There is something uniquely compelling about chamber music — a small group of musicians, usually playing in an intimate venue. As a musician, I love to play it, and as an audience member I have a special place in my heart for it, too. I attended a remarkable performance today featuring renowned baroque cello player Jaap ter Linden. He was joined by Annalisa Pappano playing bass viola da gamba, theorbo player David Walker and harpsichordist Michael Unger.
These instruments are all quite different, and the program had them grouped in various configurations for each selection. The musicians were a mix of genders, generations, and nationalities. It was delightful to hear their beautiful sounds blending and watch them exchange glances and smiles, breathe together, imitate musical gestures, and pause for dramatic effect. It’s a hearty dialogue between the players — civil, playful, sometimes a wee bit competitive, yet always respectful. The musicians take turns letting each other shine and playing supporting roles.
It reminded me of how much better everyday life might be if people used chamber music playing as a model for their interactions. It probably sounds corny, but think about it! All the values of playing chamber music apply beautifully to communicating with friends, family members, coworkers, and even strangers: being civil and respectful, taking turns, being playful and competitive, but always in a good-natured way. And look how beautiful and satisfying the end result is when we keep some of those ground rules in mind!
So, I’m going to make a point to think “chamber music” now as I go about my day. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too!