Music Speaks

No doubt you’ve heard the Hans Christian Andersen quote, ‘Where words fail, music speaks.’ How does
it do that? How does music speak beyond words? Perhaps it’s somewhat paradoxical to explore that
enigma through words, but let’s make an attempt. An experience such as the luminous concert we heard
on Friday evening helps. I use the word luminous in its sense of lucid, clear and evident. The music
communicated – through two performers who thought, moved and played as one – directly to our human
spirit.

Music speaks when it has something to say – Beethoven, in his bold and beautifully expressive ‘Spring’
sonata and Franck, in his lyrical and dramatic Sonata in A major speak. Music also speaks when it
discusses current issues. The Garden of Earthly Delights was a contemporary work which addressed
issues of ecology, responsibility and sustainability. Love in the Time of Covid: Iotsistokwaron:ion –
commissioned by Duo Concertante – spoke even more directly to the audience. Perhaps, because we have
all gone through the pandemic, perhaps because it was so accessible; this piece spoke to us of our unity as
humanity under the stars. The contemporary performance techniques – rather than hindering our
understanding – seemed to enhance the message of connectedness.

Back to the performers. The ability to go beyond the notes to create music, to communicate in such a free
and direct way, comes from talent and skill. But far more than that, it comes from dedication and a honing
of that skill to the sharpest of edges, and from a determined perseverance that had these musicians
practicing for hours on the day of the concert as well as on the day after – in addition to the time spent in
performance. As a musician and a performer, I respect that desire to not get in the way of the music; as
well as the commitment to making it happen. As a teacher, I often underestimate the difference one can
make in a student’s ability to play and to communicate. At the masterclass on Saturday morning, two
violin students presented sparkling, polished performances. Nancy Dahn was able to point out small
details and subtle changes which – immediately – to the listening audience made an appreciable
improvement. This interchange between a teacher and student is a credit to both and is another example of
musical communication.

A further part of this musical weekend was the opportunity to present bursaries to three music students
from our community. What better way to foster communication than to help young artists on their journey
as they seek to make music speak!

Joyce Janzen
Valley Concert Society