Twentieth century American biographer Catherine Drinker Bowen famously described chamber music as a “conversation between friends”. Just like a great conversation, chamber music entertains, soothes, and builds relationships between the participating individuals. Just like being able to participate fully in a great conversation, performing chamber music requires discipline, listening skills, and empathy. Some great conversations were had by the musicians of NECOM’s chamber music program at the Term 3 concert on Thursday 14 September.
One of our newest ensembles, the Rainbow Notes, consists of India Smith and Nathea Ping-Kee on violins and Neve Dougherty on cello. The Rainbow Notes worked steadily in term 3 to prepare a number of pieces, and we were all disappointed that Nathea was struck down by illness the week of the performance and so could not play. India and Neve did a fine job with Ms. Kelson filling in Nathea’s part, and the girls both demonstrated exceptional focus and musical vision in their performance.
This concert also included the debut performance of the Womble Ensemble. This group was established at the same time as the Rainbow Notes and consists of William Dawson and Ruby Straker on violins and Lauren Fenton on cello. They presented three pieces, each of which allowed a different member to take on a leadership role in the ensemble. The three pieces also allowed them to explore features of different styles and musical time periods, with the Largo from Xerxes by Handel from the Baroque period, German Dance by Mozart from the classical period, and the traditional Tune the Fiddle from the world of Celtic fiddling.
The next group on the program was the stalwart piano quartet now known as Euphoria, consisting of Aiden Swick and Gabby Cotterell on violins, William Mackson on piano and Laura Smitham on cello. The name ‘piano quartet’ sounds like it should be four pianos playing together, but instead, a piano quartet is a quartet that includes piano. The most common formation of this ensemble is a violin, a viola, a cello and a piano; however, at the moment, this group has two violins. It is a feature of the music composed for this ensemble that the piano part is prominent and requires a high level of skill from the pianist, as these works were often vehicles to show off the skills of the composer at the piano, often like a little piano concerto for reduced numbers. This doesn’t mean the string parts are unimportant or easy – it simply means the pianist may have to put in a few more hours practise than the string players. At this concert, Euphoria presented the famous Humouresque by Antonin Dvorak, in which the group demonstrated their capacity for beautiful sonorous tone and tight ensemble skills.
Finishing the concert was the UNE Chamber Wind Ensemble, a group made up of UNE students who play wind instruments, led by the polished and insightful Kristal Spreadborough. The ensemble at this performance consisted of players on flute, bassoon, and clarinet, and it was great for all the members of the audience to see these young adults developing and maintaining their musical lives while studying and working at university. We really appreciated their performance and hope they join us again as we celebrate future achievements in the wonderful art of chamber music.