Monday, April 1, 2019

Kelly Hall-Tompkins: Music Kitchen LA with Glenn Dicterow and Vivaldi Concerto

We took a brief departure from  the "Forgotten Voices" project on March 11th to present our annual concert with violinist Glenn Dicterow and his wife, violist Karen Dreyfus in Los Angeles. We were happy to have the opportunity once again to serve The Midnight Mission, a very large shelter right on skid row.  While homelessness is a challenge everywhere, there is nothing quite like seeing the hundreds of displaced people with no place to call home all along one broad avenue to acutely underscore that need.  I was excited to realize another artistic project for this concert: to perform the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Violins which Glenn and I will perform in Carnegie Hall with Leonard Slatkin in a few weeks in the shelter first, and even accompanied by a small orchestra!  Many thanks to Glenn Dicterow and Karen Dreyfus for bringing their great artistry to this program, to Jeanette Rowe and The Midnight Mission for facilitating and hosting our performance, to David Lai and violinist Grace Oh for helping to contract the ensemble, and to the ensemble players, Grace Oh, Ellen Jung, Karen Drefus, Ira Glansbeek and Tim Eckert, for their enthusiastic and beautiful participation.  Please see below for the story, photos and even a 6 minute behind the scenes video clip!
There are so many exciting developments happening, please stay tuned for news!  You make this all possible- As always, if you wish to support Music Kitchen and the ongoing "Forgotten Voices" project to commission 15 composers to set the incidental comments of homeless shelter clients into song, please click here:
Warmest Regards,

102nd Music Kitchen Concert

The Midnight Mission
Los Angeles

Glenn Dicterow and 

Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violins

Karen Dreyfus, viola

 Accompanied by:
Grace Oh and Ellen Jung, violins
Karen Dreyfus, viola
Ira Glansbeek, cello
Tim Eckert, bass

Today we took a brief departure from our “Forgotten Voices” project to present another exciting program.  I’m happy to continue the partnership with our LA partners Jeanette Rowe and her network of shelters, initiated by Glenn Dicterow’s interest in being involved with Music Kitchen when he moved back to LA.  Now nearly 5 years in, we have a wonderful team that comes together each year to bring top-tier artists to the LA homeless community.  Glenn and I will perform the Vivaldi Concerto for 2 violins next month with Leonard Slatkin conditioning for the MSM Centennial Gala Concert in Carnegie Hall.  When planning for our LA Music Kitchen, I knew what we had to do, just as in “Forgotten Voices,” to offer it to the shelter clients first.

So with the help of David Lai, and later violinist Grace Oh, I found some wonderful LA musicians who also helped me to connect with additional ones.  We had a great chamber orchestra to accompany us.  We rehearsed the full ensemble in a Midnight Mission conference room, several staff members piled into the doorway to look on.  When I needed to find the restroom, one of those same gentlemen offered to show me the way.  He looked at me sidelong with admiration, “You play that thing like you know what you doin’!” 

We entered the large dining hall and, once again, the smell of popcorn and the soft din of popping kernels wafted through the air as the line for the machine stretched 25 people long.  We had to excuse our way through the middle of the line to get to the front.  Our audience was already full and eagerly awaiting our arrival.  As I was setting up my music stand I saw a man up front waving his arms in a familiar pattern.  “Trying to conduct?” I asked casually.  “Not ‘trying’; I have a music degree.  That’s why I’m homeless!” he said with bitter humor.  But he went on to be one of our most rapt attendees

Their program director introduced me and told the audience that I came from New York to play for them- I was surprised as the room broke into applause.  After that, I came to the microphone and we were off and running.  We started with the small and progressed to the large ensemble.  I started with my two solo Fiddler pieces Rhapsody and "IF I Were a Rich Man".  I mentioned the songs in the medley but only a few people actually knew the Fiddler hits by name- mostly there were blank stares back at me this time when I mentioned and even played an excerpt of the main Fiddler theme, Sunrise Sunset and To Life- unusual, even in the shelter.  We were, after all, not only among a disenfranchised community, but on the west coast.  Unlike in New York, this group seemed not to have any past ties to bastions of arts culture, or at least not Broadway.  But after I played the Rhapsody, our audience was roused to resonance with the experience.  The Rich Man they liked on its face, but they did not seem to necessarily follow all of my previously explained text painting in the score of my arrangement.  No matter, our audience was still with us and already deeply invested in our time together.

I introduced Glenn and Karen with their illustrious careers in the field, from the New York Philharmonic, and major films to Naumburg Competition and Concertos.  They didn’t necessarily understand all the details, but they definitely perceived very readily that great and celebrated artists were here to share music with them. We went on to the genial Taneyev String Trio.  When we finished, several people just needed to express themselves.  “That was just so soothing.”  One gentleman in the front row spoke up demonstratively, noticing that Glenn was the leader and in charge.  We chuckled, yes, I told him, “you are noticing the differences in the role of first violin and second violin.”

As the ensemble began to assemble into place, I introduced the Vivaldi.  I asked the listeners, “Who has ever been to Venice?” A few hands started to raise, then demurred; I was later told that’s because they thought I meant Venice Beach down the road.  But as they realized I meant Venice, Italy, they seemed momentarily discouraged and just about to write me off as potentially out of touch.  “Tsk-aww!” I heard one man say as he looked to the side.  I waited just the right number of seconds before I added, “Well, guess what! We’re going there today!” And our audience was back in full force, and intrigued to hear more. I asked them to imagine they’re in 18th Century Venice, the water of the canals, and all the boats transporting people here and there.  And I told them about Vivaldi, known as the Red Priest, who wrote nearly 500 concertos, many of those pieces for an orphanage.  So I think he’d be very appreciative of our concert here.  I continued, “who’s ever been to Carnegie Hall?”  They thought they knew where I was going- “We’re going there today?” one asked.  I said rather, “Glenn and I will perform this piece in Carnegie Hall next month.  But the Carnegie Hall audience will have to wait because we’re playing it here for YOU FIRST!”  In the room, I collectively saw many backs straighten and sit taller and many people applauded.

With that we jumped in to the demonstrative A minor first movement, trading lines and flourishes, in the boisterous, joyful and virtuosic opening.  It’s a powerful piece and our audience felt the surge.  A woman bubbled over exuberantly, “I feel like I’ve just been on a great adVENture!”
Another man said that is just amazing!  I was overjoyed and energized with their reaction.  Glenn chimed in, “And we’re not even done yet; there’s more!” The same gentleman from before reversed his earlier assessment, “Now she’s strong and I can tell you know when to back off!”  We chuckled again and told him that now we have switched first and second violin roles.  That’s how deeply invested and perceptive our audience was.  The music did not go by merely as wallpaper here.

Although due to time constraints we are unable to perform the slow movement in the Carnegie Hall concert, we relished in performing it here.  Trading the soaring melodic theme, like two birds flying over a vast expanse of still water, with tones of melancholy, brought stillness and peace to our audience.  Yet still, there were shouts of bravo as soon as the sound cleared.  

We heard some of the listeners testimonials about what they heard, took a few questions then jumped into the third movement with its descending cascade of repeating scales over the insistently stated A anchor chords.  I was so thrilled to be able to present this work in full flower with the string ensemble accompaniment.  It made quite an impression and when we stuck the landing of our final chord, our audience burst into an easy, spontaneous eclat of applause and cheers.  “That. Was Riveting!” said a man in front, cutting then holding the air with his hands.  We talked for a few more minutes with our audience, and they asked questions of Glenn about his time playing for several Hollywood films and with the New York Philharmonic.  It was a warm, joyful afternoon with a hearty rapport with our 200 or so listeners.  We took our group photo then spoke individually with many clients.  “I’m so grateful you came today,” a woman told me.  Another woman gave me a pink note card and asked me to please read it while she stands there.  I read her heartfelt sentiments about today’s concert and as I looked up to thank her, she seemed contented and relieved to be acknowledged and affirmed.  She turned away from the performance area and walked back into the world and her tribulations.  But does she know that through this concert and the “Forgotten Voices” Project I am taking Voices like hers into the light to be affirmed in a whole new way.

Following are the notes from the listeners:

You are crutial to our being

I really enjoyed the performance.  It was my very first experience hearing classical strings in an arrangement.  Thank you so very much for sharing your talent with us.James B.

I really enjoyed the show.  Very pleasing.  Love it!
Please come back

Verry interesting but needs some LED ZEPLIN.  Good timing in the pocket 😊

Learning experience, Love Fiddler,
A dream!!

As a music major myself, in the field of “Music Therapy” I thoroughly enjoyed Music Kitchen Food for the Soul.”  This is in essence “Music Therapy”  This is the 1st time I have ever heard the participants & clients alike  completely silent (lol) focused & syncronated to the sounds that “Music Kitchen Food for the Soul” has so joyously provided to the Midnight Mission.  It was absolutely riveting!
May God Bless & continuously present doors of opportunity & may he pour over abundances of blessings. 

Thank you for the experience.
It is my first time enjoying classical music in “concerto”! 😊
Rodrigo G.

I feel the music was beautifull and brought to us much needed innerpeace and a touch of outward happiness.  Thank you and your colleagues for brightening our lives
Karl F.

Very touching and moving, like a orchestra from heaven.
Kevin B.

Great Job 😊

They play good very good music together like group of a family
From: Mary Helen W.  (this is the card I was asked to read while writer was standing there)

Yvette A.
Thank you for a taste of culture and art

Rlexing, AMAZING,
Totally beautiful

I really felt humbled & blessed to actually experience the loively music made by the best! Love, Robbie D.

I found this musical to be very refreshing and soothing to my soul.  It was wonderful seeing a diverse musical team that played very well.  Tanger C.

Thank you

Excellent energy and great performance

From Guillermo D.G.
To: Music Soup Kitchen
I loved your pieces of work you played for us today.  Took me to a place when I was young in school at the L.A. Music Hall.  Gives me a picture of what I want in life. “Serenity”  Thank you!!!!

The concert was so amazing.  It release a lot of stress  Defferent level
Music was so peace ful
Thank you for being here
Curtis C. from Midnight
😊 3.11.19

Thank you for your support of Music Kitchen – Food for the Soul!

 All Best,


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