The Phoenix based music group, Tandem Duo, performed at Sam Houston State University on Friday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gaertner Performing Arts Center.
Sarah Off and Marilyn Clark Silva, Ph.D., who form Tandem Duo, play the violin and the marimba, respectively. This unique combination of instruments makes for an equally unique sound.
The duo began the concert with the piece Legal Highs by composer David P. Jones. The most striking parts of this piece were when the two instruments would swap parts or play a section on their own. These violin and marimba solos usually signaled that the piece was about to change tone.
The movements were intentionally played in reverse order, as Silva and Off felt that by exchanging the first and third movements, the piece would have a stronger finish.
The duo also performed a piece written by Erik Satie in the early 20 century entitled Préludes flasques (pour un chien), which when translated literally means “Flabby Preludes for a Dog.” This piece took the audience on a journey through a day in the life of a dog and through Satie’s strange sense of humor.
Three Pieces for Violin and Cello by Kohei Kondo was another piece performed by Tandem Duo. It had to be arranged so that the part for cello could be played on the marimba.
Silva and Off explained to the audience that when they performed this piece for the first time, they did not have the time to contact Kondo for permission. They decided to put the piece in at the last minute.
Silva reassured the audience that all ended well.
“The performance was filmed and we sent the recording to Mr. Kando,” Silva said. “He loved it and asked if we could do more.”
Since then, Kando has written a number of pieces for violin and marimba specifically for Tandem Duo.
SHSU percussion instructor Joe Millea joined Silva and Off on stage to perform the final piece of the night: Threedance. This musically complex piece ended the concert on an energetic and enthralling high note.
Silva and Off explained how their plans to play at other universities on the West Coast eventually led them to Sam Houston State University.
“I played an alumni concert at Sacramento state, where I did my undergrad,” Silva said. “My professor said, ‘hey would you like to come and do a whole concert here?’ and I said sure. He emailed me a couple days later and said, ‘hey I booked a date for you in April.’”
Despite the last minute decision, Silva and Off wanted to travel to other locations as well. Audience members and students have Millea to thank for making SHSU one of those locations.
“We did our Master’s degrees with Joe Millea at ASU,” Silva said. “Joe was here at Sam and said ‘yeah you can come play out here and do a master class with the students.’”
While Silva and Off were at SHSU, they found time to work with some of the music students on campus.
“Yesterday we did a master class with a bunch of percussion students and a couple violin students on collaboration and professional ensemble playing,” Off said. “We played a bit of our program and talked a bit about rehearsal techniques and such and had them ask us questions.”
They also talked about life after school and how sometimes simply having a degree might not be enough to make a successful career in music.
“We talked about life outside of school and how when you’re in school you just jump through these hoops and have everything planned,” Silva said. “Then when you’re finished you don’t have this structure of musical things that you have to do.”
Furthermore, they discussed the reality of making a living as a music professional.
“So how do you make a career for yourself,” Silva said. “You’re always told to have fun and play with your friends and never be late for rehearsal but that’s not always realistic, so we talked about how do you actually make things work.”
Silva and Off returned to Arizona the day after the concert and will tour in California and Oregon next month.