Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happiness is...a beautiful violin piece.

I have a love/hate relationship with the violin.  I am by no means a musician or music expert, I only know what I like.  And very rarely do I like the violin.  Most people (no offense to anyone I know who plays, you are far more talented than I could ever hope to be) just don't have the right touch and instead of pulling tunes and melodies from the strings it is more like pulling teeth.  There's a bit of the dying cat quality to it, if you know what I mean. Few notes are strongly hit straight on but everything is slid into and over and on and around; like a wailing banshee or stuck pig or fingernails on a chalkboard.  Sometimes it's all I can do to sit still in a performance without squirming or running out of the room with my fingers in my ears.

Usually I only suffer during solo pieces.  In a symphony or orchestra piece there are enough other sounds going on that the screeching blends or is covered up and so the agony isn't the same.  And it's only violins.  Fiddles are a completely different story.  I love me a fiddle! The difference being that fiddles are played so fast and rambunctiously that the precision isn't needed in the same way.  It's the drawn out, slow, mournful pieces so often given to the violins that are the worst offenders.

However, the rare artist comes along every now and again who can play a violin in such a way that it brings me to tears.  Not tears of pain and anguish, but tears of awe and joy and respect for beauty and talent and truly God given gifts.  One of those artists is Itzhak Perlman. Everything he does is precise and accurate and so incredibly spot-on that he honestly makes me weep.  I had the privilege of seeing him live at the Kennedy Center a year or so ago and his performance was breathtaking.

Here's just a tiny sample of what he can do...

Even with the speed and all the high notes there is absolute precision.  There is no sliding, no whining, no screeching to be heard.  Just clear, individual notes.  And he plays this way consistently.  I love it!

Well, today in Sacrament Meeting we had the pleasure of hearing Jenny Oaks Baker and her daughter do two musical numbers for us. (For those of you who don't know, she is the daughter of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)  Her daughter Sarah was darling, about 7 probably, and played the cello beautifully (somehow the cello isn't nearly as offensive as the violin, I think because of the lower register, the opportunities for squeaking are much more limited....regardless, she is a VERY talented little girl.) She played a lovely rendition of "Our Savior's Love" that had all of us smiling and uplifted. And then Jenny played "I Need Thee Every Hour" and I was moved to tears and awed at being in the presence of one with such an amazing gift.  I can't vouch for her continuity and consistency as a performer, I've only heard her on recordings a handful of times, but her performance in our simple church meeting today was incredible.  Not only her talent but the spirit with which she played was like a testimony in music.  You could feel her conviction of the truthfulness of the message of the song, despite the fact that there were no words vocalized.  It was an amazing meeting.

Here is a sampling of what she can do.  I wish I could have found the song she played for us today but this will have to suffice.

I'm grateful to the Lord for blessing people with such great gifts and to the people blessed with them for nurturing them and sharing them with the rest of us who aren't quite so gifted!  And for the variety of ways we have to recharge our batteries, feel uplifted, praise God and touch others.  Hope you've all had a splendid Sabbath.

How could I be so remiss?  I didn't give you any fiddle music to listen to.  What was I thinking?  Take a gander at these fellas.  Man I love me some bluegrass!  Look at those fingers fly!


The end

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