Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions-Concertmistress Interview

Karen Lowry-Tucker
I recently talked to Karen Lowry-Tucker, concertmistress (first chair first violin) of the Washington D.C. performances of “Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions” about her history as a musician and her experience playing the music of the Pokémon games.

Where are you from originally, and how did you get into playing music for a living?
I am from Louisville, KY and I started playing the piano at age 5. I was introduced to the violin in elementary school, so I pursued both instruments.

How familiar were you with the Pokémon franchise before you started practicing for this concert?
I remember when Pokémon first debuted, but had not followed it.

What did you think of the music for this concert overall?
The music was phenomenal. There were some passages that were difficult but fun, and there were some very beautiful lyrical passages. It was well written and well-arranged and felt at times to me like a Hollywood action movie score.

As concertmistress, did you have any specific responsibilities in regards to the music? 
I spent a lot of time marking the bowings for my section so they would be uniform. This is one  of the duties of the concertmaster, or concertmistress in my case. We had two days to learn the music and I spent the better part of both of those days learning the notes and marking my part. The concertmaster’s markings are usually copied into the other parts in advance by a music librarian. Since a librarian is not usually hired for this type of job, it was my responsibility to arrive early to the first rehearsal and lend my part to my fellow violinists so they could copy my markings.

How many times did you get to rehearse with the rest of the orchestra?
We had two rehearsals before the performance and this great freelance orchestra nailed it in my opinion.

What was it like actually performing the music in front of an audience? What did you think of the way the crowd reacted to the music?
Since I am a member (not the concertmistress, however) of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, I love opportunities to be out of the pit or “above ground” as I call it, and actually see the audience. The crowd was “electric”. It was a force that reminded me of a rock concert. To these fans it must have been phenomenal to hear the digital tunes they all knew played by a live orchestra. I definitely felt the energy in the concert.

Is there a particular piece from the concert that was your favorite? 
My favorite piece was “Songs of the Tower”. I loved the writing and I loved putting my spin on the solos.

What else have you had the opportunity to play during your orchestral career? 
I am a classically trained musician and symphonic and opera music are a part of my soul. However I have enjoyed different genres as well. I have had the chance to perform excerpts from Hollywood movie scores such as “Wall-E”, “Star Wars”, etc.

I have played with R&B stars and rock stars, symphonic “Pops” concerts and musicals like “The Producers”, “Phantom of the Opera”, etc. My fondest memory was playing in a backup orchestra on “Saturday Night Live” for Vanessa Williams!

My latest passion is chamber music and I especially enjoy playing in a string trio. We like to take time to go in the schools and give children’s concerts. It’s personally my way of “giving back”. We have fun programs that introduce young audiences to classi¬¬cal music and hopefully inspire them to pursue the arts. That’s how I began. A woman came to my school and did a string demonstration and I was hooked!

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