I find that many musicians come from a "musical family," in which parents, siblings or other relatives play together, or at least they did for a time.
I thought about this recently when writing a memorial for the musician Michaela Paetsch - she grew up playing her violin with her parents and seven siblings and said, ""Making music and performing with my family chamber ensemble was the most important part of my development as a performing artist."
The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin performed frequently with his sister, pianist Hephzibah, and later with his son, Jeremy.
Here is what Menuhin said about the matter in his book, The Violin: An Illustrated History:
"I feel as if God has blessed me, by giving me a sister, and then a son, with whom I have been able to share my passion and my vision of music. And, in a general sense, each of my collaborations with pianists has been not only a source of musical enrichment, but above all a human experience. They have given rhythm to my days and my travels, because, unlike a pianist, a violinist who sets off on tour never travels alone. The spirit of a violinist, who only makes music with others, is fundamentally and intrinsically communitarian: life unfolds in an extended dialogue with other musicians."
In my recent interview with the Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing, she also emphasized how much she valued her mother as a teacher, and then all the playing and performing with her sister, Ragnhild.
For many musicians, these relationships aren't just part of their upbringing; they can lead to lifelong collaboration. I don't happen to have any musicians in my family, but certainly many musicians work with family members and spouses on a regular basis. For example, Gil Shaham performs with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, and with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony.
Do you regularly play or perform with a spouse or other relative? Please share your thoughts and memories about making music within the family; also you can use the space below to discuss especially successful or interesting family groups.
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I did a little of this during the first year of violin lessons. Mom, a skilled pianist, accompanied me on some early pieces I learned. We played these duo get-together sessions during the week-long intervals between lessons. I know it helped that piano had been my first instrument. I didn’t get beyond basic level, mainly because I switched to violin at an early age; but I gained some feel, very early, of how these two instruments, violin and piano, can work together.
Since then, I haven’t done any other family ensemble playing. Today I don’t have any family members within 1,000+ miles. But I hold fond memories of those early days.
I voted yes, with my child, although it’s only a few times a year. My child is an aspiring professional musician (not violin), and plays extremely well. We have played together at church, and also at my mother’s memorial service.
I used to with my parents, but not for a minute. I plan to fulfill my dreams through my children, by one day producing a respectably-sized orchestra from my loins.
Dream big, everyone!
And how does your wife (wives?) feel about this project Christian?
I answered no - but if the question had been 'do or did' it would have been yes, but not on the violin (I played guitar and sang harmony with my brother - we even travel/gigged). I played violin as a child but oddly I can not ever remember playing with my mother, a proficient pianist....
Nope. Distinctly non-musical family. My parents don't even listen to music of any genre.
Sadly, I do not perform with a sibling. My family thinks that am weird
because I am an artist. I have not spoken with them in over 30 years.
I voted yes, with another family member. I play pretty often with my cousin (a flutist, recorder player) and her husband (baroque viola, mandolin). I will play violin or viola or sometimes viola da gamba.
When I was young, my mom and I sang together all the time, especially in the car. I learned the popular tunes of her youth, sung by Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald. My mom had a very sweet soprano voice. I miss that.
I play chamber music several times a year with my cellist brother (During the worst of Covid it was just duets), but only perform with him when we're playing in the same orchestra (which happens more than once or twice a year. I'm not sure how much this counts as regular). Of course, we both played with our father (mostly violin or viola, but I have played the Trout with him playing the double bass part on the cello - He could also play it on a double bass, but we didn't have one in the house. That day we had previously played the Cesar Franck with him on the violin. It might count as my most satisfying chamber music session ever) while he was with us.
Not literally playing together, but until very recently my daughter was the Executive Director of the local orchestra, per-service pro level. I am in the 2nd violin section.
Elise, even with the option "I did" I would be stymied. I would have to have three votes: with my brother and my father and later with my ex-wife (who played the harp but unfortunately www only up to one of his slow movements for the violin/harp combo).
I did not vote at all in consequence.
About great violinists doing it: Gil Shaham and his sister (piano) are an awesome duo.
I play almost daily with my wife on piano. She's a human metronome, and I can't hardly keep time which leads to some fun disagreements.
I haven't really thought it through that far, Elise. I suppose I would need to find a partner to bring this plan to fruition...
My twin brother, who is an oboist and pianist, lives on Copernicus Avenue in a big city. Until the start of the corona pandemic, he organized a concert every year around 19 February, Copernicus' birthday, for friends and neighbors; we often performed there together. It was always great fun.
Does sitting in the same orchestra count? If girlfriends of short duration had also been allowed I'd have voted "yes".
Nope! There are no other musicians in my immediate or extended family.
I chose "with spouse" since that is most frequent (he playing piano and me singing). But I was involved in a concert last fall where my siblings and I were all in the choir, my husband was timpanist, and my father conducted.
That was a lot less than I expected.
I haven't had family since I was 18 - but alot of the people I consider family are friends I met through music of some description. I'm wondering how many of us would have ticked a box labeled "found family"?
Anish (genetic) 'family' can be marvelous - but it can also entrap you in toxic attitudes and treatment. I had (have) both. "Found family" usually counts far more, you all chose to be in the relationship. Of course a spouse is also found family ...
Do you play with yours?
I live on the west coast. With the exception of my son who lives in Bozeman, Montana, my family lives on the east coast. A few years ago, when I'd been playing a violin for only a few months, I took my fiddle with me for a visit to Maryland. I was asked to play for my grandchildren. So, they sat in front of me in their little chairs. One was six at the time, the other was four. I played "Ashokan Farewell" as well as I could.
When I finished, I bowed. They just sat there looking at me. There was a rather long silence. Then my six-year-old grandson said, "Wow, Grandpa. That was terrible!"
Both of them rolled onto the floor laughing.
Ah, critics. . .
These days, he plays drums in his middle school band, and she plays a piano. I'm tempted to bring my fiddle again, and see if we could play together.
In my case the "No" is because my only relatives who practice music are a nephew (piano) 330 km away and the son of a cousin (viola) 50 km away.
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February 19, 2023 at 06:15 PM · I voted "yes, with a sibling" since I do occasionally play with my younger brother, but not that much. I accompany him on the piano for the occasional performance and we've done a few violin/viola duets over the years, but that's about it.