Tag Archives: David Ryther

my musical weekend

In order to free up my weekend for personal things, I took on work towards the end of last week that ordinarily I would have dodged. Wednesday night on house electric, Thursday all day until midnight with the sound crew for a Disney/Pixar film, then Friday morning for a graduation, followed by house electric duties again in the evening.

Saturday morning I was pooped, but by early afternoon I was ready to go to a benefit party for Sarah’s quartet. Here‘s a link to their website, by the way.

The party was very nice, in a modest home in San Francisco. The quartet played excerpts from their repertoire, most notably from David Ryther’s transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Even in their opening number, a selection from Vilvaldi’s Four Seasons, it was astonishing how loud 4 acoustic instruments were in a small room. They played in the living room which wasn’t more than about 15′ by 15′ with a normal ceiling.

Hearing a string quartet in such intimate circumstances is one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. Saturday afternoon was not one of the best, mostly because excerpts do not allow each piece to develop as it should.

At 5 it was over and I had to run to my own concert. The Skyline Jazz Band’s concert was that evening. We had done a dress rehearsal in the theater Monday and one the last things I heard from my rhythm section mates was that we would do a sectional there at 5 on Saturday. No one seemed to care when I asked if the theater would be open to us then. As it happened, the jazz vocal group was already there and rehearsing so the sectional crumbled. The section is a little chaotic, with three drummers, two bass players and two guitar players.

In theory, charts are assigned so that only one of each plays at a time. It works well, as far as I can tell, with the other players, but my guitar partner doesn’t seem to get it. During rehearsal, throughout the semester, no one is bothered by both of us chunking along, but even one guitar in a big band is arguably too much. Gram is very young, and I am very non-confrontational so I haven’t played the heavy with him. I did complain some weeks ago to Zack, the director. He made some gentle efforts in class to make it all clear. I don’t know what, if anything, he said to Gram in private.

None of it made any impression. Gram just kept playing on every chart! During one that I had been assigned to, in the middle of the concert, Zack came over and indicated (I thought) to Gram that he should stop. Nope.

Oh, well. Zack announced during the concert that Gram is going on to study jazz guitar at SFS State in the fall. I wish him the best, but I’m not going to miss him in the section.

Sunday was Doghouse Blues in Drytown. Steve had graciously smoothed the way for me to have a lesson with Allen Frank. Allen is a good player but not formally educated in music so he’s not a very good teacher. It was mostly do this, try this. Hard to assimilate under the conditions. He’s also the owner of the club so he was a little distracted by some necessities of getting the club ready for a Sunday afternoon crowd. He did let me sit in with the band for three numbers later in front of a nice crowd at the club. Thanks, Allen!

Still, 14 hours and 300 miles driven. That’s a lot for 20 minutes of playing. OK, about an hour including the lesson. I did get to spend some quality time with Steve and Leigh beforehand.

Tonight, I’m back to jazz, sort of. The band is playing in the gymnasium for graduation and tonight is our run through. If past experience is a guide, we’ll play three or four numbers before getting down with P & C for the graduates’ walk in.

Sarah’s quartet

I went to Sarahs’ quartet concert last Friday night. I had spoken to her a couple of times about it beforehand but hadn’t made any big promises about coming. She indicated the program was daunting and implied they weren’t ready for performance.

None of that really registered to me. I go to her concerts when I can and don’t worry about what’s on the program. In my mind it’s not about what they are playing, I’m just supporting my daughter.

It’s not that I expect it to be terrible, just the opposite. I know Sarah has the highest standards and the people in her quartet are all quality players. (Actually I don’t know if it fair to refer to it as ‘her’ quartet. She plays first violin but I believe it is a cooperative venture.)

So the program was all about David Ryther’s transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for string quartet. ‘The Sound and the Fury’ The first piece was a Debussy quartet that was nice but rather dark. I remember thinking that with the Stravinsky on the second half, it was already a pretty heavy program.

At intermission, David and Omid brought out some percussion stuff including a kick drum! Oddly, although I had heard the Rite of Spring a couple of times live and had at least one recording of it, I didn’t feel like I had familiarity with it.

In fact, it was like hearing it for the first time. And in the back of my head, I must have retained the feeling I got from Sarah that they were not completely secure with it. The combination had me on the edge of my seat and they ripped it up. Just grabbed it by the throat and ran with it. It was awesome! Omid on the kick drum! David on the tam tam!

For all that, my main reaction was not to the music per se. I kept thinking about how all the people in the quartet were friends with Zach. My feeling of pride in Sarah got all tied up with that and I choked up a couple of times. It wasn’t until afterwards when I saw Lynn Oakley that I really lost it. Lynn was Sarah’s first teacher back when Sarah was 4 years old. She taught Zach too, for many years.

Not many know, outside the Villa circle, that Zach was a really good violinist. He started, like Sarah, at a very young age. He played with Villa Sinfonia many times and went on at least one tour with them. I believe he had perfect pitch. I also believe that the violin came to symbolize his mother and he refused to play any more after he was about 14. I always hoped he would come back to it later in life.

Afterward the concert I held Sarah and said, somewhat hopefully, into her ear. ‘Didn’t I cry at your concerts before?’ She said, ‘Not as much.’