Saturday, December 22, 2018

Kelly Hall-Tompkins: Music Kitchen Highlights from 2018: Glenn Dicterow, violinist

Kelly Hall-Tompkins writes:

Happy Holidays- The year has flown by and it has been another exciting one at Music Kitchen!  Although we’ve been a little quiet on the surface, there have been, not only some great concerts this year, but also some super exciting behind the scenes plans for next!  Stay tuned for an announcement in January in celebration of Music Kitchen’s 100th concert and beyond, leading into the 15th season in 2020!  If you would like to be part of making some of those exciting concerts happen for a pioneering new project throughout the season, please respond to this email for sponsorship opportunities and/or click below to make your year end gift.
In the mean time,  we would like to share a few of the highlights from this season.  It is always a joy to collaborate with my former teacher, former New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and his wife, the award-winning violist Karen Dreyfus.  Today’s email features our concerts in Los Angeles, including the first time at the Midnight Mission.  Please read below for these amazing experiences.  I am also thrilled to share that I will perform as co-soloist with Glenn for the Manhattan School of Music Centennial Concert in Carnegie Hall with Leonard Slatkin conducting!  We will play the Vivaldi A minor concerto and the concert will take place April 17th.  Because of Music Kitchen, it will not be the first time we have performed together but rather a culmination of 4 years of professional collaboration.
I continue to be inspired by the impact that music performed with passion has in all of our lives, but particularly the most vulnerable.  You make this all possible and I am so very grateful for your support!
Warmest Regards,
Please Make Your 2018 Year End Gift to MusicKitchen

Featuring Glenn Dicterow, violin

with Karen Dreyfus, viola

and Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin

It felt good to be back at the Downtown Women’s Center.  What shocked us last year with the more extreme picture of poverty and seemed so foreign was now a familiar place to find friends and to serve this community.  The pottery by residents was still displayed near the entryway.  Though this time we were to set up on the opposite side of the room and could look across at the display cases as we played.  There was a huge crowd for lunch when we arrived just an hour before, but it had now thinned out to a yawning fraction of the earlier number.  But I soon discovered that there was a line of 20 additional women patiently waiting to enter the building in order to hear our performance.  They had heard about or attended last year’s performance.  I scanned the room repeatedly for the pianist we met here last year but there was no sign of her.  She is one of the clients whose tragic personal stories that I remember well - she lost her whole family except one child in a fire and has not been able to come in off the street ever since.  Our society needs to understand that so many stories of homelessness are not about money.  

Just as last year at the center, there was a dog with one of the residents.  And like a magnet I was drawn over to say hello.  The young lady’s dog’s name was Bageera and he was a large friendly-looking pit bull mix.  He was gentle and sweet and amenable to petting, but I could only think of how helpful for a single woman on the street to have such a dog, not only for companionship but also protection.  I would later learn that a police officer was recently engaged here to teach a self-defense class to the women.  In a room of some 50 people, he asked how many had been sexually assaulted in the last year.  All but 2 raised their hands.  The young lady with the dog sat expectantly waiting for the concert.

I began our performance as last year, playing two Fiddler pieces solo.  I started with the Rhapsody then I told a bit about the Fiddler story.  About women’s empowerment, about oppression, but ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.  Many heads around the room bobbed in agreement.  I then turned to my Rich Man arrangement.  A woman in the far right of the room quickly chimed in, “Didn’t Gwen Stefani have a song ‘If I Were a Rich Woman’?  “Yes, she did!” I said.  I talked through some of the lyrics then jumped into the piece.  At the end, a woman yelled, “Bravo!  That was wonderful!” The lady with the dog said, “Wow, it makes me miss the violin.  I used to play.”  

I then introduced Glenn and Karen and they introduced the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia that they would play.  It’s a virtuosic piece and that fact was not lost on our listeners.   As they applauded the showstopper finish, I saw many around the room shaking their heads to themselves, as if to say, “Wow!”  And more bravos could be heard in the crowd.

I then asked our audience if they had any questions and like all audiences, they wanted to know when we started playing.  We all started at 8 and 9 years old and laughed at an industry that sometimes considers that “late.”  One woman said she’d like to learn to play, “is it too late for me?”  “Absolutely not, you should do it,” we all chimed in.  I continued, “As long as we’re breathing we’re always improving, always becoming more.”  I came back to the woman with the dog and said she must pick up her violin once again, “That’s decided,” I said lightheartedly.  I said it repeatedly throughout the hour because each time I did so, it made her smile.

I then leaned over to ask Jeanette if she would in fact like to dedicate our concert in the way that she mentioned to me earlier.  She said that she would, and she came up to speak.  She introduced herself and the work that she does and then said, “Our friend Maria, who so many of us knew, died a couple of weeks ago just in front of the building.”  Jeanette continued, “The artists would like to dedicate their performance to Maria.”  A woman near the front vigorously nodded her approval; she was clearly surprised and deeply moved by the announcement.  I had some concern that we had not brought any music that day that would immediately lend itself to such a solemn statement.  But as soon as we put bow to string, I could immediately sense that we all played our hearts out for Maria, and that first movement of Dvorak took on a whole new meaning in that moment, sealed by the lovely and poignant attacca slow movement.  We proceeded without a word directly to the Scherzo.

I asked if there were any additional questions and one woman asked if we could play some Beethoven.  Glenn played the famous motive of the 5th Symphony.  I then played the famous Ode to Joy melody and Glenn immediately joined in a beautiful harmonization.  Karen followed by telling of Beethoven’s deafness, but that he managed to compose all of those works we know and love.  A woman in the audience with a Latin accent told us that she like classical music as it makes her relax.  She followed by saying she doesn’t like rap music at all.

We concluded by playing the delightful Taneyev and quickly assembled a group photo.  Unfortunately there was precious little time to linger and greet our guests.  It was already 2pm, the start time of our concert several blocks away.  We dashed into our cars and caravaned down San Pedro street to the Midnight Mission.

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