Just two weeks ago I was in Barcelona with the Dudoks. We gave a concert together with the brand new BBT award winners, the Aris Quartet, and with the Esmé Quartet. We were ‘lucky’ that there weren’t many tickets sold, so our concert was the only one that wasn’t cancelled.
We spent Friday the 13th visiting Park Guell, which was rather empty, but there was no way we could foresee what was going to happen the next day. Only when we arrived on Schiphol that night we realized we probably had the last regular flight from Spain.
The next day, Spain was in total lockdown. And a week later, the Dutch government decided all concerts would be cancelled until 1 June.
So here we are. From a very busy life, with lots of travelling, rehearsing and performing, seeing each other every day, we went to a life inside our homes, without rehearsals. To stay in touch, we have a zoom meeting almost every day, but apart from that, our life is rather quiet. We get up, practice for a few hours, try to go outside to do some sports, keeping enough distance from other people of course. And we think about new plans.
As musicians, we are so used to interact with other people, to perform for a live audience. But luckily there are so many other ways to reach people nowadays. I feel blessed with the possibilities of sharing our music online. I started teaching with Facetime and Zoom last week. And it’s possible! It even opens up new possibilities: I email my students harmony and composition exercises, they send them back via WhatsApp. I record a scale so they can play along at home. And as I’m not there to write in their note-book, they have to do that themselves, which is a much better way to remember things.
With the Dudoks, we share a recording on social media every day. Because we think music can be the best distraction in these confusing and frightening days. Also, we started making our first podcast, in Dutch to start with (maybe later in English as well), about Haydn’s Op 20 string quartets.
This was a plan we already had in mind for a long time, but we never had the time to actually do it. Furthermore, we finally have some time for the arrangements of Hungarian pieces, for one of our programmes next year.
Last but not least, I have decided I will start to work on my new book with string quartet pieces for all levels, starting with open strings. During the string quartet biennale, last January, we worked with elementary school pupils who formed their first string quartet. Before that, they just played together in an orchestra, so they were not used to having their own part and their own responsibility. It was so wonderful to see these kids grow, musically and personally. When they gave their final concert, they were solid teams that could breathe together and make a musical line together.
Playing string quartet can be so much fun, on every level. That’s why I will try to compose a few new pieces for children.
Although we don’t have any concerts at the moment, which makes us a bit sad, it’s in our nature to go on creating new things. And I think this is what keeps us moving. Not only us as musicians, but everybody who is dealing with the current situation.
I wish everybody lots of courage in these uncertain times, and I’m sure we will recover from this. Music can help us to cope with this difficult situation, and we will continue sharing our music with you.
Judith (Dudok Quartet Amsterdam)