Monday, April 25, 2011

51st Music Kitchen Performance: Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin and Kyle Armbrust, viola

[51st Music Kitchen]

Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, Founder and President of Music Kitchen: Food for the Soul, sends AfriClassical this account of the 51st Music Kitchen Performance:

Mozart and Handel-Halvorsen Duos for Violin and Viola
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin
Kyle Armbrust, viola
“This evening’s performance was such a dynamic and beautiful interaction that it is a perfect example of why I founded Music Kitchen. This was the first concert of the shelter season at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, and what an absolutely warm, wonderful group of men were in attendance this evening. Kyle and I brought our Mozart G major duo and Handel-Halvorsen to this location, same as at Turning Point on Tuesday of this week. Here the men are not residents, but are brought in for the night, having to leave early in the morning as part of the arrangement. Kyle and I were rehearsing a bit of our duo as they arrived but stopped short when they entered so as not to give anything away too soon. 'That's nice,' someone said, 'don't stop.' I assured him that we would begin in earnest in a few minutes.

“Unlike some occasions when the men enter with a sense of edginess or apprehension, this group was very easy-going and open right away. They came in, made up their beds then sat at the tables facing us eagerly. And right away, before we officially started to play, the dynamic interaction began. One energetic and outgoing man, 'Donny' said, 'Wow- I mean we’re at a shelter. I wasn’t expecting this. This is great! I can’t believe it. I mean we’re at a shelter, you know?' The same man continued, 'Do you have anything meditative? I mean I spent the whole day looking for a job; I’m just so stressed out.' We told him that we had just the perfect thing for him - the lovely, singing slow movement of the G major he would soon discover.

“But after they applauded our first movement, they brimmed over with fascinated questions. When did we start, what type of wood is a violin made out of, what’s the difference between a violin and viola, who invented the violin, which one of the composers was deaf, did Mozart know Beethoven and on and on, many more questions that I no longer remember. We were excited to share more music with them as they were obviously drinking it all in. Also clear was that there was vast knowledge base and curiosity among the people gathered tonight. We played that singing slow movement and 'Donny' said it was exactly what he needed.

“Another man, obviously very intelligent but a bit more reserved added his one word commentary- 'Bellissimo.' 'I knew it,' I said. 'You are a musician.' 'In another life,' he said, unwilling to reveal more. We finished the piece after another long round of laughs and discussion. More people had gotten into the game than just Donny and we all enjoyed the easy interaction. 'You’re like the chorus' one man said to Kyle, 'and you’re like the lead melody.' Great observation I told him, but we also explained how chamber music has rotating roles at different times, depending on what period of music. We went on to the 3rd movement of the Mozart, which was followed by enthusiastic applause.

“I concluded by asking, almost rhetorically, 'So what do you think of Mozart?' 'I like him, but I would have to hear his competition to really judge.' Interesting response! We went on to the Handel-Halvorsen, - the work based on a Baroque melody with the full throated romantic virtuosic treatment. They responded very much to the more emphatic style of music and asked how that was achieved, how the pressure of the bow affected the sound. 'And clearly you love the music, you can see it' one said of us. This performance could have lasted several more hours if we had had them to spend.

“They asked us many more questions about the music and had more laughs and discussion. They were eager to continue. When we finally put our instruments away, 'Donny' and many of the men thanked us for being there. 'You are a real humanitarian for doing this. I wish there were more people like that.' Several men wanted to know more about my process of founding Music Kitchen - kind of a first. 'You created a non-profit?' one asked. He asked about corporate funders and I said that I was working on that. 'You should host a wine and cheese,' he concluded. 'You never know.' With the Gala coming up on Tuesday, which will certainly have more than wine and cheese, I hope that he is prophetic!”

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