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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
Marine Strings at Millennium Stage

By Staff Sgt. Chaerim Smith | | August 18, 2014


On Friday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m., a Marine string ensemble will present a free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, D.C. Coordinator Staff Sgt. Chaerim Smith offers her thoughts on the program:

It goes without saying that the Kennedy Center is an iconic space, both for musicians and audience members alike. So when Assistant Director Major Michelle A. Rakers approached me about coordinating a concert for the Millennium Stage, I was very excited.

I immediately began to think about what kind of program would be most appropriate for the space. The stage is set on the end of a very long, vast hallway that connects the Hall of Nations with the Hall of States. The hallway is flanked with floor to ceiling windows and the extremely tall ceilings make the space feel intimidatingly large. I wanted to find music that would not only juxtapose the feel of the space but also music that had contrasts within itself.

When I was in college, I remember seeing professional violinist Hilary Hahn perform in Carnegie Hall.  She was performing in one of the most famous performance venues, yet I felt like I was sitting in someone’s living room watching a private performance. Solo works for both violin and cello have a way of drawing an audience member in—there is nothing to focus on but the soloist and it really gives the performer a chance to be vulnerable.  That’s why I thought it would be great to begin the concert with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G, BWV 1007. It’s for solo cello and will really draw in the listener.

Maria Newman’s Appalachian Duets for two violins is a work that combines the traditional fiddling style with classical music. Written in five movements, Newman captures life in “The Heart O’ The Hills” (title of movement 1) by portraying typical life events in the Appalachian mountains.  The other movement titles include: Fishing (movement 2), a train passing through the valley (movement 3), a mother singing a loving lullaby to her baby (movement 4), and grandpap playing his fiddle on the porch (movement 5). The themes are simple and uncomplicated.

The final piece, Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 6 is full of juxtaposition of styles and figures. It is thought that this piece was Beethoven’s homage to those composers who were extremely prolific in string quartet composition: Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Yet, Beethoven could not help but put a little bit of his melancholy in this piece; a very interesting contrast with the lightness of Haydn and Mozart’s music, most notably seen in the Adagio movement. Marked “Questo pezzo si deve trattare piú gran delicatezza” (this piece is to be played with the utmost delicacy), the Adagio (titled La Malinconia) is the emotional center of the quartet and is bookended by movements that are joyful and sunny.

The Marine string ensemble members include violinists Staff Sgts. Karen Johnson and Chaerim Smith, violist Staff Sgt. Tam Tran, and cellist Staff Sgt. Charlaine Prescott.

The concert is free and no tickets are required. The performance will also stream live at http://www.kennedy-center.org/explorer/live/.

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