Florida Times Union

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Becoming President of Somewhere

By Tuba_Lady (Parenthetically Speaking) 

Have you ever found yourself in a room in the middle of something and wondered how you were so fortunate to be right there at that exact moment?  That happened to me on Sunday at a concert as part of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival.  I was sitting in a church waiting for the Dover String Quartet (formerly known as the Old City String Quartet) to begin playing selections of chamber music.  I was sure it was going to be a good performance (even if it didn’t have a tuba player in it) since the young adult musicians in the group (Bryan Lee, Joel Link, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and Camden Shaw) had won the Grand Prize and the Gold Award at the 2010 Fischoff National Chamber Music competition.  What I didn’t know is that it was going to be a great performance.  It was one of those performances that you remember forever (like seeing Baryshnikov dance, but different because although when I saw him dance he had a cellist playing during one of his dances, he didn’t have two violins and a viola, too).  The Dover String Quartet gave one of those performances that makes you glad for music. 

I don’t consider myself a musical expert (I’m much too forgiving of phrasing mistakes, interesting musical interpretations and questionable intonation), but I don’t consider myself a musical idiot either.  I have been to a lot of performances that might be considered sub-par by the experts, but they were very enjoyable for the audience; likewise, I have been to a lot of performances that were deemed excellent by the experts, and I was left to wonder if we had been at the same concert listening to the same group on the same night. 

Then, there’s the Dover String Quartet concert.  When they played their first note, I just about fell out of my seat.  To put it mildly, they were redonkulous.  The patron seated next to me, mouthed the word “Wow!” before the group had finished playing their first phrase.   Their performance made me wonder why they were where they were giving a concert for this particular audience (made up of people who would consider using the ‘word’ redonkulous to describe a chamber music group).  Why weren’t they busy playing for a pope or a queen or a president somewhere?  I’m serious.  Why would the Dover String Quartet play for an audience of people like me?  (Of course, people like me would be nuclear engineer tuba players who don’t practice – granted I don’t think the entire audience was made up of people like me, but I did see some fantastic musicians, like Betsy Federman and Melissa Barrett from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra; I don’t know if they are nuclear engineers, but I’ve heard them play and I can pretty much assure you that a) they are not tuba players and b) they do practice.)

I can only surmise that the Dover String Quartet plays for audiences full of people like me because people like me appreciate great music (if you can think of another reason, let me know; I’ve never been very good at surmising things – I’m much too wordy for that).  I won’t comment on how accurately the quartet interpreted the selections they played and I won’t comment on how precise their phrasing and intonation were (mostly because I blew my musical street cred by using the word ‘redonkulous’ above), but there was just nothing that wasn’t enjoyable about the performance.  It didn’t sound tired or over-rehearsed, but it didn’t sound under-rehearsed either.  The only fidgeting that occurred during the entire performance was when the audience had to restrain themselves from clapping between movements (the patrons sitting in the row in front of me were unable to restrain themselves after the first movement of the first selection – the rest of the audience was envious of their lack of decorum).  It was hard not to want to clap continuously and I’ve been to maybe one other performance in my life that made me sincerely want to do that.  It would have been a crime for the quartet to play a single note and have the rest of their performance drowned out by the audience’s incessant clapping, though.

The only thing wrong with their performance is that it eventually ended.  There wasn’t an encore (and several of us were wishing for a three encore minimum).   The audience was left with the desire to travel around the country for the chance to hear the group play again (or the audience was left with the desire to become popes or queens or presidents of somewhere and have the group play at their installation ceremonies.  The concert would have been the perfect place for someone to sell a book like “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Becoming a President of Somewhere So You Can Have Your Own Chamber Music Group Play at Your Inauguration Ceremony”.)  If you didn’t get a chance to hear the Dover String Quartet play, then it’s not too late.  They are playing in Connecticut in August; someone from Sunday’s audience could probably give you a ride.  (If you hurry, you might have just enough time to become the president of Connecticut and you could hire them as your inauguration band while they are in the area.)  Otherwise, you might want to check them out on this thing called youtube.  It’s redonkulous!