Notes from Dale Jensen – on “Melodies That Capture the Heart”
Following the October offering of “Songs of Grace – Elegant Pieces To Lift Your Spirits,” the Sarasota Music Club’s November program was entitled “Melodies That Capture the Heart.” (Hmm. ‘Spirits’? ‘Heart’?…Do we sense a theme starting?) The performers here were flutist Rick Aaron and my second-favorite accompanist of all time, Lee Dougherty Ross. (Why ‘second,’ you may ask? Well, most of my professional life, my pianist has been my wife, Barbara, so, well, uh… y’know…) Anyhow, they are both excellent collaborating musicians.
Mr. Aaron and I have several things in common. We are both from musical families in which everybody played something, and by the time we came along, a lot of instruments had already been ‘taken.’ Of the remainders, we both chose flute. Without actually saying it out loud, I think we unconsciously didn’t want to compete with other family members, so we couldn’t select an instrument that was already chosen by another family member. (My children have continued this tradition in our family, having chosen viola, cello and violin…not even the same family of instruments as their parents, so there would be no comparisons or implied competitions with us. Smart.)
Aaron’s and my taste in music is also very similar. The pieces he chose for this program are pieces I have enjoyed playing for years. He started off with the spritely “Tambourin” by Gossec, and followed it by Telemann’s “Sonata in F”. Then came Debussy’s “Siciliano” from Pelleas et Melisande, and another “Sicilienne” by Faure. And with these numbers, our tastes diverted. A ‘siciliano’ needs a graceful lilt to it, and these plodded. Definitely too slow – at least, according to me. Of course, there is room for differences of opinion on matters like tempo!
Faure’s “Après une rêve” suffered the same malady. (Need a dream imply lethargy? Some of my dreams are very exciting!) Throughout the program, Mr. Aaron produced a nice, focused tone, but even the vibrato tended to be languorous. On Abreu’s “Tico-Tico,” Aaron happily proved once again that he could be spritely.
The last few Music club programs have been held in the church Sanctuary, a beautiful setting, with stone floors, uncluttered walls, a high ceiling, and very friendly acoustics. The audience hears a rich, warm sound. The performer hears that same sound coming back to his own ears, and is reassured that things are going well. On this Friday morning, the church needed the Sanctuary for a church function, and the Music Club was bumped to the Activity Room. (Imagine – they wanted to use the church building for their own purposes! Hmph!)
The church’s Activity Room has serious shortcomings as a place to listen to music, but these performers had the good sense to pull the heavy wood panels into place behind them, to help bounce the sound out to the audience. Even so, the room does not give the performer much sonic feedback, so he tries to compensate by blowing harder. This uses up his air supply sooner, forcing him to chop off phrase endings. The room does not help the performer.
In my old age, I have come to like hearing from performers, in their own voices, talk about the music they are performing: When was it written? For whom? Why did I select it to perform today? Aaron did this nicely, using the microphone skillfully in his pleasant intros to each piece. His family would have been proud, but they might have preferred him to not play some pieces so slowly, so they could get on stage quicker with their own instruments. Families can be like that.