Metropolitan Opera Violinist delivers thought-provoking concerts

By Melanie Snyder ’19

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Metropolitan Opera violinist Shem Guibbory performed for the Hamilton community last Friday and Saturday in various settings. On Saturday evening, the internationally acclaimed violinist performed in Wellin Hall. The concert, entitled “Memories and Reflections.” was a collaborative effort of Guibbory’s musical performances of George Enesco’s “Impressions D’Enfance,” along with Peter Laytin’s photographic images.

According to Guibbory, Enesco was evoking 10 impressions from his childhood.  “He depicts them in incredible music and remarkable detail,” he commented. Laytin’s photographs in the concert were not illustrating the music but were rather abstracts of the world or of ancient architectural structures. The photographs were correlated with the music, though not in a way to explicitly present the same topic. Instead, they correlated in terms of emotion and rhythm.

According to Guibbory, the concert meant to evoke different responses from the audience. He described how the group perceived both pieces of art simultaneously, saying, “Some people spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the photo was doing. Other people found it unbelievably engaging so they were flipping back and forth between the music and photographs.” Meanwhile, a third group of people, as Guibbory describes, became aware of some coherence between the visual art and music. Ultimately, the goal was to allow the audience to expand their minds during the production by stimulating them with both images and sound at once.

According to Guibbory, the aim of the concert was also to take people outside of their comfort zones. “When Enesco’s talking about impressions and memories, we’re asking our audience to remember that part of themselves that was a nine and 10-year-old once. That’s a doorway through which you can apprehend.”

Guibbory has his own theory behind the potency or effectiveness of the concert. “I believe the reason why this stuff works is that Enesco, Peter and I tapped into the collective unconscious.”  People had strong reactions. Some people were confused, but others were able to realize something. “The associations that were drawn out by collective unconscious,” said Guibbory.

In addition to the concert on Saturday evening, Guibbory also made appearances at Hamilton and in Clinton on Friday. He performed in the Science Center Atrium, the Kirkland Town Library, and Café Opus. These performances were respectively #33, #34 and #35 of Guibbory’s undertaking to perform Bach’s “Chaconne” 100 times in 100 different settings.

The journey started in May 2012 at Lincoln Center. As of now, Guibbory is letting the project develop on its own, not scheduling any performances too far in advance. “It’s portable. I can take it with me. Sometimes I solicit it and sometimes I’m invited,” Guibbory explained. He went on: “I have a full time day job, so I’m allowing [the project] to have its own flow.” He prefers performing three or four in a row. “I think there’s a rhythm that will unfold by itself.”

But doesn’t playing Bach’s “Chaconne” 100 times seem repetitive? And why that piece specifically? Guibbory explained: “I chose the piece because there seems to be unfathomable depth to it for both me as a player and both people as listeners. By repeating it so much in relatively small groups, it allows me to seek to remove myself from the process–––to surrender my ego to the will and the flow of the music. That’s very specific to me.”

Many of Guibbory’s performances can be viewed online, and responses to his performances are on his website, shemguibbory.com. “I love playing for students,” he says, “because they’re minds are not yet made up. They’re open to influence. What I do with you all will stay with you. It allows me to give something to the next generation.”

Guibbory has strong feelings regarding the importance of live music. “20 years ago classical music used to be bigger. People don’t quite remember the potency of live music. Not music that is streaming online. I am going to remind people, and that repetition is going to make a difference.” 

Guibbory’s next performance will be in on March 25 in Bronxville, NY.

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