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Nov 27th
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The Virtuoso

ae ireneIrene Herrmann lives the sound of music  

Fresh from a concert in Tangier, Morocco, Irene Herrmann was busy whipping up a dish of quail in tamarind sauce when I stopped to visit. A highly sought-after piano teacher and chamber music coach, Herrmann is also known in the Santa Cruz community as the mandolin player with long platinum tresses who performs at the Westside farmers market most Saturdays, along with Paul Rangell and Emily Abbink. She has premiered countless avant-garde piano and cello compositions at equally countless New Music Works performances. An astonishingly facile sight reader, Herrmann performs and accompanies vocal ensembles such as the UCSC Concert Choir and the Westside Community Choir. If music’s involved, she’s there.

Herrmann is a restless pragmatist with a Master degree in Performance Practice from UCSC. She believes that music, like food, is a universal language, and she walks the walk by packing her calendar with concert travel throughout the year.

“I tell people that I’ll do a concert for free if they just pay my travel costs,” she says with a laugh. Much of her performing over the past decade has been influenced by her role as interpreter of the modernist music of Paul Bowles, best known as the author of The Sheltering Sky. Visiting with Bowles in his Tangier home during the last decade of his life, she became a friend and then ultimately the heir of his musical archives.

“At the Tangier concert, I did what I usually do—I play something first,” Herrmann explains, “and then I say something about it. I tell a story.”

On the road as much as she is in residence here in Santa Cruz, Herrmann makes music a big part of every journey. “I have a good ear and I can sight read quickly, so I can join in with whatever people are playing,” she says.

She believes that music crosses all boundaries, and she’s as fluent with mandolin, cello, piano, and fiddle as she is with the traditional music of France, Greece, Poland, and Italy. “I also play classical music,” she reminds me, most recently with a string quartet from the Bay Area.

Herrmann is convinced that playing “old time” music is “completely different socially than playing classical. It’s more inclusive. Everybody can appreciate it. I love finding the harmonies, the short repetitive refrains. We all have such a bond. I know all of my musical colleagues well, and have for a long time.”

One summer, she and her daughter worked on an organic farm in Italy, eating with the family. “After that I promised myself that making noodles from scratch would never be too much trouble,” she says.

“Music is bonding,” says the mother of two daughters who are themselves expert performers on cello and violin. After the Italian tour, Herrmann will wrap up her summer the same way she has for 30 years. “With a chamber week in Vermont, with 45 other high level players. And we’ll just play and play until 3am.”

Comments (2)Add Comment
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written by kaethe, May 28, 2014
what a lady!
Irene deserves this encomium
written by Welles, May 25, 2014
She is an important piece of the foundation of musical culture here in Santa Cruz.

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We are in the time and under the influence of Sagittarius, sign of the wanderer, good food, good music, and the joy (Jupiter as ruler) that occurs from giving to others while simultaneously giving thanks from our hearts. Having the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of Sag is not a mistake. No other sign understands joy (an aspect of the Soul) as Sag (except Pisces when not in despair). “Sag is a beam of directed and focused light. The beam reveals a greater light ahead, illuminating the Way to the center of the Light,” emitting the Ray of Joyfulness. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; in the form of prayers, thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes and greetings. Gratitude is something we still need to learn. Gratitude creates goodwill. Together, gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution” for humanity and our world’s problems. Gratitude and goodwill are the prerequisites for the reappearance of the Christ, the Aquarian World Teacher. In Ancient Wisdom texts it is written, “being grateful is the hallmark of one who is enlightened.” Gratitude comes from the Soul—the characteristics of which are love and wisdom (Ray 2). Gratitude is scientifically and occultly (mental, not emotional) a releasing agent. Gratitude liberates us and everything around us. Also a service to others, gratitude is deeply scientific in nature, releasing us from the past and laying open our future path leading to the new culture and civilization, the new laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarian, the Age of Friendship and Equality. The Hierarchy lays much emphasis upon gratitude. Let us be grateful this year and this season together. And so now the days of light illuminating the darkness begin (December’s festivals and feast days). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for all of you, my readers.

 

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