2015-2016 Chamber Music Festival

2015-2016 Chamber Music Festival

Lauren Latessa's Festival Recap

2015 Chamber Music Quartet Performance, RingStaff musician-in-residence Lauren Latessa gives us a behind-the scene look at the activities and interactions of the week-long Chamber Musical Festival at Ring House, Landow House, and Cohen-Rosen House. Guest violinists Emma Lee Holmes-Hicks and Ealain McMullin, violist Isabella Mensz, and Ms. Latessa, herself an accomplished cellist, led a series of open rehearsals, lectures, and performances that provided the artists and residents an opportunity to explore music together on a level rarely, if ever, experienced in a senior living community.

Watch and listen to a brief clip from the quartet’s December 17th concert at Ring House:



DAY 1:

Introduction to the Quartet - The quartet played some popular tunes and then introduced themselves to residents.

DAY 2:

Knitting with the Quartet - The quartet joined the weekly knitting club and chatted with Landow House residents.

Recital: Popular & Folk Music - Landow residents sang and clapped along as we performed popular music like Daisy Bell and What a Wonderful World.

DAYS 3 to 5: 

Recitals - The quartet performed daily recitals for Landow residents. The last recital, on Friday, was particularly meaningful. We had a full room of residents, aides, and staff members. It was beautiful to see all the different members of our community coming together to listen and enjoy this music.

Friday morning: Cohen-Rosen House Recital - Cohen-Rosen House provides the highest level of memory care on the campus, serving older adults with advanced cognitive needs. Because of this, I was not sure what to expect from the quartet’s visit to the residence. Part of me was preparing for a half-hour session where we would just play, but not actually interact much with residents.

But, this could not have been farther from what happened. This performance turned out to be the most powerful thing that happened all week. It was a stirring moment when residents used their instruments (drums, egg shakers, tambourines) to connect thoughtfully with us. Some residents cannot converse easily, but they were nonetheless communicating and helping us to create something significant as we performed the first movement of Dvorak’s American Quartet. It’s hard to describe the impact of that moment, but all of us—quartet members, residents and staff members—could feel it. Together we produced an experience more inspiring than any of us could of have done individually.

Part of what excited me most about this particular performance was that it demonstrated how classical music might have a stronger presence in memory-care facilities. There is much well supported research on the benefits of performing recognizable popular and folk music for this population.  We saw first-hand the potential of using classical music to engage residents in the creative process, even those living with advanced stages of dementia.


Morning musical announcements - We started each morning with a snippet of the music we would be playing that day.

Meals - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we ate dinner with Ring House residents. Each quartet member sat at a different table so they could become acquainted with residents at a more personal level.

DAY 1:

Happy Hour with the Quartet - The quartet played some favorite tunes and mingled with residents.

DAY 2:

Open rehearsal - Residents were able to observe the quartet as they rehearsed and learn a little more about the musical process.

Q&A with the Quartet - During this question and answer session we had a fantastic discussion about the role of musicians in society and the importance of teaching kids to pass on musical traditions. Emmy and Ealain shared insight about their work with the Newport String Project in Newport, RI.

Recital:  Music from the Ring House Songbook - This event was particularly special because it featured music that was chosen by Ring House residents. Twice a month, I lead a sing-along with residents at Ring and during this time we’ve been putting together a Ring House Songbook. All of the music featured in this recital came from the Songbook and included some of the Ring residents’ best-loved ballads. Many of the melodies were new to our festival musicians, and they learned so much about them from residents.

DAY 3:

Open Rehearsal

Lecture/demonstration on Dvorák's American Quartet - We explored Dvorák's life and experiences and played excerpts from the quartet to highlight how he translated experiences and emotions into his music.

Master class featuring local high school musicians - This was a particularly unique and thrilling event for residents. During the master class, two young cellists performed and received feedback from our festival artists. The students did great and you could actually see the changes in their playing with guidance from the artists. The evening had a very welcoming and encouraging feel! After each student played, residents noticed their improvement and clapped and cheered. Many later came up to the students and offered more words of support for them to continue developing their talents.

This was such an inspiring day for all. In particular, it allowed residents to see more of what it takes to gain expertise with an instrument and how the right guidance can make all the difference. We will definitely hold more master classes in the future!

DAY 4:

Exploring Jewish Music - The festival artists joined our weekly Exploring Jewish Music class as observers and learners. They were all moved by how passionately the residents spoke about music that is close to their hearts. For this special class we discussed the question, “What is Jewish Music?” and focused on four examples: Shema, Kol Nidre, Bei Mir Bistu Shein, and Jerusalem of Gold.

Recital:  Mozart’s String Quartet No. 1 G Major and Dvorák's’s String Quartet in F Major, Opus 96 - This was the capstone event of the week! The quartet performed the music of Dvorák's and Mozart for 125 residents, friends and family. It was a captivating evening, and residents left feeling excited and inspired. A particular highlight for me was watching Nailah’s daughter, Amira, help with handing out red roses to all the members of the Chamber Music Festival Committee.

Responses from residents:

“From day to day more and more people came to hear these talented musicians. As the week went on, excitement for this festival grew in our community.”

“I was most impressed with the artistry of these young musicians. I was also impressed with the great effort and the fantastic job by our musician-in-residence Lauren.”

“When I heard the string quartet my first reaction was that these musicians truly love and enjoy what they are playing. This Chamber Music Festival introduced me and us all at Ring House to the magic and beauty of chamber music.”

“When I heard the string quartet my reaction was WOW!”

From a member of the Chamber Music Festival Committee: “You know, most of us just sit around feeling like we are no longer needed. But this project has helped me to see that there are beautiful things to do in the world.”

From a community member: “This is all so wonderful. They are playing [music] with great sensitivity and beauty. What a distinguished group—and social service-minded to boot! CESLC may be unique in the USA and even the world in being able to offer something like this to residents.” 

Lauren Latessa's personal reflections: One of the wonderful things about chamber music is that it challenges both listeners and musicians to continue to grow. A one-time experience of listening carefully to a piece of chamber music may be exciting, but its real power comes from spending time with it and exploring its complexity and depth.

Because of this complexity and depth, chamber music has the potential to foster greater communication and understanding, both elements needed for a vibrant community. I believe that programs like our Chamber Music Festival are crucially important in establishing the type of living environment that we all want for our elders and for ourselves. Together we are creating, nurturing, and extending the joy of music to all!


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