Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Day in the Life

Last evening, my husband had been sent the link "A Day in the Life" by David Usui, a young filmmaker from New York City. When I heard strains of J.S. Bach's G Minor Solo Sonata for violin, my curiosity was piqued. Sure enough, I recognized Gregory Singer, a violinist from my childhood years at Meadowmount and Juilliard, now a successful conductor, composer, and owner of Gregory Singer Fine Violins in New York City. Actually, to be more specific, Gregory and his famous movie star actress, cellist twin sister Lori Singer were my first introduction to quartet playing, one hot sticky day at Meadowmount School of Music, Ivan Galamian's prestigious camp. The twins, then aged 12, were coaxed into reading string quartets by their father, Jacques Singer, and a second violinist was needed. Being a newcomer to the camp, and eleven years of age, I was put to task. This was back in 1970. I cannot recollect who the violist might have been, though I believe a veteran camper came to the rescue. But I do recall my sudden panic when faced with sight-reading a Haydn Quartet, my absolute refusal to attempt the first violin part and risk exposure, the easy manner that Gregory and his sister tossed off their parts, and the grimaces, gestures, and utterances by Maestro Jacques Singer, who had pulled up a chair in the corner to "coach". I was informed that the Singer twins were from Portland, Oregon, and that Jacques Singer was the Music Director of Oregon Symphony. When I glanced up from my music to search the maestro's face, his expressions vacillated between rapture and suffering.

"A Day in the Life" offers the viewer a brief but personal glimpse into a normal day for Gregory Singer, founder and director of the Manhattan Symphonie. Jacques Singer, who died from cancer in 1980 about a decade after his contentious dismissal as Music Director from Oregon Symphony (in no small part for seeking to demote the concertmaster, Hugh Ewart, to a position among the first violins) must have held a firm grip on his four children, however supportive a parent he may have been. As Gregory demonstrates a snippet of Bach's Adagio, he confides, "I used to see the violin as something separate. It meant practice. It meant perfection. It meant tension, pressure, and unhappiness. And I see the violin now as a small airplane that transports me to different worlds." Gregory Singer has found his own voice.

It is an ever changing world that we live in. Classical musicians everywhere are seeking audiences in ways different from past. We are encouraged to innovate and re-brand. Yet, the chosen religion for many of us are the great works for all times by the masters, for audiences that have attended concerts with the devotion of congregants. A quote from Jacques Singer in a 1962 interview with the Oregonian: "There is no old music or new. There is only good and the bad music that takes the listener out of himself and gives him something beautiful to think back on when he goes about his own work." These days there is a pervasive, realistic fear that our beautiful art form is vanishing. A mission statement from Manhattan Symphonie states:

This orchestra has the most wonderful spirited musicians, and we are going to show the world that the musicians are the heroes---Watch the music work its magic across the world.