01 May 2017

El sistema

I'm blackly amused by the Lonely Planet website saying that "Venezuela ... has a terrible image problem at the moment" given that we are hearing daily news of poverty and food queues and crime. It's good to have an encounter that gives some positive views. This was one. The Simon Bolivar String Quartet gave a Q&A and masterclass session for CIMF2017. First up, the Q&A. Only one member easily spoke English (I guess few of us easily spoke Spanish) and he gave most answers despite a translator from the Embassy. The main theme was on "El sistema" for music education in the Bolivarian republic. This is big! It started in 1973 and has trained 900,000 kids (or was it 900,00 in the current program? it seems a lots for a population of 27m), and it's not just a music program, but seen as promoting social inclusion and for imbuing values: the goal is achievement, the means is harmony and commitment. "El sistema" provides instruments, teachers, daily group practice, for kids from the youngest ages, with influence of Russian and Belgian music education. The SBSQ, a Deustche Grammophon artist, is one outcome.

Then the workshopping. First up, a younger (~age 14) string trio (violin, viola, cello) playing Schubert. Schubert was primarily a song-writer, so think of voice, breathe together and breathe the music, phrase to assist melody, play contrasts in dynamics, hold tension on long notes, match colours as nature does, wide, open vibrato. Then an older (two Year 12 and the tutor) trio (clarinet, piano, cello) playing Brahms. Think as sentences ("where's the verb?"), tension and dynamics, play the long notes, play ideas (this is Brahms) and understand who's leading at any time, a composer never writes the same thing to be played the same (play repetition with changes, louder, softer, etc). Everyone learns from a masterclass, not just those playing. I noticed links to guidance from Bianca for our Baroque performance, around phrasing, dynamics, highlights, recognising the important notes and making them notes work. Worthwhile.

The Simon Bolivar String Quartet comprises Alejandro Carreno and Boris Suarez (violins), Ismel Campos (viola) and Aimon Mata (cello). They gave a Q&A session and masterclass at Ainslie Arts Centre for CIMF 2017.

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