Two lines of sixteenth notes! Bernard Dauphinais, an amateur cellist, was not sure if he was ready to play at the intensity required to perform Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 1 in F Major.” While Dauphinais has played the piano most of his life, he began learning the cello when he was 54. The instrument thrills and challenges him. Last year, his performance was stretched to a new level during the Hanover Street Chamber Music Festival at the Upper Valley Music Center (UVMC). There, he was assigned to play Beethoven’s quartet with its imposing rhythm.
To his surprise, Dauphinais found that he could acceptably play those sixteenth notes with practice and coaching offered during the festival. He says performing that piece provided a milestone for his musical development.
This weekend, Dauphinais and other adult musicians will once again create music together during the Hanover Street Chamber Music Festival. Named for the UVMC’s former home on Hanover Street, the festival allows instrumentalists and singers a chance to study and perform a piece of classical music under the tutelage of UVMC’s instructors. The festival began last Friday, June 15, and will meet again to rehearse Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23. It culminates in an informal concert on Sunday, June 24.
This year, Dauphinais has been assigned a piece by Felix Mendelssohn. Before groups were assigned, he expressed interest in the piece, allured by its lovely melody. Dauphinais says “It’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s good to celebrate the level I have achieved. I don’t always have to push myself.”
Dauphinais, a web developer, drives 50 minutes from Groton, NH to the UVMC in Lebanon, NH. “It’s worth the trip,” he says. “I have enjoyed every lesson and every class I have taken.”
The Hanover Street Music Festival and similar programs by the UVMC are unique because they are tailored to the working adult musician, like Dauphinais, explains Ben Kulp, the cello instructor at UVMC and the organizer of this year’s festival.
Rehearsals are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate traditional work hours. The music is selected to engage and appropriately challenge the musicians. “Our goal is to help people have an enriching experience through coaching and meeting people,” says Kulp.
As part of this enriching experience, the UVMC strives to create a welcoming, collaborative environment for musicians. Usually, this hospitable atmosphere is created through food. Musicians during the Hanover Street Chamber Music Festival break for snacks during Friday evening meetings and share a potluck lunch during the longer rehearsal Saturday. At these breaks, the musicians bond. “It’s good to be with kinfolk,” says Dauphinais. “It’s good to be with other musicians.”
For Dauphinais, the festival provides him with an opportunity to shift his focus from technique to group performance. In his private practice, he is striving to perfect his finger placement and controlling the minutiae of his body. While playing during the festival, he still desires good technique but also seeking to fit his music to how the other musicians are playing.
Being able to practice and develop musically provides solace for Dauphinais. “No matter how I might feel at the end of the day, after an hour of practice, everything feels better. Everything feels clear,” he says. The UVMC exists, in part, to cultivate the adult musician and allow them to express themselves. Ben Kulp adds, “As adults, it’s important for us to continue to find ways to artistically express ourselves. Music and singing at the Upper Valley Music Center is a really great way to do that.”