Welcome to the official blog of the Highstrung String Quartet!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

3 down!


Just a quick update: We've just finished a whirl-wind set of performances. We're staying at our grandparents house. They hosted a living room concert for a very cordial group of our friends and family. We also played a concert set at Bellewood. The residence there were welcoming and encouraging (It's always a joy to play for those who really love to listen). Tonight, we played our first full concert in Hobart (about an hour and a half of music). Everyone there seemed to enjoy the program a lot. Tomorrow, we leave for one more concert in Silverdale. Photos and video are coming soon. Stay tuned!

-David of the quartet

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Living Room Concert........

[NOTE: As a way to prepare for our concerts, we host preview concerts in our living room for our friends and family. That intimate setting is one of my favorite ways to perform chamber music. Below is Justin's account of our first livingroom concert. It should be mentioned that the views expressed below are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this violists nor the other members of quartet. -David]

There I sat on my bench poised to begin. I looked at Eric. His eyes locked into mine. He gave the motion to begin and we set off on Beethoven's Op. 18 No. 4 First movement. It sounded pretty bad too. I found myself near the end of the first page and then from the corner of my eye saw that our guests had arrived. Thankful this was only a warm-up and not the performance, we stopped, stood up, stretched, and said hello to our wonderful (and brave) friends, the David Cools family and a couple of the Winslow girls.

After talking for about 10-15 minutes we decided to begin the evenings festivities. We opened with two simple Christmas songs and then moved into a more exciting number from our Christmas pops album. We all thought it would be nice to talk in between songs just because it is more friendly, and because Eric always needs a break. So David slouched, turned in his chair in order to see the audience and started sharing something about how simple songs are hard and hard songs are easy or something like that while the rest of us got out the next piece of music. When David finished rambling we could get on to the David Martin String Quartet. The guys decided to do all three movements and so I was ready for a nice stretch of beauiful music. (I love this string quartet immensely). After Josh demolished the intro and Eric butchered a couple of parts in the middle, (including skipping an entire measure), we painfully came to the end of the first movement. For the second movement we were out to kill. The composer's work that is, not the audience. Eric and I began our unison part out of tune, then David joined, also out of tune. [Editors note: please see the above disclaimer] The third movement went well and ended with the approving applause of our audience. Yes, surprisingly they did like it.This says more about the composer than the musicians. Our audience felt honored to be the first to hear this wonderful piece of music and it was great fun for us to see that they liked it too.

Eric then led us down the path of Haydn's Op. 74 No. 3 (4th and 2nd movements). These movements went relatively smoothly. Each of us making small mistakes here and there but it seemed musical and over all passable. They all clapped and we laughed about how tiring Haydn's adagios movements can be. Which is true. Especially for the two who fell asleep.

When planning this concert we wanted to do the First Noel arrangement that we've never quite mastered. My part looks like those ridiculous parts labled “Violin 1” on the upper left corner of the music. And when it came down to the time we were supposed to play it, the others thought better of embarrassing ourselves more than we already had and skipped it.

With this we moved into the Beethoven movement 1. The one we never got all the way through the entire day of rehearals. (Or on any previous day, for that matter.) But we took the bull by the horns and plowed through. Actually, it wasn't all that bad considering the limited practice we have had with it. I enjoyed seeing the audience jump when we began this vivacious piece of and they seemed to be connected with us to all the way through. With this our little night together ended.

All in all these living concerts are the most fun in my opinion. Not only because I am with friends, but also because I think we all prefer the intimacy of the living room over a big performance space. We enjoy the warmth of the Christmas tree, and great friends comforabably seated on couches and chairs and even the floor and to get to share the music we have worked so hard to learn with those who are eager to share it with us. It is very comfortable and enjoyable. Not only that but Eric can have his breaks........

- The second violinist

Friday, December 19, 2008

Concert with the Whispering Roses RESCHEDULED

After much deliberation and dozen or so phone calls, we have decided to cancel the concert for tomorrow afternoon due to the pending ice storm. This performance is tentatively rescheduled for January 2nd, 2009 at 1pm. We’ll confirm that date and time as soon as we can. Thank you all so much for your patience and we hope to see you all in January.

David for the Quartet

Monday, December 15, 2008

David Martin Concert Postponed

Just a quick update: the David Martin "A Winter Concert" has been postponed until further notice. We're really disappointed, but grateful to have the extra rehearsal time :-). When a new time and date has been decided, we'll let you all know. Thank you for your support!

Eric, for the Quartet

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Concert Reminder

Just a quick reminder: on Tuesday, December 16th at 7p.m. is the premier of David Martin's first string quartet. We will also be preforming "Love" a song for two sopranos, one of which will be our sister Michelle. The text for this song comes from 1 Corinthians 13. This will be a really great concert of David Martin's music that we're sure you'll enjoy. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Highstrung in Print (II)

Eric was handed a clipping from The Dalles Chronicle. There we are on page A2:

The article is about the Columbia Gorge Sinfonietta. We played with them over the weekend and had a great time. Ruth Hall and Music Director Mark Steighner have always been encouraging and accommodating. This concert, Highstrung was featured as guest artists. We played the fourth and second movements of the Haydn as well as an arrangement of “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and a jazz rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Every audience loves the jazz tunes. It was great to hear their response.

Performance Tip #15

Never drink a Venti anything right before the concert.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meet the Coaches

The quartet is working with two coaches for this concert set: David Martin and Cindy Petty

Composer David Martin whose quartet we will premiere on the 16th. One of the joys of working with David is that he knows exactly what he wants to hear and he’s able to communicate those ideas. This is essential when playing new music. At first, we were having a hard time learning his piece, not because it was incredibly difficult, but because we’d never played anything by Martin! If you hand us a Haydn, Beethoven, or Shostakovich we would instinctively understand the style. Not so much with Martin. We didn't know his style until after our coaching with him. His music is a great blend of Bach's mathematical style and Prokofiev's lyricism (if you can get your head around that idea). We’re really looking forward to the performance.

Cindy Petty is our music mom. Cindy is the person who got Highstrung started about 8 years ago and for that we are so grateful! We are working with her on the Haydn, Borodin, and Beethoven. She is a fantastic coach who gives us quite a workout. I remember back when we first started to work with Cindy, our coachings were at the ungodly hour of 6a.m. She would work with us until around 7:45 then we would go home completely spent from our exertions. That same night we would work with Cindy at youth orchestra from 6-9 p.m. and she would have the same amount of energy and passion that she had had that morning! She’s amazing. Beyond that, she is also a remarkable chamber music coach. Her knowledge and experience helps us portray the character of the music and not merely play the notes (although she's pretty good at making us learn the notes too. =)

Here is about a minute of video caught from our “Coach's Cam” during a few of our sessions.

I know a lot of you are upset right now because you didn't hear us really play anything or you didn't feel it was long enough! Well, I feel terrible about that! Sorry! I guess you'll just have to come to a concert.

- The Cellist

Friday, December 5, 2008

Highstrung in Print

Cindy Petty came over for our Friday coaching (more on this later) and brought a copy of the Newport News-Times Community Section . Our ugly mugs were featured on page B1 from
when we played for the Aquarium’s fundraiser event

But what struck me was the photo. I look like violist-extraordinaire Michael Tree It’s kind of creepy.

Now, if only I could play like Michael Tree.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Poster Update

Yesterday, Josh called me from the printer's saying the time on the posters was wrong. "It's suppose to be 3:00pm not 7:00pm." Oops. My bad. So below is a link to updated posters.

Click here to visit our "Performances" page

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Evolution of a Concert Poster

Our lives are inundated with advertising. Very few people realize how much thought goes into making them --until they see a bad one. This is a post to show you how we go from awful to presentable.

I started out with a two color idea using a landscape page. the foreground text would be emphasized by the picture in the background and the brown border would match the theme we had on our website and blog. After setting up the layout, I sent the poster to Eric so he could add the concert information. Here is our first draft:

I hated it. In a frantic rescue attempt, I brought the background into focus and moved the “In Concert” so it had a little something more than all caps. The brown border went to black and a foreground picture of us added a softer color. The result:

After these adjustments, I slumped over my keyboard and thought this might be the worst poster ever. The main problem is that it looks like the content was shaken up and spilled onto the page. There’s far too much white space, the website (justified center) looks goofy and there is an ugly white box around the logo that clashes with the grey background. The blue picture…well let’s just say it doesn’t fit. At the end of the day, it looks like John Cage went into advertising.

So, back to the drawing board. The page went portrait the background image became the foreground image and the content went to the bottom of the page where our logo and website rested more professionally.

Much better. I showed it to Josh who said he’d also like a color version:

Now we’ll just replace the concert information on each poster so it is event-specific and send it to our concert organizers.

So the poster is done! That’s a big check on our to-do list. Feel free to pass these posters (the last two) onto your friends and family. You can download the .PDF versions at our website. We’d love to see you there!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Our Snazzy New Site


Welcome to our new look! We changed the template to match our website. We also added "e-mail this post" and RSS options. Let us know what you think!

-David the Violist

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Photo Shoot

On Monday morning we went on a quartet photo shoot with our fabulous photographer, Jocelyn Edlin. This is a huge item off the check-off-list for us! We have been needing updated pictures for the website as well as for our posters and flyers for the upcoming tour. Now we have them!

Jocelyn came over to our house at 11 a.m. and we talked about what kind of looks we were wanting for the pictures. After going back and forth for a little while we decided to go down to the water front by OMSI. Jocelyn said she had some cool ideas for us down there. This was a gross understatement. The pictures she took are beyond cool! They are fantastic! (I know I'm not a photographer, but I think these are definitely pieces of art. And I'm not just saying that because I'm in most of them either!)

That pile of rocks has never been that good-looking before this picture was taken.

How cool is that?

We decided that pictures on the railroad tracks would be sweet. So we walked over there, and took some, all the while joking about how trains never come down this particular set of tracks. Then, Jocelyn got this idea for some pictures in front of a building next to the tracks. So we're setting up the shots and we hear a train coming. David says, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a picture of us with the train in the background?" This is what we got:

This is David proving that he too is a "Ninja Violist"!

What a cool picture of the Burnside bridge! =)

All in all, a successful photo shoot. Now to make the fliers and programs. We will prayerfully have those done by the end of the week. I would like to give a big thank you to Jocelyn for her fantastic work for the quartet and also say that of you are looking for a photographer you should check out her website: http://www.jocelynelise.com/jocelyn.elise/home.html

More concert announcements coming soon! - The Cellist

Friday, November 14, 2008

Concert Announcement!!

Here is the first concert announcement of the season! The Highstrung String Quartet will be performing the premiere of David Martin's String Quartet No. 1 on December 16th. David Martin is a fabulous local composer who we have known for many years. This concert will feature pieces and songs for piano, voice, and string quartet all written by David Martin. I have attached the flyer below with all the information you will need. This is going to be a great concert! (it just must be if we are preforming on it, right?!?) We hope to see you there!

If you wish to read the flyer just click on it. =)

We have more concert announcements coming very soon!

Have any questions? Let me know! - The Cellist

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Step 3: Learning the music

Now we come to the hardest part of our journey. Learning the music. It is easy to pick out great music, buy the music, photocopy the music, and put it all in a notebook. It is a whole other ball game to learn that music.

We first start by just sitting down and reading the music through. This way we ll get an idea of which areas in our own parts need work and which parts are going to need to be practiced with the whole group.

When I use the word “learn” I don't simply mean know all the notes. The notes are the easy part! What I mean is to understand the story or spirit of the piece which we are trying to convey to you our audience. This is called the “musical interpretation” of the piece and it takes a lot of careful study and hard work. This part of the learning experience is constant and continues even as we preform in front of you. I'm sure We will be talking more about this part of learn in later posts.

Besides notes and interpretation there is articulation. That is, how each note is to sound. We spend many hours discussing and trying new articulation sounds. This is mostly fun and easy-ish but can become tedious quickly if you have to get your violist to match you or really anyone or anything.

There is so much more to share about the learning process but I want to save some stuff for later posts. This is just the beginning of a very long journey for the quartet. We will be posting stories and videos of our progress so you can follow along.

Below is a video of our second read through of the fourth movement to Haydn's String quartet Op. 74 No. 3. Everything within me screams not to post this because it is......well, it's just awful. And I'm not just talking about how we look! We sound bad too! And the online video quality isn't that good either! However, I really want you to be able to see the progress or at least pretend that we get better with time. =)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Step two: The paper part

Some quartets go out and purchase the music they are going to preform and use the originals for their performance. Personally, I think that is the most crazy idea I have ever heard! For one, I have never met a second violinist who could keep track of their parts for longer then a month... but even more basic then that is that using the originals seems to just beg for drama on concert week. “Hey guys........have any of you seen my Haydn part?” Those are the worst words to hear the week of the concert! Add to these facts another, we have found that there is always at least one terrible page turn in the original. Most of the time you will have two beats to turn the page and once you've turned the page you have to play a solo! How dumb is that? It is because of these facts that most quartets photocopy the originals and then but the photocopies into a black three-ring-binder called a “performance notebook” (while at the same time locking the originals in a vault.) It goes down like this:

First, a responsible member of the quartet takes the originals to Office Depot and breaks the law by illegally photocopying them. Secondly, This person brings the copies home and turns them over to the other members so that they can but them into their own performance notebooks. Finally, it takes about five or six weeks for the two procrastinators (they would argue that they are the “busy” members) to get their copies organized into a notebook.

What really irks me is that one part ALWAYS gets lost somewhere in this process. This time it seems to be the second violin part to the Borodin that has decided it wasn't getting payed enough to put up with Justin's terrible hand writing. It truly boggles my mind. We photocopied the originals. I gave Justin his copy while I put the original in the file. Then Justin says he can't find his Borodin part. Figures. So I go to grab the original.....it's gone. Poof! This happens with someones part every time. Although I have noticed through the years that is seems to be always be one of the middle voices. Have no fear, it will show up at some point.....usually delivered from Sheet Music Plus by FedEx.

- The responsible member

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We love our job!

We just returned from Newport, where we were paid to play for at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The Aquarium was having a party to raise money for the center. The coolest part of all though, was that they paid for one night in a hotel.

The quartet drove down on Saturday(okay, not all four of us drove, just Josh), checked into the hotel, and got everything unloaded. Josh, Justin and I (Eric, yes, I'm posting), hit the pool. I had not been swimming in a while, so it was fun to brush up on my old swim team skills. I realized that I had a lot of brushing up to do. But Josh, being our cellist, is a genius. His recommendation? A dip in the hot tub. To put this in context, we were hired to play three hours of background music. Ouch. The fact is, that even with breaks, it is a very tiring experience. So we sat in the hot tub, allowing our muscles to relax, and sang(tried to sing) the Borodin string quartet we’re working on. That was fun. We showered up, and "hit the gig" as I say.

The event itself was pretty cool. Lots of silent auction items, different food to taste, etc. We got setup and were able to walk the aquarium for a little while. But then the staff decided to open the doors early, so we started playing. It was really amazing seeing all of these people coming to support one of the most amazing places in the city of Newport. The crazy thing was when they asked us to move outside. My initial reaction was: outside + Newport = saltwater in the air = not good for the instruments. But, we walked out there to check, and it wasn’t that bad. The light was fading anyway, so we wouldn’t be there for long. You have to see it to believe it so here:

After the gig was over, we remembered that one of our amazing quartet coaches, Cindy Petty, was playing with the Newport Symphony that night. Coincidentally, we were driving by the performing arts center, and stopped in. As usual, she was the last person leaving, and we were able to see her for a few minutes. It was a moment I'll remember forever. All of us, standing outside the PAC of Newport just talking at 9:45pm. It was neat. We managed to find some food, and got back to the hotel room.

It was the first time I had slept in on Sunday in a long time. We usually leave around 8:00 to help get church setup. I slept until about 9:00. The truly refreshing thing was waking up to the ocean outside the window. Today was all fun and games, but more importantly, an opportunity to see another aspect of God's amazing creation.

We packed everything up and headed for Lincoln City. We spent the day in the various shops and on the beach. We went out to dinner, and enjoyed some local clam chowder. Best stuff ever.
We headed for home, and had an awesome time.

I guess the gist of this is to say that when you get paid to take two days vacation do the beach, all you can say is, "I LOVE my job."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Step one: Selecting music

This step takes a lot of time and thinking which is why for our quartet I'm the one in charge of the process. This is for two reasons. First, I'm the only one not “in” school right now so I'm technically the one with more time to do it. So in my free time when I'm not practicing, teaching, doing math, studying history, learning music theory, prepping for apologetics class, or subbing for the Vancouver Symphony, I work on keeping the quartet moving along this road of preparation. The second reason is, of course, because this step requires thinking and as the cellist I'm the only one of the quartet capable of handling that task.

So how does it work? First I compiled a list of suggestions from anyone and everyone. Mainly the suggestions were from David and myself but I didlisten and write down the one suggestion from my violinists. After I had this preliminary list I began to listen to recordings. For about three weeks I listened to recordings and studied scores so that I was familiar with all the ideas. During these weeks I must have listened to all of Beethoven's Op. 18 quartets a hundred times not to mention all of Haydn's Op. 74, 75 & 76 as well as a bazillion other quartets. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of this part! I had so much fun getting to know the different quartets and their characters! As the weeks went by, I began to narrow down the list to what I considered to be the best for our quartet. I had it down to the eight finalists and I was ready for the final push.

This final push is called programing. This is tricky and I have come to realize how hard this part of the process is over the last year. Programing involves figuring out the answers to these questions: What pieces would work best together? Are we good enough to play this? What order should they be preformed? Will I have to pay my second violinist more because he might have to practice? How long will this concert be? Is the first half to long? Will my violist fall asleep during this performance? Is the second half to long? Will my first violinist be dead by the end of the first half? All of these questions must be considered before deciding which of the eight pieces will be played on our concert. As you can imagine I needed some time to think and a place where people would leave me alone long enough to find the answers so I packed up my gear. When I had a break in my teaching schedule, I went to the local Burgerville. (what can I say......the Mocha Perk gives me inspiration!)

I sat down with our scores and recordings and went to work. It took about two hours of listening and watching to come up with the “perfect” program for us. So here it is......The next concert by the Highstrung String Quartet will feature (assuming we all live through the rest of the process):

Haydn Op. 74 No. 3 (unfortunately nicknamed the “Rider”)

Borodin quartet No. 2 (absolutely gorgeous!)

Intermission (no this is not a piece....it is a break in the programing for you to use the facilities)

David Martin's String Quartet (This will be a premiere! We have read through this piece and Mr. Martin has graciously allowed us the privilege of being the first string quartet to ever preform his composition! Thank you so much David Martin!)

Beethoven Op. 18 No. 4 (this quartet rocks my socks.)

(Some people claim that this great program is the result of caffeine haze brought on by a Mocha Perk......)

There you have it! Step one is done! If you have any questions send me an e-mail.

Joshua “The Brain” Knopp for all of the Highstrung String Quartet

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let the fun begin!

Have you ever been sitting there listening to a fantastic concert and asked yourself, "How do they do this? What does it take to prepare for a concert like this?" If you have ever thought that then you will want to bookmark this blog. "What it takes" will give you the chance to follow us as we prepare for our next concert. It is no easy road to trek for the quartet and we invite you to join us! Along the way, if you have questions, please send me an e-mail at cellistforlife@gmail.com and I will post your questions and our answers.

Let the fun begin! - Joshua Knopp for the Highstrung String Quartet