Spectrum Goes From Live to Livestream

Well, this isn’t exactly the way we thought we were going to finish our 34th season of sharing outstanding chamber music performances with the Fort Worth community. But we are using this unexpected twist of events to try something very new and different.

For the first time ever, Spectrum Chamber Music Society is going livestream, in an event we’re calling,

SPECTRUM CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY PRESENTS:

“A SIX-FEET-APART CONCERT”

Programwise, this concert is pretty much like all our usual Spectrum concerts, but out of respect for the need for social distancing during this COVID-19 health crisis, this time there will be no in-house audience. Instead, we will be livestreaming on several platforms, which actually allows Spectrum to have a wider audience than ever before.

Also, as the title suggests, the musicians performing on this concert will be spaced at least six feet apart for safety purposes. This will present a unique challenge, because one of the greatest qualities of chamber music is its intimate nature, and the most obvious manifestation of that intimacy is in the physical proximity of the performers. In a way, this is a metaphor for the “new normal” we are experiencing as a society, where we are renegotiating what it is like to interact with strangers, colleagues, friends and loved ones. Art truly does reflect real life, doesn’t it?

Between the pieces, we will show previously-recorded Zoom interviews with the performers, in which they’ll tell us about the music they are playing.

In times of despair, confusion and uncertainty, such as the one we are living in right now, the arts are an escape from our troubles, as well as a way of expressing the emotions that result from them. It may be awhile before we all feel safe and comfortable getting together in person to watch a live concert, dance event or musical as a community, but for now, this is a way to join together to allow beautiful music to wash over us and transport us to a more peaceful and relaxing place. 

 

“Why Is There So Much Viola on Spectrum?”

…is what you might be asking yourself when you come to our concerts. “Sure, it’s a beautiful instrument,” you’re likely also telling yourself, “but there are so many other great instruments out there. Why is the viola so prominent?” These are all really good points, especially the one about the viola being a beautiful instrument. The reasons for the huge surplus of chamber music with viola go far beyond the fact that the director of the series is a violist (though it doesn’t hurt).

The viola has traditionally served an important but overlooked role in the orchestra. It provides some of the inner harmony in the music, which is an element you might not notice when you listen to a symphony, but would likely miss if it were gone. While violists may (generously) interpret this to mean we are the “heart” of the orchestra, spending most of our time pumping out the underlying lines that help keep the entire piece going, the truth is we sometimes get jealous of the first violins, who tend to get the really fun melodies more often. That’s why it’s always such a big deal when we actually do get singled out for a melody…or at least an interesting counter-melody. Seriously, it’s a topic of conversation violists have that first violinists don’t usually have—when was the last time you heard a first violinist look at orchestral music and say, “WOW, we have a big melody in this piece!”? Violists do that. Every time. No, really.

As for concert soloists, violists are thin on the ground, as are popular concertos for the instrument. Violinists have BRAHMS! BEETHOVEN! MENDELSSOHN! TCHAIKOVSKY! Cellists have DVORAK! ELGAR! TCHAIKOVSKY! Violists have…Bartok. Hindemith. Walton. Hindemith again. Sure, we also have MOZART! But we share his Sinfonia Concertante with the violin, so while it counts, it’s with an asterisk, at best. Harold in Italy is a great symphony by Hector Berlioz which includes a major viola solo line, but it sometimes get snickered at for the actual amount of solo viola in the piece—for God’s sake, the soloist just stands there for about 10 minutes midway through the last movement, waiting to play one more little line before the piece comes to a huge end without her. Unfortunately, the piece also suffers from being in the shadow of Berlioz’s much more popular work, Symphony Fantastique, which, as a crowd-pleaser, gets programmed way more often.

Where does that leave the poor violist, searching for an outlet to express herself, to be heard and—to use a phrase from the modern vernacular—to be SEEN. These days, the phrase, “to be seen” means more than just being visible—it’s the feeling of being noticed, acknowledged, even validated in a world where one might otherwise feel marginalized, dismissed and ignored.

And that is where chamber music comes in.

Chamber music is the preferred musical outlet of professional violists everywhere, and has been for as long as it’s been around. There is lots of great music out there (more on that another time), the viola parts are more exciting, we can actually be heard along with the other instruments, and we get to collaborate in a more intimate and meaningful way with our colleagues. Plus, even when we are relegated to accompaniment status, we still feel like we are noticed, seen.

Because of all these reasons, violists usually are the ones who jump at the chance to put an ensemble together and play on a chamber music series. Besides the standard string quartet, we put together all kinds of interesting combinations—and we especially like the ones where we don’t have to compete with violinists! Take a look at the repertoire list from the 33 years Spectrum has been in existence. Notice all the viola music? It’s not an accident. Violists are huge champions of chamber music, and it’s only mostly for selfish reasons.

Interview with Till MacIvor Meyn, Composer of “Flights of Fancy”

On October 1, 2019 (with an encore presentation on October 7), Spectrum Chamber Music Society will present the world premiere of Till MacIvor Meyn’s new string quartet, Flights of Fancy, which he composed specifically for our series. The piece will be performed by Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra violinists Michael Shih and Molly Baer, violist Dan Sigale, and cellist Keira Fullerton.

In preparation for the premiere, I sat down with the composer to talk about his piece, how coming up with a creative title affects the way he composes music, and what he gets out of working interactively with the musicians he writes for.

 

Dan Sigale: Tell us about your new piece, Flights of Fancy, that we’ll be premiering in October.

Till Meyn: First of all, I wanted to write it for somebody that I know, that’s important to me. I know you, and I know just about everybody else who’s going to be playing it, all orchestra members. I’ve got a really close connection with the Fort Worth Symphony now, and I really enjoy that relationship. I always love writing for people that I know, that kind of collaboration helps to bring a piece to life.

The way I designed this piece was that I wanted each person, each musician, to have a chance at solo material. And there are four of you, so there are four main sections of the piece. It’s actually kind of a newer thing for me, I’m starting to write pieces where I’m thinking in a very democratic way: How can I let everybody get a chance?

As a violist, I can appreciate that! You have called this piece “Flights of Fancy” instead of, say, “String Quartet.” This week, the Fort Worth Symphony is premiering a piece of yours called Remix. You didn’t write “Symphony No. 1” for your orchestral piece, instead you put a name on it. Tell me about the importance of coming up with a creative title instead of just labelling it what it is.

Sure, I don’t see anything wrong with calling something “sonata” or “rhapsody” or something like that. I might do that except it doesn’t feel unique. I think that a descriptive title for one thing distinguishes it from all the other sonatas that are out there. Another reason is that it provides something that’s not just music for the listener to hang on to, provided that they know what the title is.

Every listener will have his or her own experience, but I think that having that descriptive title can help to steer them in a certain direction so that they experience the piece in a certain way. For instance, with the title Flights of Fancy, it opens the listener up to thinking this piece will be different than “String Quartet No. 2”.

Do you come up with the title first, and then write a piece that reflects that title?

Yes, I have to come up with a title that I really think I can not just live with, but a title that I can embody in music. I do spend a good amount of time thinking about a good title, something that’s dynamic, something that is new and different that maybe hasn’t been used before. There are two things about a title: one is that I have to do it early because I’m asked to provide a title, but the other is that it actually helps me compose music in a certain way. 

If I said I’m just going to write this piece for string quartet and I’ll title it later, I think the music would come out differently. The title helps me keep it together in a certain format or certain spirit.

For many, many years I’ve had the idea that using descriptive titles really helps the piece evolve on its own. So in this case, Flights of Fancy, I decided that each section would be a flight. “Flights of fancy” means doing what you want to do or just going off on a tangent. This gave me license to write whatever I wanted to, resulting in each of these flights, each of these sections, featuring a different one of the string musicians.

Do you have a collaborative process with the musicians where you might hear something and think that the music works better a different way and go back to the drawing board? Or are you pretty much set in your ways when you finish writing a piece?

That’s an excellent question, because I’d like to think of myself as a good collaborator. I’m also a ‘Type A’ personality. When I write something I find myself feeling like I really don’t want to change it. Having said that, I really enjoy learning and finding out what works best. My hope is that with every piece I write, I’ll have the opportunity and rehearsal time to get together with the musicians and have them play something. Then, when someone says they’re having a little trouble with a passage, my first question is to ask if that’s because of something that I did? Did I write something that’s not idiomatic? My second question would be to ask how we can make this more playable.

To answer your question, I like having that moment in rehearsal where we can fix something. In a way, I would like that for every piece. I would like there to be the moment where we can make it better, but it’s different with every group. I don’t always have the opportunity to work with them in person if they’re somewhere else, but that’s something that I really enjoy.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about Flights of Fancy?

I will say this: I really enjoy collaborating with musicians. I find it so much better than just writing a piece ‘on spec’ and seeing if it’s going to get formed. A commission, or from somebody I know, is always the most exciting way to do it. Ideally, I would get together with a musician and test things out to see how I feel about it. From the very beginning with Flights of Fancy, I was thrilled that I was writing for people that I know, because I felt like I could do it honestly and better. I think that’s true for everything that I write. I want to be as connected to the musicians as I can because it makes me feel like I’m doing it right.

 

Till MacIvor Meyn’s string quartet, Flights of Fancy, will be premiered on Tuesday October 1, 2019 at 7:30pm in the main sanctuary at First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1959 Sandy Lane in east Fort Worth, with a special pre-concert conversation with the composer at 7:00pm. There will be an encore performance of the piece on Monday October 7, 2019 at 7:00pm in Leonard Memorial Chapel at the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, 800 W. 5th Street in downtown Fort Worth.

Welcome to Our 34th Season!

As Spectrum begins our 34th season of presenting incredible chamber music performances given by musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and friends, I have a number of exciting things to share with you!

The first thing is what you are looking at now: Our new and improved website. In addition to having a new, dynamic format, the site includes a “Director’s Notes” blog that features all the exciting things that are coming to Spectrum. Since we don’t usually finalize the program until a few weeks before each performance (find out why here), this is the place to find out what we’ve added as we add them. The blog will also feature interviews, program notes, concert follow-ups, and other musings. In other words, you’ll want to check back often. Thanks to Karl Thibodeaux from First Jefferson for taking on the roles of web designer and webmaster.

As mentioned above, we usually don’t plan our programs way in advance, but this year we are breaking the mold a bit by announcing two exciting performances that will bookend our season: The world premiere of Flights of Fancy, an exciting one-movement string quartet written by composer and friend of Spectrum, Till MacIvor Meyn, and a complete production of Igor Stravinsky’s iconic music-theater piece, L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). Putting these performances together requires more behind-the-scenes work than usual, but we are thrilled to go beyond the traditional Spectrum model to share these events with you.

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to welcome Victoria Paarup as the new Assistant Director of Spectrum. Tori recently joined the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra as Artistic Operations Coordinator, and she has already become a great asset for our series, as well. (You’ll find out more about her in a future blog entry.)

So here’s the thing: For an organization that’s old enough to begin having its own midlife crisis, it has been said that Spectrum is still one of the best kept secrets in Fort Worth. While our audience turnout has improved greatly over the past few years, we want to share our love for chamber music with as many people as possible. In fact, my goal by the end of the season is to DOUBLE the average audience size for each concert. We’ll do our part to make that happen, and we hope you’ll do yours. If you are a Spectrum fan, please spread the word about our series, and encourage your friends and family to sign up for our email list, so we can reach more of the community at large.

Looking forward to another exciting Spectrum season!!

Sincerely,
Dan Sigale
Director, Spectrum Chamber Music Society

2019-20 Season Dates Announced

Fall 2019

Featuring the World Premiere of
Till MacIvor Meyn’s
Flights of Fancy for String Quartet

Tuesday, October 1st, 7:30pm —Spectrum East

Monday, October 7th, 7:00pm—Spectrum Downtown

Winter 2020

Monday, February 10th, 7:30pm—Spectrum East

Monday, February 17th, 7:00pm—Spectrum Downtown

Spring 2020

Featuring the Spectrum Premiere of
Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale

Tuesday, May 11th, 7:30pm—Spectrum East

Monday, June 1, 7:00pm—Spectrum Downtown

Join us after each performance for a post-concert reception!

Season 33 Continues!

Spectrum Celebrates Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day season, and Spectrum Chamber Music Society is celebrating!

Our Spectrum Downtown concert will feature a program of duets (with a trio slipped in to shake things up), and end with a unique setting of the poetry of Lewis Carroll from his “Alice in Wonderland” books…performed by two tubas and narrator!

Then it’s a “Labor of Love” at our Spectrum East concert, as we follow Valentine’s Day with a performance of the passionate Piano Quintet in E minor by Romantic Austrian composer, Joseph Labor. (See what we did there?)

Bring someone you love to our concerts, and spread the word to all your chamber-music-loving friends!

Spectrum Downtown
Monday February 11, 2019 at 7:00pm

We’re Back in Leonard Memorial Chapel!
First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth
800 W. 5th Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102

Program

Rebecca Clarke—Prelude, Allegro, and Pastorale for Clarinet and Viola
Robert Schumann—Fairy Tales for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Op. 132
Reinhold Gliere/Frank Proto—Suite for Viola and Bass
Raymond Luedeke (text by Lewis Carroll)—Wonderland Duets for Two Tubas and Narrator

Free Admission (as part of FUMC’s “The Gift of Music” Series)
Free Post-Concert Reception

Spectrum East
Monday February 18, 2019 at 7:30pm

Main Sanctuary
First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church
1959 Sandy Lane, Fort Worth TX 76112

Program

Ludwig van Beethoven—Sonata No. 8 in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op.30, No. 3
Osvaldo Golijov—​Mariel for Cello and Marimba
​Josef Labor—Piano Quintet in E minor, Op. 3

Freewill Donations Accepted—Suggested Amount: $15 for Adults, $10 for Seniors and Students
Free Post-Concert Reception

Spectrum Chamber Music Society features great performances by musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and friends.