“As a parent, I know school children are taught to recognize patterns. With this year’s ECP program, I want to show how these patterns are also in classical music. These patterns are the melodies! It gives our audience a better idea of the big musical picture.”
—Chris Farrell, ALIAS Education and Community Programs Coordinator
In addition to creating innovative repertoire, ALIAS is committed to giving back to the community. One way the ensemble gives back is through its Education and Community Programs (ECP). The ECP enriches the lives of Nashville’s students, families and diverse communities with the gift of chamber music. Each ECP performance includes a select group from the ALIAS chamber who volunteer their time and talents to reach audiences who would otherwise not have access to live classical music.
ALIAS violist Chris Farrell is the ECP Coordinator. Chris recently took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the exciting new programming for this year’s ECP performances. (Chris recently finished String Quartet No. 2, one of three world premieres at the May 6 winter concert!)
Tell us about the most recent ALIAS Education and Community Programs performance.
The ALIAS ECP string ensemble performed at Paragon Mills Elementary, where we played for two different music classes. One of the classes had just been discussing string instruments, so they were already familiar with the instrumentation. The other class had no exposure to classical string instruments before. For many of these students, this performance is one of a handful of times they’ll hear classical music.
ALIAS has also played at King’s Daughters Child Care in Madison and for the adults at Park Center in downtown, Nashville. Performances also include Oliver Middle School on Nolensville Road and the Tennessee School for the Blind.
We’ve covered a very diverse demographic this year. The King’s Daughters are Pre-K, mostly 3 to 5 year-olds. There’s a wide age range of adults at Park Center. So we’ve really spanned a huge audience in terms of age levels!
It has been gratifying to serve different communities who would normally not have access to live classical music. It’s nice when the ECP is able to spread out our reach.
How do you piece together the ECP musical programming?
The idea was to create something “flexible” that would work for our diverse audience of different age groups. Composers often create flexible pieces that are put together based on melody. For example, many composers started with a couple pieces by other composers that have one to two main melodies. The pieces can grow out of those melodies.
The first element of the ALIAS ECP program has one melody based on a Mozart piece that repeats in different ways. For the second part, we’ve started with a composition by ALIAS cellist Matt Walker. Matt’s piece has two melodies for two cellos. It’s very unusual for a string ensemble to feature a duet for two cellos! This year the ALIAS ECP has an extra cello, in addition to our normal quartet.
The last movement is a piece I wrote. It’s a rondo, which is a form with three different melodies. We use this to go from one melody to three melodies as the program progresses. With the rondo, one melody comes back over and over again, even after you do something different.
What goals do you have for the ECP program in the near and distant future?
In the immediate sense, I want to show the audience there are patterns in music. With the rondo in our program, one melody repeats. As a parent, I know school children are taught to recognize patterns. With this year’s ECP program, I want to show how these patterns are also in classical music. These patterns are the melodies! It gives our audience a better idea of the big musical picture.
In the future I’d really like to get away from always using the same type of instrumental ensembles. Because musician schedules are so hectic, it can be a challenge to schedule for schools who are out during holidays, Spring-Summer breaks and testing. So a string quartet is much easier to put together than a large ensemble. At some point, I would enjoy adding some percussion and other instrumentation.
I’d also like to explore more audiences and venues that don’t know anything about classical music. After all, the mission of the ECP is to bring classical music to audiences who would likely never have a chance to hear it anywhere else.
How can schools or other organizations become involved with the ALIAS Education and Community Programs?
They can email me! They can submit inquiries to email@example.com. We’re limited on the number of performances we can do per year, but we’ll certainly try to make it happen!