Falling in Love with Program Notes, by Christine Kaplunas

storytelling1
Thanks Christine, for being the first to brave writing a story about your experience in community. Moreover, thank you for sharing this story.

I remember when I was a sophomore in college, the time I fell in love with some program notes. I was a music major and played violin II in the university symphony, and Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss was programmed for our upcoming concert. It was the first time I had been given permission by a conductor to use “free bowing” in a passage- at the beginning of “Im Abendrot”. There I sat in the middle of the 2nd violin section, playing freely and openly- liberated by the sound. It was a nice balance to all the mind-bending flats I was reading in the other songs. I think the first few rehearsals were spent trying to apply my practice-room work on those flats into something elegant, and it was hard work. The songs became that for me, both restrictive and liberating. Demanding and rewarding.
Then I came in to rehearsal one day and picked up my copy of the program notes, left unassumingly on the music stand. I read them during our break time. In the middle of trumpets warming up, strings tuning, and an occasional musician who stayed behind to practice some tough passages, I felt my heart strangely warmed. As I read over the notes, I fell in love. I cannot fully describe it, and I cannot review those notes now as they have not survived my several geographic relocations since. The way the author of these notes described Strauss’ love for his wife, the preparation for his immanent death, this musical gift to the love of his life- it was so moving and so beautiful. I had only seen something like this from a surface perspective in the past: seeing an elderly couple holding hands quietly in the garden at the nursing home, sitting with a woman whose beloved husband had just died. But the beauty of the music revealed that love in a new way. Now I understood. Now it was real. The communal sound of the thickly-textured orchestra, accompanying the powerful, lyrical Soprano solo voice, cut straight to the essence of what those program notes described. I wept. I sat in the middle of the orchestra room with program notes in my hands and wept at such beauty revealed. I felt like that again at the beginning of the movie, Up, but that’s another story. Rehearsal resumed, and the music swept me away. I didn’t need to read from my part anymore. That paper with inked-in music notes was a distraction. The real music was inside. Okay, I peeked a little. By the next rehearsal, I had the music memorized so I could be taken over by the wash of sound around me. This, my friends, is orchestral music in its finest form. Love communicated.
The concert was magnificent. I don’t even remember what else was on the program. I didn’t care. I was swept away by the sound, by this love story. Our soloist was just wonderful. Her intonation was spot on, and powerful, and she communicated. I’ll admit that my favorite recording has since become Jessye Norman’s slow and lingering performance.
The writer of the program notes that captured my heart so thoroughly: DMA candidate and fellow violinist Daniel Kaplunas. It took another four years before I married him. For our 5th wedding anniversary this April, he will conduct the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss with the Wartburg Community Symphony- where I play violin II. I’ll also be very pregnant with our first child and probably a bit emotional. I’ll try not to weep so much at the concert, but if I do, you will know they are tears of transcendent joy.
-Christine Kaplunas
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=envQ-ZqGQu8

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