How to play chamber music
One of my annual projects each summer is to teach at Grittleton Chamber Music Course. Participants are instrumental teachers or keen amateurs from this country and beyond, and some members have been coming back every summer for the past 30 years. It is always a great joy to see how many people love the chamber music repertoire, the act of music-making, and even the process of rehearsals.
While coaching in this course, it always gives me the opportunity to be reminded about the essence of chamber music. In coaching sessions, I try to imagine sitting in the middle of group, and I try to think how I can help to make it better. The process is similar to what we use for our own rehearsals. Here are some of my points for chamber music:
1. How to be together
-This refers to how to start together, how to end together and how to be together in the middle of the phrase, in each section and throughout the piece. It requires the decision of whoever is leading or cueing, and the cue needs to demonstrate the tempo and musical ideas precisely.
2. How to be in tune
-It is essential to play each part in tune as much as possible, but this intonation requires great listening and understanding of the harmony.
3. How to rehearse
-Firstly it requires an amicable attitude from all the players, and it requires a great manner in the way you suggest different ideas. It is also important not to be narrow-minded when accepting other ideas, and it's always good to try the idea before you state your opinions.
4. How to listen
-This is not easy to explain, and the only way to develop this skill is to keep trying. But using devices such as audio recording or taking video to get an outside perspective helps develop a good listening skill.
5. How to perform
-Performance is not just a reproduction of how you rehearsed. It has another dimension which is added by the live nature. Be in that time, and create it and experience it, and share with the audiences.
6. How not to make a mistake
-I want to know the secret! Well, we are only human and we all make mistakes. Practice hard, but if you make a mistake on the spot, never mind, come back as quickly as you can!
7. How to do great music making
-That is a life long endeavour. Always be humble, open minded, ready to be inspired, and keep making the effort.
These are some of my answers on how to play chamber music. It is not always straightforward sometimes. It is not easy a lot of the time, but it is always worth it definitely.
According to my colleague of VQ (not saying who...), Quartet is not for wimps!