I'd like to welcome Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra violist Terry Langdon to the blogosphere with her first online article -- shifting!
Have you ever wondered how the string players in the ISO land on all their notes exactly on pitch and on time with no markings on the fingerboard underneath the strings to tell them where the notes lie?
There are, depending how you calculate it, at least fourteen positions for the hand on the fingerboard, and moving from one position to another is called shifting.
Shifting is done from the left elbow, and the hand and the fingers move passively when the elbow is opened or closed. Position number one is at the end of the fingerboard near the tuning pegs.
How does the string player move just the right amount? It is done by feel and muscle memory from long practice, and by ear. The neck of a stringed instrument becomes thicker as it approaches the body of the instrument, and the player can feel the gauge of it. The shift is always the same elbow move if one is traveling between the same positions (e.g., first to third position is the same move no matter which fingers are being used). The player knows the starting pitch and the arrival pitch and hears the pitches in his/her head. The brain recognizes the new pitch when the hand has arrived, and stops it from moving further. The move is practiced in. A good string player continues to refine and maintain shifting skills throughout a playing career. The speed of the shift is the same as the speed of the bow, neither being particularly fast.
Shifts can be done inaudibly for transportation from place to place, or audibly (expressively) to slide into notes like a singer might do. They take real time that is taken from the end of the note prior to the shift so that the new position is reached on time. The fingertip is lightened during the shift, as is the bow pressure.
String players can choose the exact place they want a note to be, depending on the function of the note: is it part of a chord or part of a melody? Which note of the scale is it? This is called expressive intonation, and should not be obvious to the listener.
I meant to write this post yesterday on Valentine's Day.
But it really wasn't Valentine's Day in Indianapolis. February 14, 2013 became Thomas Ramsey Day, thanks to a proclamation by Indy Mayor Greg Ballard. Tom is our Vice President/General Manager, and he is retiring after 29 years of exceptional service to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Yesterday, the entire orchestra family celebrated with Tom and his wife Susan. We were all feelin' the laughter and the love for our veteran GM.
So today, I'll pretend it's officially Valentine's Day and spread a little love for American Heart Month. Indianapolis "goes red" for women in big and bold ways in February in order to advance awareness of heart disease -- the number one killer of women.
As a part of this massive campaign to spread the word about heart health, the "Go Red" campaign invites local celebrities to participate in a "heART" contest. Notable Hoosiers submit their "heARTworks," which are displayed in the lobby of Emmis Communications, in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.
If you look closely, you'll find a "heARTwork" by our very own violinist, Lisa Scott. You see, we have a true artist in our Orchestra -- or a "heartist" as I now like to call her. Lisa graciously accepted the challenge of creating a piece (in a matter of days!) on behalf of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
It just warms my heart.
Lisa never took art lessons or had formal training. She told me she just likes to "doodle." I hope to blog more about Lisa's exceptional talent at a later date, but for now, it seems wrong to call this doodling. I think she's an extremely sophisticated cartoonist with an exceptional eye for detail.
And yet heart disease isn't a cartoon. It kills our moms, our sisters, our daughters, our aunts and our grandmothers (including mine) each minute.
We women need to eat healthier, walk faster, lower our blood pressures, see our doctors, and listen to more classical music.
Thank you Lisa -- we heart you.
It certainly has been a long time since I have written on my blog. I thought many of you might be curious about my topic for today: Behind the Scenes During and Between Yuletide Concerts. The month of December is exhausting for my colleagues. Not only are many of us at the Hilbert Circle Theatre but we also split up for Messiah and our just completed wonderful Classical Christmas Concert. In my usual format I am going to list 'what is going on - yep - behind the scenes'.
1. Jack Everly is refining the music each and every performance - meeting with librarians and musicians.
2. Marketing is working on January PR.
3. Development is raising money - of course, that never stops - and we musicians are helping.
4. Musicians are careful not to step on any of the magnificent gowns the very gifted Angela Brown is wearing (the backstage area is small).
5. Musicians are in the lobby selling a wonderful self-produced CD of holiday favorites by many of our talented brass players.
6. The stagehands are sweeping 'snow' from the stage floor.
7. Dancers are warming up and taking a few Yoga lessons given by our violinist Victoria Griswold.
8. Juggler and aerialist are practicing.
9. Musicians are playing cards and writing holiday cards.
10. Auditions for substitute and extra musicians are being planned by our Orchestra Personnel Manager - Blake Schlabach.
11. During our Yuletide intermissions some of us greet the audience and guests in the lobby and sell CD's and sign up audience members for our musician's Fan Club. (pretty cool stuff)
12. There are many dressing rooms and costumes on racks at every turn - keeping our professional 'dressers' very busy indeed - so many constume changes.
13. You can hear singers warming up and hear a few taps from our numerous 'dancing santa's' - rumors of their being hired next year to replace the Rockets at Radio City Musical Hall are exaggerated - actually NYC would be lucky to have them the month of December.
14. Yep, Development is still raising money - you see, this is a big year for our worldclass orchestra and everyone needs to pitch in.
15. Our librarians are actually preparing music for the month of January (Bruckner, Hairspray, etc.)
16. Bekki Quinn, administrative assistant and friend to everyone is preparing the weekly and monthly calendars in addition to making sure the men's white dinner jackets are ready to go.
17. Frances Heavrin our Event Coordinator is booking weddings, hopefully Jimmy Fallon (again after his successful run in our hall during the Superbowl Week) - just a dream of mine, sorry, business meetings and all kinds of events -- the hall is available and our spectacular Wood Room overlooking the Circle.
18. Cleaning staff coming in between shows on Saturday and Sunday.
Yes, the ISO is busy - not only on stage but backstage and in our administrative offices.
Happy Holidays to all of our supporters. Myself - after our last December 23 concert Donna and I are off to Florida until we begin in January. Of course, I maybe to exhausted to make the trip and in that case we will enjoy our wonderful 'town'.
I'm an unapologetic Daddy's girl, so I had no problem handing my blog space over to my friend and colleague, Sarah Myer Ross, the ISO's marketing director. She's got a good father-daughter story to share, in perfect timing with our "Spanish Seductions" concerts this weekend.
When I heard that the ISO would be programming classical guitarist Milos for the 2012-13 season, I was very excited to hear that this kind of concert would be coming to our stage. Classical guitar has a very special place in my heart.
Many people know I have a musical family because of my brother, Spencer, but music in the Myer family started with my dad, Spencer.
My dad played guitar for years -- classical, electric, in bands and as a soloist. A gig at The Ground Round restaurant in Ohio is how he locked eyes with my mom. I mean, dare I say those long locks even give Milos a run for his money?
Spencer Myer and his daughter, Sarah
My mom and dad started dating, got married and quickly welcomed by big brother, Spencer Myer, III. My dad realized that guitar gigs were not going to support a family. So, he went back to school, received a degree in electrical engineering and became an engineer at NASA. There are studies that show how listening to classical music is linked to how mathematically smart you are. Well, apparently playing it makes you a genius.
The interesting thing is that growing up, I don't have many memories of my dad playing guitar. Most of my childhood music memories were my brother playing piano and my sister and I singing around him. Everytime we had company, Mom would get us all set up, and Spence would play "Fur Elise" or we'd sing "It's My Song." I only remember hearing the guitar sounds of such composers as Rodrigo when I woke up in the middle of the night. My dad only played after all the kids went to bed. I'm still not quite sure why, but I almost think he didn't want us to feel bad that he had put this talent away because of his focus on us. Or maybe it was because he wanted his kids to find their own musical talents, their own passions.
However, as we grew older and more independent, the guitar came out. He brought it on vacations, to holiday gatherings and he even played at my wedding. As my brother, sister and I mature and continue to find our own paths in life, my dad's guitar is heard more and more.
So I have to smile at how fitting it is that on Friday night we'll be together, watching the symphony I love and promote everyday while hearing the sounds of a classical guitar echo through the theater.
So I have to smile at how fitting it is that on Friday night we'll be together, watching the symphony I love and promote everyday while hearing the sounds of a classical guitar echo through the theater.
Love you, Dad.
Last weekend marked the beginning of our Metropolitan Youth Orchestra's 18th season, with 225 students enrolled. New and returning students, teachers and families alike are excited to start a new year.
For those who've never heard of the program, MYO is a youth and family development program of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. MYO is designed to use the life skills learned in music instruction to engage youth in activities that discourage at-risk behaviors and keep them committed to staying in school.
View the photos below for a look into MYO's first week of rehearsals.
MYO students, teachers and parents prepare for their first rehearsal of the year at Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center.
Betty Perry leads rehearsal with high school students in Orchestra A.
Orchestra A bassists during rehearsal.
Betty Perry and Danielle Yeti lead students and parents in the Hokey Pokey outside of Key Learning Community before rehearsal.
MYO instructor Danielle Yeti leads rehearsal on Saturday, September 15 at Key Learning Community.
My name is Shannon, and I was the Communications Intern for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra last fall. Although I'm headed back to the hills of New Hampshire for my senior year of college this fall, I'm writing this guest blog to share my excitement for the ISO's 2012-2013 season! Single tickets are now on sale, so start planning which of the amazing array of concerts you'll attend this season! (And a shoutout to my fellow college students: remember, we can get tickets to most Classical Series concerts for just $12!)
Here are my top five picks for this season:
-Dvorak's Seventh Symphony, Sep. 14 & 15: Dvorak was inspired to write his Seventh Symphony after hearing one of my favorite symphonies of all time, Brahms' Third Symphony. Although the Ninth Symphony ("From the New World") is certainly Dvorak's most famous, I love the Seventh because it reflects Dvorak's love for his Czech heritage. The third movement in particular, which consists of a scherzo in the style of a Czech polka, as well as the horn solo that evokes a peaceful, pastoral scene, heartwarmingly evokes Dvorak's homeland. What I find particularly fascinating about Dvorak's Seventh, however, is the tragic mood of much of the finale. I suppose that this energetic and stirring final movement reflects Dvorak's desire to, as he stated, write a symphony "capable of stirring the world."
-Bernstein's West Side Story, November 16, 17, & 18: Berstein's score for West Side Story showcases the way in which classical music - and classical musicians - can be truly fun! It is amazing to hear the classic songs from the musical - the "Cool" fugue, the "Rumble, and "There's a Place for Us" - brought to life by a full orchestra. Be sure to listen for the musicians as they snap onstage and shout "MAMBO!" However,bring tissues for the final moments of the piece!
-Bruckner's Fourth Symphony ("Romantic"), Jan. 18 & 19: I was first introduced to Bruckner's Fourth Symphony last year when I was studying abroad in Vienna. While I knew a bit about Bruckner's Seventh and Eighth symphonies, I was unfamiliar with the Fourth. In my musicology course in Vienna, I learned that Bruckner, like Richard Wagner, often introduced motives that were manipulated throughout the rest of the piece. This is particularly in the Fourth Symphony, in which Bruckner plays with a rising and falling triplet theme (downward in the brass, upward in the strings) throughout the first movement. I also learned that the third movement is based on an Austrian folk dance called the Ländler. As I studied this piece, I was also struck by the beautiful simplicity of Bruckner's writing; he stays in the key of E-flat major for the majority of the exposition without resorting to fancy counterpoint. Bruckner's Fourth is now one of my favorite symphonies, and I am eagerly anticipating the ISO's performance of this work in January!
-Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony ("Pathetique"), March 1 & 2: I must admit, I literally squealed when I read that the ISO was performing this symphony this season. Tchaikovsky's Sixth is perhaps my favorite work of classical music. I first fell in love with this work during my senior year of high school, when my youth orchestra performed it in our March concert. Now, almost exactly four years later, I cannot wait to hear it played live at the ISO. The Sixth Symphony, which was premiered just days before Tchaikovsky's death, evokes an overwhelming amount of raw emotion; during my youth orchestra's performance of the final movement, several of my fellow musicians were in tears on stage. Often considered to contain veiled references to Tchaikovsky's homosexuality and the suffering the composer endured in life, other eminent Tchaikovsky scholars have argued that the Sixth Symphony portrays a narrative of life itself - through a first movement marked by passion and vitality, leading to a somber depiction of death at the end. Just remember not to clap at the end of the rousing third movement -- one of the most powerful movements in the classical canon is still to come.
-Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, April 5 & 6: Hearing Pictures at an Exhibition performed live is one of the most epic musical experiences one can have. Originally written for piano by Modest Mussorgsky, several composers arranged it for full orchestra. Maurice Ravel (of "Daphnis and Chloe" fame) wrote the most famous and widely-used orchestration of this piece in 1922. The piece opens with a chilling trumpet solo introducing the famous opening theme, followed by a gorgeous brass chorale. The last movement, "The Great Gate of Kiev" marks the return of this opening theme with full orchestra, slowed down to achieve an epic, grandiose conclusion.
Of course, this list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the ISO's amazing season! Other highlights include Ravel's Bolero, Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol (for my fellow clarinetists out there!), Brahms's German Requiem, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, and many, many more! Enjoy this season at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra!
Nobody walks away from Marsh Symphony on the Prairie empty-handed.
At every concert, there are vendors and sponsors handing out all sorts of exciting goodies. My favorite Symphony on the Prairie party favor thus far was a sunflower and coupon from McNamara Florists. It was a perfect summer moment seeing the audience dotted with thousands of yellow flowers. They made for festive table decorations too!
If flowers aren't your thing, fear not. You can always find free fans, toys, popsicles, ice cream and other fun treats. When you're feeling lucky, the ISO hosts a nightly raffle. We give away exciting prizes such as tickets to future shows, gift baskets, and certificates to the Woodhouse Day Spa (oh la la!). Not that I've been looking, or tasting for that matter, but for the 21+ crowd there is also a Barefoot Wine tent with a flavorful variety of wine samples.
So sit back, relax, and take in all of the surprises that Symphony on the Prairie has to offer. You won't be disappointed.
Chances are, you will see somebody you know at Marsh Symphony on the Prairie. I've run into old friends, neighbors and coworkers, just to name a few. Maybe it's just me, but I always find these out-of-context reunions delightful.
I was so happy to see my neighbor Kelly at Star Spangled Symphony!
The outdoor concert space lends itself perfectly to casual conversations with old acquaintances and new, including the nice folks on the neighboring picnic blanket. Not to brag, but I've been offered a snack or several in my day from newly made friends on the prairie. Who knew that Symphony on the Prairie was such a breeding ground for social butterflies?
Looking down at the Symphony on the Prairie stage gives me an idea of how Dorothy must have felt standing at the gates of Oz. How could there possibly be so much green? Across Indianapolis, the grass is yellowed and crispy. With a high today of 103, the thought of spending any time outdoors is almost unbearable. Summer concerts, such as this weekend's Disco at the Symphony- A Tribute to the Bee Gees, have provided a haven in the form of a patch of cool, green grass.
When the maestro strikes up the orchestra and the sun sets behind the stage, my worries about soaring UV indexes and sagging gardens subside. I pitch my blanket, open my picnic basket, and enjoy the season as it is meant to be: outside with bare feet.
Paul Berns here, and it has been awhile since I wrote and thought during our fabulous July 4 concerts and after "The Music of Queen" this would be a good time.
So, after our July 3 performance at Symphony on the Prairie, I have a short conversation with a young boy with his family. He plays clarinet and bass clarinet in his school band - he was so proud and I was proud of him. I believe he is from the Center Grove area and so will have a world class music system to perform with.
Also, we had a guest "ringing chimes" in the percussion section - after having won this opportunity at the ISO Association's Diamond Jubilee at the beautiful Lucas Estate. Small world - the winner was ISO supporter Lew White - the ISO many years ago booked our 'tour buses' through Lew - we used to be on the road around 5 weeks a year.
I heard Scott Hoke announce many Church groups in attendance and the other night a Chamber Music Education Program for young musicians from the University of Indianapolis.
Symphony on the Prairie and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra = important musical resources for our community.
And now the big question - talking these wonderful supporters to come to our Classical Indianapolis Symphony concerts at our Hilbert Circle Theatre Home. I have prepared a top 10 list for those wondering why you should hear Classical Music Downtown (CMD).
In no particular order.
#10 You are supporting one of the world's greatest orchestras that gets better each year
#9 Hearing us and watching our young Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski is very similar to going to a rock concert - it is fun, cool, and perfection at its best - and so very musical!
#8 Numerous wonderful restaurants and bars - stop by the Chatterbox to hear live jazz after a concert - non/smoking these days
#7 You are supporting the musicians in this orchestra who for many years have been the city's finest private music teachers
#6 You are supporting our Board of Directors by showing the importance of this great orchestra!
#5 You are challenging yourself, each classical week, to hear "good music" - most often music that has survived over many years of sold out audiences
#4 You are supporting our PR and Marketing Department that work unbelievable hours trying to 'get the word out' - great music/great soloists/great conductors/a great orchestra
#3 You are actually helping us play better - a full house - an enthusiastic audience is what it is all about
#2 You are able to see and hear musicians from the world's greatest music schools play together in harmony - could not resist that
#1 You are able to see and hear musicians of all ages - young maestros, senior members of the orchestra play together exactly like the Chicago Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic and numerous others - and, of course, stand and scream and applaud = hopefully similar to the live Beatles concert I saw years ago in Cleveland.
That is it for now. 8pm live at Symphony on the Prairie - this week 'church bells' in 1812 Overture...last week solo gong in Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Early in the season Ravel's Bolero - WOW....see all of you soon. I sure would love to read some responses to my top 10 list - how about a top 20 list!
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