The Beethoven Society of Melrose – December 16, 2017
Sunday’s performance by Seele Musicale Chamber Ensemble of “A Baroque Christmas” was just what I needed in the midst of holiday preparations – a wonderful oasis of peace and beauty. I closed my eyes much of the time as I listened to the music of Bach, Telemann and Corelli, sometimes meditative, sometimes exuberant. Certain passages for strings alone nearly brought me to tears. As Jagan-Nath, their presenter, promised in opening remarks, it was a spiritual experience reaffirming love. As has been said before, the Beethoven Society is a hidden gem – offering free concerts of excellent quality. –Regina Lucas
Two testimonials from Adams Farm Community – January, 2018
I don’t think the AF Community can thank you [Madeline] and Seele enough for the wonderful music we shared on Saturday. To have such a concert just for us, so close to the musicians, to see and hear it all, was a unique experience. To interact with the musicians and to listen to chamber music as it was intended was remarkable and unforgettable. I hope that the enthusiastic response of the AF Group conveyed to all of you our appreciation for your talent and this gift to us. –Linda
Arlene and the social committee did an outstanding job in securing the wonderful afternoon of music yesterday. To me – music reflects the muses which are incredibly powerful – in my daily life – one of the joys of being alive- and the group of artists that sang and played for us – especially our Hometown virtuoso – Madeline Browning – gave so much of their talent out to us to absorb and edify our spirits.Obviously – it signified to me – the beauty and generosity of sharing – that makes life so special. I was very impressed with this event and grateful to have had the chance to be there. A lovely afternoon, thanks to our neighbors. For me, it doesn’t get any better. — Dick Martin
Jagan Nath Khalsa – September, 2016
In response to a friend who said, “I’m glad Bach is back in the forefront again” after we’ve done so much Handel music lately. HAH HAH
I have not been led astray — from Bach — though I am currently in love with Handel.
Bach is my dinner; Handel is my dessert ……. or vice-versa. All good!
The Handel detour is continuing, in moderation. We are doing a Handel aria called Sweet Bird from one of his millions of choral, instrumental works — on October 8, 9.
Handel wrote fugues and counterpoint, and he loved Corelli and Vivaldi and the other Italian composers, so he gets high marks from me.
I think you once said you thought his compositions were — I will paraphrase: too “proper” …. perhaps too stiff, perhaps too generic-ly British …..
I would say of Handel’s music that, as with Bach, the nuances lent by the particular performer make a big difference. I treat Handel’s music with the same sensitivity and respect as Bach, looking for the beautiful themes, the things that want emphasizing, and with my personal approach “beauty above all”. If someone likes my Bach, they will probably like my Handel for the same reasons.
In Seele, I strive to be the living example. A little more frequently now, I will play a small section for us to illustrate my thoughts.
There was a time not long ago when I was afraid that I couldn’t reliably illustrate a given nuance I wanted us to add to our playing …. because it’s a thought mostly in my mind as I play, and perhaps too subtle.
From my many experiences playing, recording, and talking, I am more certain now that even a tiny thought in my mind indeed finds its outward expression in our playing and I shouldn’t be shy to illustrate it for. The power of mind over matter. I guess the reaction I had been fearing from my fellows was: “I don’t hear any difference!”
“Build it and they will come” becomes, “Believe in it [your musical hope] and they will come [along].”
Jagan Nath Khalsa – July, 2016
Why do I like Bach so much?
He makes me feel a universal voice in myself. Even for those people who can’t understand the technical details of what he does, I believe he makes something special happen, every time they hear even the same piece of music. Beneath the musical complexity is his big heart, relaxation, and mystically gives us the freedom to say something different each time one approaches him. People like me are still talking about him and playing his music with enthusiasm as if they are just discovering it. When I approach a new Bach piece, it is like a holiday present. He would not have boasted about himself this way, he said he was just doing his job prolifically for the sake of his employers. He also did write to please himself and with a sense of purpose for the sake of eternity.
Jagan Nath Khalsa – February 2016
A quality of Georg Handel’s music I have seen proclaimed is “transparency”. Listen to Messiah and note that even in the densest choruses, there is often one or more voices resting at any given time. There is space built in everywhere.
Messiah has been performed with choruses of thousands and is still legible, whereas a Beethoven or a Brahms choral work would likely bog down from the density.
Handel was born in the same year as Bach, and they both shared the love of counterpoint and fugues, which was starting to get unpopular among general listeners in their age. Handel had great success writing Italian operas, but as public interest waned and he moved to England, he started writing oratorios. He wrote 50 operas and 30 oratorios in his career, so most of us have hardly listened to the full breadth of his work. Handel was popular and in demand as an organist as well.
He suffered a couple of strokes and recovered miraculously quickly from both of them. He lost vision in one eye and years later lost vision in another eye and was totally blind, yet still went on working in music. I’d like to know the story of how he managed that.
He was a great man of music and a big man physically. There’s an anecdote about him: He went into an inn and ordered three meals after one of his concerts. He waited, waited, and waited and still the food wasn’t coming, so he got up and found the manager and said, “Where’s my food?!” The manager said, “You ordered three meals, so we were waiting for the rest of your company to arrive!” Handel bellows, “*I* am the company! Bring it on!!”
I am loving the concerto HWV 288 because every voice gets a time in the sunshine. The violin solo drops away and the three other string voices play the motif back and forth. In the Allegro movement, sometimes the violin 1 doubles the violin solo line, and other times the violin 2 doubles me. When we are all in unison, pounding out the sixteenth notes, sometimes violin solo and tutti violins stay on a single tone while viola and cello have the moving melody inside the pattern.
It makes for a textured landscape of sounds emerging and retreating.
The Listen page has a link to it and you can hear for yourself this genius of orchestration.
Jagan Nath Khalsa – December 2015
The last time we spoke, shortly after your performance, you asked if I had heard any feedback about your concert and at the time I hadn’t heard anything specific. But since then I’ve heard from two people. One person said Seele Musicale Chamber Ensemble was even better than the free Boston Symphony Orchestra concert given at the Norwood Theatre recently,and another person said it was the best “Musical Sundays” concert he’d ever been to. I thought you might be interested in hearing such resounding praise. Thanks again for coming to the Norwood Library to perform such a wonderful concert. And all because I tracked you down to borrow a copy of “Anything Goes!” — April
Jagan Nath Khalsa – August 2015
Regarding minimal instrumentation
In working toward our August 22 & 23, 2015 concerts, we chose repertoire to match our available players: voice, oboe, violin, keyboard, and cello. We just had to take advantage of the opportunity to do the Bach Oboe/Violin Concerto in c, and a part of the Bach Oboe Concerto in F. Bach wrote a second violin and viola part for these, and we didn’t have these players.
How do we manage with missing voices? In Oboe Concerto in F, we have a score that shows all parts, so Kristjon reads that and fills in the needed lines. First violin can play harmonies he sees from Violin II part. The missing viola has a richness that can’t be imitated, however the audience won’t feel a lack, because the vividness of the other parts will keep their ears fulfilled. In this music where there is one player per part, each individual is truly a soloist. It is the ability “to be heard”, truly heard, that makes such a rich experience for all of us. We all have the experience playing where there are 50 other musicians and singers, our mandate is to blend in, support the “whole” sound, and not “stand out”. There is satisfaction in that, yes. However, the glory of the Seele Musicale experience is that personal musical style and the musical message is visible on everyone’s face, in their hands, in their body language, in their sound, and it is their uniqueness that is celebrated. It is different with each combination of players, with each change of repertoire. It is a changing canvas, a changing palette of colors. Everything is possible with an open heart and imagination.
We had a weekend of work on the end-of-August program recently and John, the oboist, said he listened to the recording and came to the conclusion that he wants to play less so the other instruments get a chance to be heard better in the balance. He thinks he was asserting himself so strongly because he was trying to compensate for the missing other voices. Now he is embracing it and reckons it’s all good, no need to push, we will not worry about being “more” in every moment. I will revel in the soft and sweet moments. We all agree that breath within the music, open space, transparency of sound is great. Yet one’s tendency often is to fill all space with big sound. I had that training in my early years — where rich and big sound, ultra-lavish vibrato, and seamless legato was the highest virtue, to be practiced at all times. More intensity and more obeying of what exactly what was written on the page was always deemed “better”.
In this Baroque repertoire, we want to get back to the relaxation, the breathing, and the ease. What we see on the page is hardly the final word. The page is a map, it opens our eyes, gives some guidance, and then it is all about relating to the landscape we find, and relating to the other souls performing and listening. We want to sound natural and conversational, to match the flexibility of the human voice. Conversely. Alesia tells me sometimes she tries to make her voice sound instrumental! Kristjon envies the string instruments because we can crescendo and diminuendo endlessly on a single note. I value John on oboe for his ability to pierce through the entire fabric of sound with a melody in forte and then recede to a whisper. I value Kristjon for his ability to play multiple voices simultaneously and support the entire world. We all have something vital to share.
We take the time to think about these things, play with the possibilities, and make it sing the way we uniquely think it should.
We are excited to make it live for you. It is live, it lives, and that makes us all alive!
This play on words (live, lives, alive) reminds me of my revered violin teacher Frydryk Sadowski. He came from Poland and spoke with a heavy accent, he knew exactly what he was saying and had fun with it. He said of himself and Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 for Flute and strings, “This suite is sweet, and it suites [suits] me!”
A great quote from Yo Yo Ma, cellist
“The most important thing about performing is to make magic, to make a special moment in time. The whole process … is never about proving something but about sharing something.”
Peter Terry – April 2014
What I find really striking about our interpretation of these two works [Pergolesi Stabat Mater and Bach Psalm 51] is that what we are doing is so personal, unique, and therefore so compelling. We are connecting with the texts as well as the music and that means something different for each one of us, and in that way we are personal. We are unique because we are not doing this Romantic style or Baroque style or the way this or that teacher or coach or conductor told us to do it — we are doing it the way we understand and feel it, and since this is personal, it results in a fusion of diverse colors onto one canvas. It is compelling because nobody is doing these pieces the way we do them, and our caring, about the text and the music, comes across throughout.
The countertenor voice can be androgynous, even disembodied, but singing with Alesia and with the Seele Musicale instrumentalists calls for full-throated, embodied, and, in my case, masculine tone, and that is what comes out of me. The mix between this tone and the full bodied feminine tone that pours out of Alesia makes for a sonic experience that is human and not pseudo-angelic. Our spirituality and our musical personality are adult and unmannered, honest and ardent. And we are learning to make music in diverse acoustical spaces, each one of which has its own distinctive characteristics.
What has become familiar to classical music audiences, and pretty much all they hear, is a Germanic accuracy and an English mannered-ness that seems to match our digital age, with its obsession with material perfection, and our present-day notions of authenticity.
What I hear in Seele Musicale’s music-making is the emergence of an American boldness which takes all sorts of risks in order to be expressive and an American pragmatism that seeks to make music with the forces we have in hand. The recorder replacing a violin part makes the treble section more varied in colors than it would be otherwise, and this is good. I’m very much at home with this kind of music-making, and with stretching it even further. Jewish musical exuberance and Italian passion are part of my soul and integral to much of the music of this 18th century period…hence my allergic reaction to Early Music dogmatism…if they were truly recreating the soul of 18th century, then I wouldn’t feel this way, but they insist so often, especially here in the States, on playing according to formula, with the rational mind firmly in control of every gesture, every note, every beat. That isn’t 18th century at all! That is 20th century machine-generated dance trance music, which has lots of momentum but no soul.
I feel more in a few minutes of singing with Seele Musicale than from listening to an entire Handel & Haydn Society concert.