Monday, December 13, 2021

concert review: Campbell String Ensemble

B. and I took an odd little outing this afternoon. Some of the other string players she's encountered in TACO also belong to a 25-member group called the Campbell String Ensemble, which takes the form of an adult education class at a local high school near to, but not in, the town of Campbell. Their final class of the term is given as a public concert, though they don't advertise this well, and B. had to make several enquiries to confirm it.

But to the school's not-overlarge auditorium we ventured this afternoon to find a printed program sheet, the houselights going down when the rehearsal ended, and introductions to each piece spoken by orchestra members not one of whom had any idea how to hold a microphone correctly and were consequently mostly inaudible.

For a totally amateur group, they had impressively good intonation, always within hailing distance of where it should be, but ensemble and rhythm could use work, despite the textbook-clear time-beating of the conductor, Anne Spector. The fugal texture in their rendition of the finale of Brandenburg Four was irresistibly reminiscent of a cat with a ball of yarn. Corelli's Christmas Concerto - the whole thing, though its extreme tempo contrasts were beaten into submission - went rather better.

The best performances were of a couple of pieces based on American folk fiddling, one of them by Jay Ungar. Also on the program were Shostakovich's Waltz No. 2, a favorite of mine; one seasonal carol (The Holly and the Ivy); and the obligatory annoyingly ecumenical entry of a medley of Hanukkah songs. I only knew one of the three and that not well. Well, the concert as a whole was enjoyable and I'm glad we went.

It being pressing towards dinnertime by the ending, we detoured on the way home to pick up take-out Chinese, cautiously proceeding through the dark and the rain which has made a reappearance locally this week. It's been quite a while since I've driven through both dark and rain at once. I do wish that "fake it till you make it" (or "till you see it") were not so necessary regarding lane markings in these conditions.

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