous performance, #26, and the deep, thoughtful comments written by my hosts Robert and Deborah. A detailed and meaningful discussion took place in their living room after that performance, of associating a specific “story” – emotion, feeling, or narrative – with each bar of the music, using the “story” as a vehicle to move into deeper relationship with the music while performing the work. Combined with Deborah and Robert’s words about the struggle of Job and the power of Divine Love, I was left mute, needing to contemplate and reflect. Over the past months something has changed.

    Last night’s performance was for me a breakthrough in it’s ease and integration with which I could present Bach’s immense musical canvas. It was among the best I have ever done. Perhaps I am beginning to understand:

    In my early 20’s I was playing as as an extra for the MET Opera National Tour. One morning in Memphis I was sitting at the counter of a local diner ordering breakfast, and cellist Yves Chardon plopped himself down right next to me – I barely knew who he was other than that he was venerated by all musicians in the orchestra. At the time he seemed as old as Methusaleh, though he was probably only 90-something and able to play a completely smooth spiccato chromatic scale from the bottom to the top of his Cello – with one finger! – on a moment’s notice.

    Without saying a word (maybe good morning? I don’t remember) he took a paper napkin a wrote with a ball point pen on it the following letters: G O D = L O V E. I looked at his bright, bright pale blue eyes, could not figure out what he wanted or why he did that, and got out of there as quickly as I could.

    Now I understand a little more and can better appreciate the gift he shared. I suspect Bach certainly did.

Chaconne #26 – April 6, 2015 Private home NYC

I am very excited to be playing for one of my dear creative colleagues next Monday.  Since the last Chaconne (#25, 12/28/2014) I have been focussed on moving my residence, and have allowed the Bach to lie fallow through the deep winter.

Now it is Spring, and I am coming back to the Bach after these few months’ hiatus; I am finding a new level of understanding, particularly in terms of tempo and rhythmic organization, choosing to explore specific influence from two great Maestros with whom I have worked at the MET for many years.  More on that later!

7 responses to “Chaconne #26 – April 6, 2015 Private home NYC”

  1. Good luck on all fronts, Shem.

  2. lucky people in NYC april 6 (how can they even imagine what perfomances we heard befoer

  3. Julian Zelizer says:

    Shem brought the sorrow and turbulence of Bach’s piece to life. In the intimate setting of a NYC living room. Shem conveyed the struggles that seemed to have shaped Bach as he wrote this piece at a difficult moment of his life. At certain points, Shem managed to make his instrument sound as if there were several violinists playing at once. The physicality of the performance was also quite moving.

  4. Robert Schenkkan says:

    A fantastic evening! So thought-provoking and so moving. The opportunity to hear great music played with extraordinary skill in an intimate setting is sadly so rare. There was such a sense of communion and immediate community in the sharing of this experience. And to sit so close to Shem, to hear the physical effort that goes into the performance. One could almost see the sound waves vibrating across the room. And while I have heard The Chaconne before, never have I payed such close attention. If it is indeed an anguished dialogue between the grieving composer and his God, it is a complex multi-layered one, worthy of Job.

  5. Deborah McDermott says:

    Shem, it was such an honor to experience your Chaconne in our private world of good friends and family. I personally adore that we were number 26 (one of my two lucky numbers!)

    I related to your comment about getting lost in your performance…how nothing else exists during those moments. I would imagine that during those moments you are feeling love….. love of life, love of your gift. And the beauty of that is that we, your audience, find ourselves immersed in that same feeling of “love”.

    Thank you, Deborah

Chaconne #25 – December 28, 2014 5pm – Private performance

in memory of my friend Lev Gogish.  White Plains, NY

5 responses to “Chaconne #25 – December 28, 2014 5pm – Private performance”

  1. Vlad Gogish says:

    Shem, our family is deeply grateful for your touching performance on December 28, 2014. We are honored that we could be there for your 25th stop on the journey of 100. It is fitting, given the emphasis of this series on live performance, that you dedicated it to my father’s memory — it is a wonderful way to honor a life.

  2. Ilya Gogish says:

    Shem, thank you for the wonderful and unique performance. You showed me a new side of Bach’s genius – not celestial peace and harmony, but human life with its waves of pain and suffering changing to joy of new discoveries and love. My father would greatly appreciate this stop on your Journey of 100.

  3. Serafima Dashevskaya says:

    Dear Shem,
    Thank you so much for performing at our home. This was a very important milestone in preserving Lev’s memory and truly once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone in the audience. I was listening to your beautiful playing with tears in my eyes and my heart aching but I also felt Lev’s presence and it made me happy. You made it possible for me to personally connect to the Bach’s greatest piece.

  4. Eugenie Ford says:

    What a wonderful pleasure to hear Bach live in the home of Seramina and family last night. The intimate group and live Violin were amazing, the passion was really felt. Lev would have loved it. Your mission to achieve 100 performances is a delightful journey. Bravo.

  5. Judy Gardiner says:

    Shem, your concert was a journey through the life of Lev, capturing his enduring love of family, his openness to the world, his curiosity and discovery, his exuberance, some moments, serious, others sad, but essentially what I felt through the music was the life force of a truly extraordinary human being whose eternal spirit is alive and as vibrant as our four seasons.

    Connecting listeners in small groups, especially children, through the language of music may help to soothe the wounds of a fractured society so globally bereft of emotionally healthy connections that cultivate empathy, compassion, and sharing.

    Thank you.

Chaconne #24 – 5pm Sunday July 13 2014 – Guilford CT

Greene Gallery, on the Guilford Green – Guilford, Connecticut 

5 PM – $15 admission to benefit Guilford Better Chance

RSVP 29 Whitfield St, Guilford, CT 06437

(203) 453-4162

6 responses to “Chaconne #24 – 5pm Sunday July 13 2014 – Guilford CT”

  1. Saw this too late. I would have most definitely come to hear you

  2. Lee T. McQuillan says:

    I would first like to thank you for what you are doing. We need more of this in the classical music world.
    I enjoyed your concert and presentation very much. I especially liked the silence you created afterward for the piece to have time to be. The sound of your instrument is amazing. What is it? The space was very nice for the performance as well.
    Thank you again,

  3. sgwp_a1 says:

    Lee, thank you very much. The instrument I was playing was made in Italy in 1915 by Stefano Scarampella – it belongs to my older brother Yenoin (my first violin teacher in fact, when I was 5). He offered to swap instruments with me about a year ago…isn’t that a fine thing?! Glad you enjoyed it. Shem

  4. Reggie Reid says:

    I attended the Bach Chaconne performance Shem gave at the Greene Art Gallery in Guilford, Ct and I was mesmerized. Such beautiful music, performed live right in front of my eyes with the most beautiful background of original paintings, both worthy of each other. Shem was outstanding, when he finished we were silent, his violin spoke to us through his masterful playing!

  5. Craig helmrich says:

    It was a wonderful evening listening to your music.