Review from the Pasadena Star-News
Tuesday, December 14, 1999 

Concert Incorporates Stories

By TATIANO BUTKO
Staff Writer

Altadena – Each year for six years, violinist Paul Stein has brought his Chamber Music Express to the Altadena Public Library during the holidays to present an unusual type of concert geared toward children, but also appreciated by adults.

    Stein selects a composer or two, makes up a story about him or them and includes pieces not only by the featured composer, but also by other composers that he works into the tale.

    “Usually, you have a story, and somebody composes music for it,” said Stein, a Monrovia resident who has played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 18 years.

    But Stein picks the music and then creates a story to bring the pieces together.   Through the story children may grasp more about music than just the technique of playing the instrument, he said.

    Stein has presented concerts such as “Mozart at Disneyland,” “Cooking with Ludwig” and “Vivaldi at the Village.” 

    His latest concert was called “Kreisler at Texarkana:  Practicing with Scott Joplin and Fritz Kreisler” that Stein and pianist Mary Ann Brown performed Dec. 13 at the Altadena Library.

    “I think he’s good with children,” said Lisa Lewis of Los Angeles, whose son Liam studies with Stein.  “He knows how to present a story.  When he does adult concerts, he also tells stories-he’s very animated.”

    In “Kreisler in Texarkana,” Stein created “a mythical meeting of the minds,” he said.  The composers were contemporaries born in the latter part of the 19th century.

    So, what if Kreisler, a violinist and composer from Vienna, came to visit Joplin, the father of ragtime, in Texarkana while they were 13-year-old boys?  It could happen-in Stein’s imagination.

    The story has Kreisler and his family spending a year in Texarkana where the two boys meet, practice music together on violin and piano and learn from each other.  The program featured pieces by Kreisler, two Joplin rags, a piece by American Leroy Anderson and also a gypsy song and Mozart.

    One of the lessons Kreisler learns is that it takes more than hours of practice to become a fine musician.  Enjoying music and the interaction with other musicians helped Kreisler become well-rounded.  It wasn’t just about playing the notes like a robot.

    “Music doesn’t have to be a stressed situation,” Brown said.  “It brings pleasure and joy.  Children love good music, so it’s very natural to share new pieces with them and tell them stories about composers.”

    Stein received a Masters of Music from Yale University and served as principal second violinist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra prior to coming to Los Angeles.

    He produces children’s concerts with Chamber Music Express at schools and libraries throughout the area and has performed with “Music Center on Tour.”  He also has a teaching studio in Monrovia.

    Brown is a staff accompanist at Cal State University, Fullerton, and teaches piano privately.  She was on the accompanying staff at the Juilliard School for 17 years and has been keyboardist for the Stockholm Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic and Aspen Festival Symphony orchestras.

    It’s a great way to introduce the public and kids to classical music,” said Jackie Freeman, Altadena’s children’s librarian.

    “Many kids involved with music come, and it’s free,” Freeman said.  “Some older kids taking music heard about this program from their teachers.  A lot of them cannot afford to go see a live concert.”

    Chamber Music Express will perform in January at Wild Rose School in Monrovia and at Whittier Library.

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