Get Inspired

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There are people who started when they were young, realized they were passionate about something, practiced, trained, and worked until their fingers hurt, went back, did it again, and eventually, 10 years later, got good enough to be in the arena with the best. They spent another 10 years going beyond that, traveling, studying the best in other places, getting deeper, broader, richer. Getting immersed. Their skill and quality shows even in the smallest thing they do, because they are dedicated, creative, and masterful. And they are joyous about sharing their art.

This is Brooklyn Rider. And Kayhan Kalhor. And the Colburn Quintet.

Johnny Gandelsman, left, and Colin Jacobsen, have an infectious sense of fun when they play.

I don’t know anything about chamber music, but that may not matter. These artists make beautiful sounds come out of their instruments, they have intensely excited presences, and their work is understandable no matter how undeveloped your musical palette is. They communicate something beyond an instrument and a sound. Violinist Johnny Gandelsman’s 18 month-old was as mesmerized as the 80 year old, blue-haired music patron who has seen everything.

The first evening performance, billed as a sampler of what the week had in store, featured performances by Brooklyn Rider, Kayhan Kalhor, and the Colburn Quintet, shown here.

While I shot photos of their rehearsals, I was amazed at how they would discuss very detailed aspects of phrasing a certain note, or how two of the violins accenting a certain note changed the way listeners would hear the third violin. Or what the composer’s intention was at a certain point in the movement, or the mood of a certain stroke of the bow. They put intention into every aspect of every note, in a piece that might be 15 minutes long. And then, they stored that dissection of sheet music away in their heads and had fun with it. Simply put, they rocked out.

“Having fun and doing what you love for a living: it’s the wave of the future,” said Eric Jacobsen, cellist for Brooklyn Rider.

Elicia Silverstein, part of the Colburn Quintet, focuses during rehearsal.

Besides, what they play isn’t what neophytes think of as chamber music. It’s not stuffy, not seated, not upright, not uptight. Not old. It is contemporary music they are playing, through a centuries old form. They play original work, as well as classics, and make chamber music relevant today.

Then there was Kayhan Kalhor, from Iran, who is one of the best remaining kemanche players around. He made the place go silent. Absolutely stunned everyone out of their chairs. Like a bunch of little kids they were, the assembled cognoscenti of Laguna, watching in awe. It must have been like that the first time Ravi Shankar played in front of an American audience.

Kayhan Kalhor, one of the world’s preeminent players of the kemanche, a Persian precursor to the modern violin.

During the show I kept thinking how cool it was that us humans make these incredibly beautiful sounds.

They’re all performing various shows this week for the Laguna Beach Music Festival. Do yourself a favor. Go to one of the performances and get inspired by some great music.

Kelsey Blumenthal, of the Colburn Quintet, during rehearsal.
McKayla Brooks, 8, of Laguna, tickled by the noise she made with a trombone.
Brooklyn Rider performing during the opening night concert.
Frankie Paynecarter, 8, of Laguna, plays a French horn for the first time.
Kayhan Kalhor played a rare performance at the residence of Dr. Hooshang and Dr. Freshteh Dalavarian, in Laguna Niguel.
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