Journey of 100

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.

Chaconne #23 – West Side Community Garden NYC June 29, 2014

Sunday June 29, 2014 – 6 PM – FREE ADMISSION – West 89th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.  The Chaconne opens this short program…Beethoven’s String Trio in G Major comes next – played with my friends Artie Dibble, Viola, and Lindy Clarke, Cello.

This outdoor concert was blessed with perfect weather and a large, appreciative audience…lots of families with children, and the little ones were getting up and coming to the front of the stage area and dancing away with pure delight…somewhat astonishing for me because their delight and joy was like a second counterpoint to this work of Bach’s and it was challenging to stay plugged into the deep flow of the Work and not “fall out” into the dancing of the children!

I had spent a lot of time in the last week working on purity of intonation as well as stronger rhythmic organization, and I was happy that that work wasn’t wasted…that being said it is humbling that even at this 23rd time, for me,  thorough practice is still an essential component:  there were areas of which I assumed in my practice sessions  “ok, that part’s fine, don’t need to invest time there”,  that would have benefitted from slow, mindful work….sigh….I remember reading Kreisler’s writing about train travel providing him time to review in his mind every tone of  the works he was performing, to sort of, in his words, “re-carve” the grooves on the disc (the vinyl or glass LP recordings of his time)….I will remember that going forward.

 The Beethoven seemed an easy delight to play – in gusty winds that required us to pause and carefully replace the clothespins that held the music onto the stands!!!  Artie and Lindy are, simply put, terrific.


7 responses to “Chaconne #23 – West Side Community Garden NYC June 29, 2014”

  1. Lindy Clarke says:

    Shem, thank you for bringing something beautiful into the world. Just Bach, pure and simple, beautifully in tune, lovingly played, allowed to speak for itself.
    We were in a garden, with children dancing, and all sorts of people listening, and really with you and the music. What could be better?

  2. Diana Bloom says:

    A delightful experience. I was left, being musically illiterate, wondering what the questions were and what the answers in the solo piece. I, too, enjoyed the children, the plants, the appreciative audience, the weather, the music, and late during the second piece, the Proustian fragrance of cooking onions.

  3. Well done, Shem! A loooong way from our little adventure into the Brahms Horn Trio about…ummmm…. 44 years ago! 🙂

  4. Serafima Dashevskaya says:

    Dear Shem,

    Thank you for inviting us to this concert. We loved your playing Bach very much and the trio was beautiful too. The garden, dancing children, nice audience – everything contributed to the tone of your performance.

    Good luck with your Journey of 100,
    Serafima, Lev, Ilya

  5. sgwp_a1 says:

    Thanks all – Diana, I have been thinking a lot about your comment – especially about questions and answers. If you enjoyed the performance – then that is what matters most. That you were moved to take the extra time and effort to come visit us here and share your reflections says even more.

    This music is so BIG that there is room in it for my deep personal feelings about questions being posed and answered, room for your delight at letting the sounds waft over you while savoring the smell of onions…and room as well for the feelings of a 10 year-old boy at PSK179 (Brooklyn) who heard the work one morning last November (Chaconne performance #18). He wrote me an Essay saying “I felt relaxed, then I saw sparkles and wanted to dance and then I thought of my friend, back home in Bangladesh, and my Soul wanted to fly out and visit him and his Family…”

    Maybe they too, were cooking Onions that morning in Bangladesh on the other side of the World.

    Thanks for writing. Shem

  6. Randa Kirshbaum says:

    Hi, Shem, I’ve been at all of these Music in a Garden events, and it is a lovely spot of green. But concerts there are a work day for me, to keep things moving and flowing. When you first started playing I heard your authority of control of the violin and the material, and was able to relax, immediately ready to give over to your playing. Then I heard more. I still have a lump in my throat from your rendition of that Partita. You danced every note, intonation was very good, and the humanity… I listened to a recording of Heifetz playing the Chaconne later that evening, and you are the greater human being.

  7. Dolph LeMoult says:

    Thank you Shem. Looking back, I now think that silence might have been the more appropriate response to such a celestial experience. Bravo, my friend. Dolph

Chaconne #22 Bennington College March 18, 10 PM

On campus in the CAPA LENS.

Tuesday night’s 10 p.m. performance of the entire D Minor Partita produced one of the most memorable results I have ever experienced as a soloist.  The audience of about 60 or so stayed sitting together in a profound, relaxed silence for a good 8-10 minutes.  Slowly, one or two students at a time would quietly put their things together and leave the room.  About six stayed for talkback and conversation that was captured by our Catamount Access cameraman.  I will put the students’ insightful comments together in an edit, and post it here as soon as I can.

One of my comments about the performance is that the emotional arc of my performance felt sloppy to me – and when I shared that, Matthew (one of the students) replied that “emotions are sloppy” and that the rawness of my musical expression (his words) was what made it so powerful. That gives one *much* to consider in terms of balancing personal expression with expressing musical understanding of Bach’s fine works.

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Chaconne #21 – December 17, 2013 Jackson Heights Jewish Center

7:00 Holiday Concert at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, Queens

I have played this seasonal concert for many years and it is always great fun  – so many wonderful people from the neighborhood show up, and the programs are always interesting!   A really fine Tango segment (singer Chris Vasquez and pianist Cesar Vuksic), Arabic music (including Simon Shaheen’s Alhambra Trio which we commissioned a number of years ago for A Night at the Alhmabra Café), which I performed with Rex Benincasa, Tar  and Carlo Valte, Oud), Tangos, music by James Primosh (beautiful piano solo Ryan MacEvoy McCullough and singing from Judy Kellock.  

I played the Chaconne following the last movement from the Messaien Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps, it was a good pairing.  The room we were playing in had very dry sound, so I had to speed the tempos slightly. Having done three or four of these performances in the last couple of weeks, it was pretty easy to drop into a somewhat mind-less space and allow the music to flow.  

We were fortunate to have the services of a spanish translator – one of the staff at the Jewish Center – so that the spanish-speaking audience members would know clearly that I was asking the listeners to participate with me in this Journey of 100  – to come to our website here and write their experiences – I hope we get some comments.

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Chaconne #20 – December 8, 2013 – private home

for colleagues and friends.  This performance was a good one – I was happy with the spirit and mood I was able to create; I had to keep substituting listening deeply for thinking, for mental activity.    I worked a lot at exploring many places for playing at soft dynamic levels, leaving the higher levels for the most important emotional and spiritual moments. 

A funny thing was that in the afternoon I had to decide if I was going to cook dinner (we were hosting the evening) or practice – and I decided to cook and work on the music in my mind and body while cooking.  A good choice, so it seems.

2 responses to “Chaconne #20 – December 8, 2013 – private home”

  1. Mark Nelson says:

    thinking about Shem’s performance of the Bach d-minor Partita on December 8. . . .

    1. On the one hand, it’s about exquisitely nuanced,

    You, and JSB, venture down so many alluring, asymmetrically unfolding paths.
    Sometimes these veer off unexpectedly in unusual directions.
    Sometimes they are a matter of tenderness taking its sweet time.
    Sometimes they seem bold and reckless.
    These narrative streams evince a remarkable thinking/feeling mind, one capable of speaking in modes of Jamesian complexity and sensitivity.

    We begin plainly enough. But then we digress, and extend, and observe anew; we weave, pause, extemporize, re-cast, discover, reflect. A daunting magisterial process, one blending imaginative caprice and stern rigor, blooms.

    Thematic materials, textures, sentences unfold,
    according to the dictates of an irrepressible logic,
    into paragraphs that resist closure–
    elegant, colorful not-quite-self-contained structures
    whose late moments suggest new possibilities.
    Their refusal to conclude neatly suggests an abiding yearning,
    a striving to intimate, and instantiate, sublimity.

    2. On another hand, it’s about _non-thought_.
    Or perhaps _non-verbal_ thought!
    Words fail, crash, in one’s attempts to evoke the experience of listening to your performance of this piece.

    I am struck by how all-consuming this experience was–by the extent to which I felt so wholly inside of it; by the pregnancy of the long silence attending the performance’s conclusion; and by the inadequacy–perhaps the very incommensurate nature–of my earnest but paltry efforts, then and now, to articulate that experience.

    What does it mean to be truly present for a moment of experience?
    Is it a pre-rational immediacy, one that follows and absorbs experience before the mind has time to filter it?
    Or–and this is my struggle right now–have the partita’s sounds triggered a deep-seated mechanism–a product of genetics, training, sensibility–that intimately monitors, tracks, and flows with an abiding, ever-metamorphosing awareness of the rich sonic metamorphoses continually emergent?

    All-consuming indeed! One traces these sublimely coherent, ebullient trajectories–sonic flights which, replete with anomalies (daring forays into unanticipated keys, novel twistings of motivic material, uncanny interpolations of new ideas), threaten coherence; but in their subsequent workings-out, these reveal and secure an unfathomably rich new coherence–and in so doing it seems that one is being shown a parallel thought-dimension, one that exists next to, or before, or closely bound to, verbal thought.

    3. This performance was about _color_.

    String doublings, wide-ranging gradations of bow pressure and speed, subtle _sul tasto_ shiftings, adjustments in the amount of bow hair allowed to engage the strings–
    these combined both to abet the complexity of the narrative and to lend a near-fantasia quality to the proceedings. You mentioned having learned from the color-shiftings deftly produced by an organist whose compelling Bach performances you recently discovered. Indeed, Bach organ fantasias and your traversal of the partita have much in common. One imaginatively shapes a constellation of timbres, infusing the performance thereby with a sense of play, of keen exploration and discovery. And the relationships unfolding among these lavishly nuanced sounds further the music’s remarkable rhetorical substance.

    4. What about the repeats?
    I yearn to hear the repeats, of each half of the first four dance movements.
    In its depth and reach, this music needs (and wants!) to be weighed, absorbed, assimilated. It wants time to sink in. It wants time to be _heard_!

    (And what does this mean, _to be heard_?!
    My own hearing seems full of reflective processes.)

    I crave and savor the luxury of hearing and _re_-hearing.

    There are so many questions asked by each one of these dance movements. Would it be possible to take in and ponder these questions more slowly before moving on to the next ones?

    I was surprised to sense that I had been catapulted into the chaconne. I wasn’t ready for it. Wait! I’m still spinning with the gigue! What was that strange and cool shift in phrase structure and harmony in the second half of the allemande? The corrente was so fleeting, its rate of change so rapid; my auditory transmission is stripped! I need to make some adjustments, and–oh, here’s the intimate sarabande. . . .

    Self-contained and masterful as it is, the chaconne is the culminating movement of a suite of stylized dances. It’s a summation; a commentary. It offers some answers to questions posed in the preceding movements. I need time to absorb those questions, to adapt to the unique emotional and rhetorical world of each dance.

    5. Spirit; Circling Into the Depths of Soul

    (Keith Jarrett, admonishing his audience before launching into a concert last December:

    “Just listen.”)

  2. Well, I know the way… but I don’t have the loose change to use the bathroom… :))) but I’m sure it will be an event that can have a permanent and positive effect on the vibrations of one’s cells.Read more…