Category Archives: Music

Thursday Doors: HP Garage

I play chamber music with a couple of different groups. One of them, whom I met through my daughter’s viola teacher last year, meets in one or the other of two nice historic houses in Palo Alto (either the violist’s or the cellist’s place). Google Maps informed me that this area of Palo Alto is also known as “Professorville,” and indeed both of them and/or their spouses have some connection to Stanford.  Continue reading Thursday Doors: HP Garage

It’s All about Presence: A Conversation with Val Vigoda

I published this interview with rock violinist and singer/songwriter Val Vigoda 1 year ago. This past weekend her show, “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me,” opened Off-Broadway at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit ernestshackletonlovesme.com. In the interview, Val talks in detail about how the show was conceived and created. Read it on violinist.com, below.

A Thousand Finds

Valerie_Brendan_0136Val Vigoda is an electric violinist, singer/songwriter, and founder of the musical trio GrooveLily. She has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper, Joe Jackson and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Val has also co-written, with Brendan Milburn, songs for Disney’s Tinker Bell movies as well as the score for the stage musicals Striking 12, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, Toy Story: The Musical, and many others, including Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, starring Val as Kat, a contemporary composer and single mom who meets and falls in love with the time-traveling explorer.

Val and I went to Princeton University together. We traveled in different circles then: I played the violin for two years in the University Orchestra, she was exploring the potential of the instrument when combined with singing in a rock band. After graduation I followed Val’s career over the years, reconnecting through her kickstarter campaign for her one-woman show, “Just…

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Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

The Winter Knife (Minnesota Strange Book 1)The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good YA literature will stay with me long after I am finished with it, even as an adult. I would have been in the prime target audience for this book when I was a teenager, and I would have devoured it (pun intended). The story was a pleasant surprise on several levels. First, the author has a real gift for character and voice, especially with young teens. She manages to tell a fantastical story without talking down or condescending to her audience, while at the same time not going to any of the despairing, hopeless, or crazy places I feared she might be heading with the supernatural element.  Continue reading Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

I was going to post this review a couple weeks earlier, but the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, delayed my finishing it. Leia was barely in this installment, and much of the initial discussion of her cameo focused on the CGI. But even though I haven’t been a real Star Wars geek for many years, Fisher’s death hit me hard. Continue reading Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

Mundane Monday: The Moldau

Orchestra rehearsals are starting up again in a little over a week. For this concert cycle, I will be playing two pieces I’ve played before, on violin: Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and Smetana’s Ma Vlast, or The Moldau. But this time I’ll be playing them on the viola.

Continue reading Mundane Monday: The Moldau

Book Review: Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles

Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book would make a wonderful gift for your violin teacher or orchestra stand partner. It’s like a box of fine chocolates: varied, rich, each one delicious in its own way. The author is a thoughtful interviewer who seems to be able to relate well to the famous violinists she talks to and to get them to open up to her about a myriad of topics. Her subjects are all violinists at the top of their game, and the author deserves kudos for choosing a diverse group of interviewees in terms of musical interests, age, gender, and background. Each interview is reasonably short, too, so it’s easy to dip in and out.

Continue reading Book Review: Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1 by Laurie Niles

For Schubert

When I was in high school orchestra, we played and performed the first movement of Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. Like other orchestral pieces I played in high school, I remember it (or at least, I remember the 2nd violin part) decently well, many years and two long breaks from the violin later.

Continue reading For Schubert

Mundane Monday: Backstage

On Saturday night, I played the viola in a concert called Holiday Magic with the Nova Vista Symphony and the Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose.  The performance, of holiday music both religious and secular was in a large domed church sanctuary.

The orchestra and choir assembled in the center, and behind us was a large cross and semi-transparent curtain blocking the view of the backstage area from the audience. Just before we went onstage, I took this picture, which looks a little like the snow we don’t get in the SF Bay area, and captured the mystery and wonder of the music we were about to experience.

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For the Mundane Monday challenge #87: find beauty in everyday mundane things and frame it beautifully and upload the photographs.

Mundane Monday: Avoid the page turn

I am going to be playing the violin in church with a soprano and a pianist next month. The piece is Bach/Gounod Ave Maria. The music may be sublime, but in the score, there are extra parts I don’t need, and the page turns are in really bad places. Continue reading Mundane Monday: Avoid the page turn

The Fiji Quartet

Back in 2006 when my kids were relatively small, I joined a website called violinist.com. My daughter, then 7 years old, was struggling to learn Suzuki violin from a teacher she didn’t get along with. I wasn’t playing at all at the time, but I was interested in helping my daughter. I had no idea back then what my little internet search for German folk songs was going to lead to. It introduced me to blogging. And blogging eventually brought me back to playing the violin myself, and the viola.

Continue reading The Fiji Quartet