Show 238: Listening Guide

From the Top’s Show 238 was taped in the Aire Crown Theater at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on  Saturday, July 2, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Stephanie Block, 17, viola 
I. Andante comodo from Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
By: William Walton 

Walton’s viola concerto holds a special place in my heart. It has been with me for the past year, and is definitely my favorite viola concerto. I love the “British-y” aspect of it- to me, British music has a certain unique quality. It’s not too melodramatic or too emotionless. It seems to have certain parts that are somewhat dramatic, but are masked by tranquility. Walton does a wonderful job of “sneaking” these emotions into the concerto. I like that you have to really look for the feeling in it and identify it.

My favorite part of this concerto is the beginning, with its calm and leisurely pace and its gradual move into the exciting and intense parts. Perhaps the hardest battle I have had with this piece is all of the chords! There is one part in the middle with a series of sixths, and those are so hard to bring out, not to mention play perfectly in tune. That will be a continuing project for me. This piece makes me think of a distinctive love story- one that is kept under wraps until one’s feelings are finally revealed. With the beginning of the piece, you wouldn’t guess that there is any love there, but it presents itself later. Accessing my own emotions is what really helps me bring across my feeling in this piece. Compared to other pieces I have performed, the Walton continues to be one of a kind. Many people love it for both its romantic and composed aspects. It’s more emotionally mature than many other pieces I have played on viola, and for someone as emotional as me, a piece like this is best.

Post Show Reflection: I loved getting to know everyone, both the kids and the staff. I never knew everyone could be so relaxed and nice! Also, playing on a great stage for a huge audience was amazing. I loved the feeling after I finished, sprinting upstairs with my medal. The actual performance was so exciting. It actually wasn’t that scary, more like encouraging. Nothing compares to the feeling of performing for me. It was truly amazing.

Music has the power to heal: broken hearts, so many things. The possibilities are endless.

Geoffrey Hahn, 18, baritone
“Whither Must I Wander?” from Songs of Travel
By: Ralph Vaughan Williams

This particular piece of music transports me into the English countryside. We experience the beauty of the landscape throughout the various seasons of the year, as seen through the eyes of a wanderer. The tune is beautiful and melodic. It is written as a strophic piece, which serves to emphasize the magnitude and power of lyrics. Although there are some lighter verses, there is feeling of sadness and nostalgia in many of the images of nature, especially those that describe the rain. The lyrics are a story, actually a poem, as “ Whither Must I Wander” is a part of the Songs of Travel, a group of poems written by Robert Louis Stevenson that describe the memories and observations of a solitary vagabond.

I chose this song to sing for my grandmother when she was in a coma following a serious stroke. She was a true inspiration to me; a lover of nature, an avid hiker, world traveler and music lover. Her fondest memories, which she shared with all of her grandchildren, were of her extensive travels both near and far. In her letters, she describes the magnificence of nature. Waves breaking over her on the stern of an ocean liner while she traveled through the Panama Canal, and a glorious sunrise she witnessed somewhere in the wilderness. As I finished singing to her, she opened her eyes for the first time in over a week. She died soon after, at the age of 104. I sang again at her memorial service. These memories will always be with me.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the last 2 days was the performance, especially the recording rehearsal. Being able to work with Christopher Riley is an experience I’ll never forget. The experience was fantastic! It was oddly comforting being in front of 4000 seats. The audience was warm and loving.

Music has the power to change everything from communities to countries, the power to reform! Continue reading

Center for the Development of Arts Leaders – Update from Hope Lodge

Hello from Molly, Keith, Ryan, Lillian and Rachel – one of From the Top’s Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL) teams! For the past ten months, the five of us have worked to bring music to Hope Lodge – a place where people who come to Boston for outpatient cancer treatment can stay free of charge.

Left to right: Lillian, Keith, Ryan, Chris (Lodge Staff), Rachel, Molly, Kassie (Mentor)

What have we done and what are we learning?
We started our work at Hope Lodge by organizing themed concert nights for the guests. They were fun and the residents enjoyed each one, but we realized that we were just playing for them. We could do that on our own – and being part of CDAL, we knew that we not only had the opportunity, but the support to pursue more. In an effort to provide both relaxing, comfortable musical environments as well as interactive experiences to the guests, our work has transformed over the past ten months into organizing collaborative concerts with Hope Lodge guests, discussions, playing games, raising money for the American Cancer Society, and performing at Boston’s Relay for Life!

Ryan and Keith play a duet for Hope Lodge guests as they finish their dinner.

What are some challenges we face?
When we started, we quickly realized that the turnover rate of those staying at the Lodge was as high as 2–3 people a day, which made planning experiences that built off of one another difficult. So, we had a dilemma: how do we create a “community of hope” and design a comprehensive, interactive musical program, when each time we come, we can’t build on what we did last time? We’re still working on this. Since the beginning, we’ve been interested in learning more about musical therapy and exploring how and why music can empower, inspire, and create positive change. Obviously none of us are professional music therapists, but we thought pursuing activities that resembled what music therapists do might be an effective way to connect with residents, especially since many are very sick.

Through research, meetings with professionals and partaking in some great music therapy events at Berklee College of Music, we got a chance to learn about clinical musical therapy and why it is so powerful. There are many studies that attribute music therapy to enhance the mood, quality of life, and in some cases, pain, in adults with cancer. We are trying to work out a happy medium between performing for the residents and having them partake in activities that will give them a temporary distraction from their pain. The research in musical therapy that we have done has been invaluable in planning our agenda for the fall.

What are we doing now?
This fall, we are focusing on planning programs that combine performing for and interacting with the residents. To start, we have been holding programs that mix performances with singalongs and writing activities that capture the residents’ experiences with music. We are also organizing a drum circle and recording a “CD of Hope,” filled with inspiring and hopeful songs. Hope Lodge guests will be able to take this CD home with them as a way to continue their journey towards healing.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates! We are really excited to see where the end of the year takes us!


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