Music’s building blocks come to life

Musicians in the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival played to a young audience at DeSales.

Photo courtesy of 
Tim Christie and Maria Sampen play during Thursday’s performance at DeSales.

Photo courtesy of Tim Christie and Maria Sampen play during Thursday’s performance at DeSales. LUCIA MUMM

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— If music is like the blueprints for a building, then a composer is the architect. And just like an architect, a composer builds starting with a foundation, and then adds important layers, with final touches and details to make the work unique.

That was the theme of the "Sounds Like Fun!" children's concert coordinated by the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival on Thursday. Held in the DeSales Catholic High School gym, the event drew dozens of area children, and helped kick off the 2012 Chamber Music Festival.

The concert, with a theme of "Construction Site: How to Build a Piece of Chamber Music," introduced children to classical music and instruments.

Viola player Tim Christie led the performances beside his wife, Maria Sampen, one of two violin players.

A cello completed the ensemble, with the musicians at ease playing Beethoven as well as Green Day, and throwing in the "Star Wars" theme song for the young audience.

Sitting on the gym floor, the children in attendance could hear and see up close the string quartet, which then grew to include a soprano saxophone and a clarinet.

Each musician introduced his or her instrument by playing a short, expressive piece of music.

There was the higher pitch of a violin; the in-between range of a viola; and the deep tones produced by a cello. When the wind instruments joined, the musicians showed the difference between playing instruments in the string family and those requiring special breathing.

The group then played a few pieces together, layering the tones of instrument worked build one piece.

Christie explained how construction of buildings, or houses, or schools, happens through a process that can be compared to building a musical composition.

"All of those things have to come from a plan, just like the kind of music we're going to play," he said.

The cello's low tones set the tempo, while the violins' higher pitch creates walls of detail.

While most children sat and listened attentively, several younger ones fidgeted or wiggled around.

Christie, who is founder and artistic director of the festival, said that is to be expected.

"When you're in a gym, the gym says run," he said.

But the value of listening to live, classical music, and even a brief exposure to instruments and how they work together, is not lost on young ears.

"They get something out of it," he said.

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