Loosen up! Lessons from HouSymph


Gil Shaham, internationally recognized violinist, was at the Houston Symphony this weekend playing Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major.  A beautiful work that belies Korngold’s  background as a composer of both symphonies and movie scores, Shaham’s performance was not only moving but demonstrated an attitude toward his profession that reminded me of something I try to do everyday: loosen my grip!

The concerto incorporates drawling romantic strains throughout the three movements but also contains Paganini (read really fast and intricate) sections, as well.

For all performers, maintaining the energy to adequately sustain the duration of a work is a skill that requires practice and maturity.  When scores jolt in extreme emotional panic multiple times throughout the work, sometimes the instinctual  way to respond is to tighten focus and bodily effort. Musicians, like us, sometimes just “buckle down” when music or projects get tough. Gil Shaham, however, demonstrates that the opposite works even better.

With an engaging countenance,  Shahm maintained  effortless composure throughout the performance and he seemed to barely touch the violin through even the most difficult sections. As his fingers floated along the strings, he gave a warm smile to fellow players and audience alike.  He made it look easy – like he was having a conversation with friends.

It is true that sometimes we just have to “fake it to make it ” but what we should really strive for is the ability to take on the world with grace and laughter, with less stress and more flexibility.

So, this week as you are getting stressed out remember that you’re not playing Jones Hall with zillions of people looking at you and a whole symphony counting on you.  Smile and be glad that there is a Starbucks near by that you can escape to in case you have stage fright.

Here is Shaham performing the Barber Violin Concerto.

Jeanette Joy Harris is an artist and writer who lives in Houston, Texas. She has had solo and collaborative photography, installation, and video works shown in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, and San Francisco. She has published work with TribTalk, Glasstire, and Illusion. With a background in philosophy and politics, Joy has also presented academic work on the concepts of public space and action, particularly in the work of Hannah Arendt and Diane Arbus.

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