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It’s a family affair

“Playing out of tune is like poison to the ear,” according to sarode player Aashish Khan.


April 27, 2012

While we desperately need the rain, wet weather does tend to impact family fun over the weekend here in the Upper Delaware valley. While the folks at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) have it covered—sponsoring indoor, kid-friendly events in the form of their World Stage Series—the moisture can affect the music, even with a roof overhead.

Such was the case this past Sunday, when Ray Spiegel and Aashish Khan appeared, alongside fellow musicians Ted Morano and Melanie Richeson, to introduce both adults and children to the music of India.

Families are encouraged to come early to the many concerts in the series, and participate in a variety of craft projects, which are coordinated with the culture being showcased. I arrived early in order to observe the kids making Rangoli door ornaments, which are colorful, textured and symmetrical. The literature provided indicated that these ornaments, often made with colored rice and sand, are usually placed in an open space inside, or in front of a doorway, and are intended to create a “welcome place for Hindu gods.” Stopping to chat with some young ladies who were busily gluing their crepe paper ornaments, all were in agreement that this aspect of the World Stage Series is “always fun.”

Having attended a number of these family-oriented events in the past, I nodded in agreement and took my seat with the others who had braved the nasty weather to take advantage of this concert series, designed to offer free events for people of all ages who might be seeking both educational and entertaining afternoons.

Khan explained to the audience that the instruments being showcased (tabla, tanpura and sarode) are “very, very sensitive to moisture in the air” and must be tuned repeatedly when rain is on the horizon. Demonstrating how the exotic, 25-stringed tabla is tuned, he shared his belief that playing out of tune is “poison to the ear” and asked for indulgence, as the rain pelted the grounds outside, resulting in laborious and time-consuming efforts to keep the music playing.

I’m not sure if it was the rain or the program, but this particular show (IMHO) somehow missed the mark. Although Khan touched on a few salient points regarding the instruments, the music and its origins, the constant tuning and his low-key approach did not seem to engage the audience as much as some of the past shows.