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  • Writer's pictureLydia Rhea

The beauty and benefits of chamber music!

StringTime Violin Teacher Emera Kandybin and myself (cello) performing Beethoven with our quartet

Learning to play a musical instrument has many benefits: it encourages creativity, teaches coordination skills, trains the brain to concentrate better and for longer periods of time, and gives students a sense of purpose and achievement. However, when I think of what being a musician has given me in my life, my first thoughts are of deep friendship, joy, companionship, camaraderie and teamwork - feelings I’ve experienced both in my relationship with my instrument, and with colleagues turned lifelong friends.

One of the great joys of being a musician is chamber music: playing in small ensembles of generally 2-10 players, all on separate parts, without a conductor. I love this aspect of music-making because while it gives each player a sense of autonomy, it is also incredibly important that all of the musicians are working towards the same goal. In playing chamber music, we learn when and how to follow and lead, how to make room for other voices to be heard, and especially how to listen. We learn how to work together towards a common goal, and how we might all have to take on different roles to make that happen. 

At its core, good music-making is good storytelling, and with chamber music you get to have active partners in that story. One of my favorite comments to hear from an audience member is, “Wow, I could really tell how much you were all looking at each other onstage!” While looking at the other players is oftentimes a practical tactic, it is also a sign between players that says, “I’m listening to you! How are we going to tell this story today?”

StringTime Violin Teacher Emera Kandybin and myself (cello) performing folk songs with our quartet

With string instruments, each of the instruments gets to take on a different role in the texture. Violins are often the singing soprano line, with flashy passages and piercing melodies. Violas take on the alto role, fleshing out harmonies and oftentimes having a part that creates the most texture and nuance in a piece. Cello is the tenor, bass, and baritone, all wrapped into one. It gives support and warmth to the group, and I like to think of it as the engine that drives the rest of the group. With guitar, some of my favorite pieces to listen to are songs for guitar and voice because I love the difference in timbre (musical sound!) between the two instruments and how the guitar can switch between a solo and accompanimental instrument so naturally. 

If you are searching for some examples of chamber music, here are some of my favorite pieces:

Brahms F minor Piano Quartet (for two violins, viola, cello, and piano)

Suite Populaire Espagnole (for guitar and voice, or piano and cello)

Mendelssohn F minor String Quartet

Debussy String Quartet

It is never too early to start sharing your music with others! I can't wait to work with all of the StringTime students in just a few weeks.

With joy,

Lydia Rhea and the StringTime Family

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