For April vacation, Heath and I took our annual sojourn out to the San Francisco Bay Area for a week of chamber music with our friends Cynthia Freivogel and Deborah Price, forming a quartet known as “The Marlow Sound.” The trip out was great! We flew from Boston direct to San Jose on Jetblue, that wonderful airline with DirectTV for every seat! “Cops” is no more edifying at 30,000 feet than it is on ground level, but it did help the time to pass. Apparently, the weather in the Bay Area had been rainy for about forty straight days, but as we descended into San Jose, a rainbow arced across the sky and we ended up having beautiful weather all week!
Once at the airport, it was time to rent the car. Our options were the Kia Rio, the Dodge Neon, or for a few more bucks a day, the coveted Chrysler PT Cruiser. Heath jumped for the PT Cruiser like Fat Albert going for a package of Ding-Dongs and it was ours for the week. I was a bit wary, but by the end of the week, the car had grown on me.
Aided by the three-hour time difference, Heath and I got a jump on the next day with an early morning jog up this big hill in Point Richmond (a tiny little hamlet about twenty minutes outside of San Francisco) which overlooks the Bay. It was stunning! You could see San Francisco on one side and Oakland on the other, plus there was a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The general flow of the first few days was: jog, eat, rehearse, eat, rehearse, eat, watch Ali G, go to bed. The rehearsals went quite well and we were able to put together a nice little program of four of the Dvorak “Cypresses,” Turina’s “Prayer of the Bullfighter” and the Ravel Quartet. Heath had set up three concerts for us over the weekend: a house concert in Mill Valley, a yoga studio concert in Oakland and another house concert in Oakland.
The concerts went well, but perhaps the most enjoyable part was that after we finished playing, we opened the floor for discussion with our audience members. There was a real dialogue about the pieces, the use of gut strings, Dvorak’s time in America, why viola jokes exist, why we chose the program we did, and how we all met, among other topics. It was simply friends talking about music, and it was fascinating, with many members of the audience sharing anecdotes about the composers, their concert experiences, or studying music as kids. Not to get back up on my soapbox, but I have a feeling if all concerts had a little Q & A session with the performers, the industry would be in much better shape than it is. But, that is a topic for another blog posting…
We ran into several friends during the week. The wonderful Chiara Quartet from Nebraska was giving a concert in Mill Valley on Sunday, so they came to our yoga studio performance on Saturday night. We even ran into Matt Haimovitz [see February blog entry] at Amoeba Music in downtown San Francisco. He was playing a concert with the St. Lawrence Quartet [see earlier April blog entry]. It is a small world.
Alas, all good chamber music weeks out in the Bay Area must come to and end, and after attending an incredible Hot Club concert in Berkeley with our old buddy Evan Price of the Turtle Island String Quartet playing fiddle (that guy is a genius), Heath and I drove the Cruiser back to San Jose and took the redeye back to Boston for Monday's staff meeting, PSQ rehearsal, and Youth Salon preparations. In the words of the governor of that great state, "I'll be back."
-Jesse Holstein, Providence String Quartet