Friday, August 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Fiddling After 40: Staying young through music

2fiddling1w

By
From page A1 | April 02, 2014 |

On a rainy Saturday morning, the lofted room filled with the miscellaneous notes of stringed instruments being tuned and the voices of eager players.

One cellist sits, with the face of a model student, back straight and instrument ready, face fixed on the director. Nervous fingers play across the strings and tuning knobs of the cello next to her. In the back, viola players chatter.

“OK, I’m in tune. Anybody want to use my tuner?” director Sue MacDonald calls to the group.

Handing the electronic tuner to the cellists, she turns to explain: “They’re finding their starting notes. I’ve made them get rid of the cheats,” she says, referring to the tapes novice strings players use to mark finger positions on their instruments.

The scene is typical for Davis with its plethora of school orchestras and ensembles. But the faces in this group have moved beyond the round cheeks and pimples of youth; the brows furrowed in concentration are marked with the lines of life.

Fiddling After Forty, led by MacDonald, is exactly what the name implies — an amateur strings ensemble whose players range from their early 40s to 90 years old. With the exception of MacDonald, a local music instructor, all of the group’s members are either new to their instruments or have returned to playing after hiatuses of sometimes many years.

Betty Dugan, a viola player, talks of taking her instrument from its case after 50 years.

“It needed to be cleaned up and the strings replaced,” she said, shaking her head slightly as if asking herself, “What took me so long?”

Several of the musicians took up their instruments for the first time as parents, as a way to bond with children who study music in school or through lessons. Others such as Donna Sanders, who had played piano for years, decided to use retirement as an excuse to try something new.

“I wanted to play with others, and you can’t really do that with the piano,” she said. “So I chose the cello.”

At any stage, picking up an instrument either as a beginner or after many years of letting the skill lie fallow can be daunting.

“You can’t learn something new unless you go through the part where it’s very challenging,” Sanders said.

Linda Schmidt, another cellist, nodded. “I think it’s especially hard for adults,” she said. “We’ve heard so much music, and we know how it’s supposed to sound.”

She shook her head and smiled a little ruefully. “It’s more frustrating when we don’t sound like that.”

The group began practice with a familiar piece, one of the movements of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Furrowed brows, lapsing fingers and halting notes depicted the struggle of the first few measures. MacDonald halted the group, having them begin again from the point where things turned rocky.

“When you practice at home,” she told the students, “don’t start at the beginning of a piece. Start where it gets murky, hard.”

These players have learned these lessons in life in ways that their counterparts in youth symphonies have not yet discovered. They already have learned to work through the hard and murky pieces, to persist until the parts come together.

During the next pieces, MacDonald has the group play individual instrument parts separately and then together. The notes begin to sound more confident and the faces relax. At the end of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” the group breaks into spontaneous cheers and smiles, shaking out cramped fingers.

Afterward, MacDonald explains the goal of the group: “We’re all here because we want to be improvers.”

Fiddling After Forty meets for rehearsals at 11 a.m. Saturdays at the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, 1701 Russell Blvd. in West Davis. The group had its first public performances this fall and is planning on more in the future. Anyone interested in joining should call Sue MacDonald at 530-902-0801.

As far as qualifications for the group? “We’re all here because we love music,” MacDonald said.

— Christy Corp-Minamiji is a Davis resident and freelance writer.

Comments

comments

Christy Corp-Minamiji

.

News

DHS musicians back from summer in Italy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
City to overhaul its sprinkler heads, other water-wasters

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

No easy task: History buffs still trying to save building

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Davis indecent-exposure suspect pleads no contest

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Not-guilty plea entered in Woodland homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Russian aid convoy reaches war-torn Luhansk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Putah Creek Council appoints new executive director

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A3

Communitywide ice bucket challenge on Sunday

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Parents’ Night Out features Vacation Bible School

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Afternoon tours of city wetlands resume Sept. 6

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Yolo County golf tournament enters fourth year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Saylor will meet constituents at Peet’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Event will unveil mural celebrating food justice

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Prunes take center stage at last agri-tour of the summer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

In need of food? Apply for CalFresh

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Wolk bill would require reporting of water system leaks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Writing couple stops at Davis bookstore

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Explorit: Final Blast show returns for second year

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A5

Record drought saps California honey production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
World travelers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Seniors set to stroll through Arboretum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

Weightlifters causing a racket

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Police are our friends, right?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Wage plan has a big flaw

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Bridging the digital divide with computational thinking

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

No support for militarization

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
A better use for this vehicle

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

.

Sports

Watts likes what he’s seen in keen Aggie DB competition

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Watney and McIlroy struggle at start of The Barclays

By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B1

 
Light-hitting Cats fall

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Giants win nightcap in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Big West soccer coaches have high hopes for UCD men

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

Yolo Mambo to play free show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘If I Stay’: Existential angst

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11

 
Davis Chinese Film Festival to kick off with 1994 favorite

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Rock Band campers perform at E Street Plaza

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Natsoulas to host mural conference

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

.

Business

Car Care: Teenagers not driving safe cars, study shows

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Car Care: Feeling the summer heat? Your car battery is too

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Three-wheeled Elio gets closer to going on sale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, August 22, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6