I am extremely grateful to John Nicholls and JDCMF for enabling me to go to this year's senior
Arpeggione course. It was my first senior course, which meant the calibre of players was much higher than in previous courses I have been on. Because the standard was high, everyone could play the notes straightaway, so during chamber music practice our focus was specifically on making the music interlock and balance. This required listening and responding carefully. In the 2nd movement of the Brahms Quintet in G major, I played second viola, so my role in the group was mostly to provide support for the tune. For example, during the climax of the piece I had to balance my sound to that of the first viola, who had the higher melody, allowing the melody to
be clearly audible while not becoming inaudible myself. My central role in the piece was similar to the role of an accompanist in a duo. My second chamber piece was an arrangement of Weill's Kiddush for 10 players. The actual music was very easy to play; however, playing it well required everyone to listen and balance, just like in the Brahms. In the Weill my primary role was again to accompany the tune and also to provide a bassline with another player. In both pieces I had to make eye contact and breathe with the person I was working with most closely.
I feel that this week greatly improved my non-verbal communication skills as a chamber music player. However, most importantly, listening was the aspect of playing I most improved upon. Five days of chamber music allowed me to focus in detail on balancing dynamics, sound quality and expression. Thanks to Mr Nicholls and the JDCMF, I can be much more confident about those important elements of chamber music in the future.