Sunday, May 16th marks the start of this year’s Chamber Music Workshop, a weeklong event, when musicians can – and some do! – play non-stop from Sunday to Saturday. This workshop is so popular that most of the participants are returnees, back for more.
High Notes caught up with Janette Chrysler (cello) and Sue Innes (violin), who are half of the longest-running Workshop quartet. The other half consists of Volker Metz (viola) and Linda Chambers (violin). This quartet was present on Day One, and will be back this year for their ninth workshop. (Picture is from May 2009)
Volker Metz, who many people know as the former Principal Viola of the SPO, lives in Nova Scotia and Linda Chambers lives in California. Janette met her through the American Amateur Chamber Music Association.
We asked Sue and Janette what – other than matched skill level – makes a good group.
“Humour!” Janette said promptly (which she would have spelled humor). The two musicians also listed willingness to listen to each other’s point of view and being open to ideas. The quartet discusses everything. Quartet-playing is a group activity, they said. They even argue with their coach. (Now if that isn’t a healthy activity in a democratic country, we don’t know what is!)
They will play Dvorak Opus 105 this year. The work was chosen from ideas and suggestions from all four. There was a lot of emailing and listening to CDs. They look for something that is different and, of course, challenging. In past years, the group has played Shostakovich, Ravel, late Beethoven, Mendelssohn.
Coaches have been Ian Hampton, Sharon Stanis, Tanya Prochazka, and since Year 4, Sydney Humphreys.
“He has a wealth of experience, a mastery of string technique, and definite ideas about intonation. When we did the Ravel, he introduced the idea of ‘meeting places’, points where we could rendez-vous, if we got confused. It was a piece that was hard to put together.”
What’s the big attraction of playing chamber music? Both musicians named having responsibility for your own part. In an orchestra, there are six or ten of you. In chamber music, it’s you. You can achieve a level of precision that you can’t get as a group.
“Don always liked to be able to hear the separate parts, as you do in a chamber group. He liked to know who was playing what,” Janette told us.
The best thing about the workshop, Janette and Sue agreed, is the friendliness. It’s not competitive. There are no stakes.
Sue added, “A great thing for me is that it’s a whole week set aside just for music. You just play.”