March 2016


Tonight we spent time discussing our work thus far and planning how best to use the time during our final two classes in order to prepare for our culminating concert in May. Returning musicians have decided to play two classical pieces: The Churn/Blessing Dance, and Bopha Lokey (Dance of the Flowers). We’ll also perform Sarika Keo in ensemble with our new group of musicians.

On another note, with the frequently changing climate here in New England, the frames of our gong circles are not holding their shape like they would in the more humid climate of Cambodia. Master Heng has taken two of them home with him. Song will be very busy performing during the upcoming Khmer New Year celebrations. After that, he plans to make some modifications to the frames of these instruments in order to improve their sound and ensure their durability over time here in America.

Musicans’ Reflections:

RITA:  Tonight I had a chance to play the Churn/Blessing Dance on the kong toc with master Heng and Sovann.   Playing with these amazing musicians is easier for me than playing with others in our class, because the masters’ performance is so solid and bold. I love the challenge when they push me to play faster and faster as we near the end. It’s thrilling and has boosted my confidence about our upcoming performance.

I’ll also play Bopha Lokey on this instrument. I love it when master Heng begins improvising on the roneat ek while we’re all playing this beautiful melody together.

It’s exciting and intimidating to imagine ourselves performing on these ancient and beautiful instruments in May. While there was much anxiety before class, by the time we finished we were very pleased with our progress and beginning to feel more confident about being ready to perform in five weeks.

LAURA:  I will be playing the “churn” melody and the flower of the world song (I don’t know how to spell the Khmer way but I can say it). I will perform on the Kong Thom.   My worries have abated since our last rehearsal where we spent much of the time working as an ensemble.   I’m just a worrier!! I now feel pretty well prepared for May 4th. I think our next rehearsal will really help us smooth out the edges and put on a great performance!

I would love to continue studying this but will have to see what next year holds as my first year in motherhood.

SUSAN:   I would like to spend more time with Cambodian music in order to achieve a greater degree of facility and confidence. It has been difficult to retain instruction with only a once per month meeting. In spite of that circumstance, it was quite amazing that we were all able to improve and grow musically. I am excited (and somewhat nervous) about our upcoming performance. I am hoping we will be able to share a video of this performance with our students.

I am grateful to Master Song for his patient guidance.

JANET:   Meeting once a month is just OK for reminding me about the patterns I knew, but it is not at all enough time to learn anything new or get ready for a concert. To have any chance of playing the Flower Dance, I needed to record Rita playing the song in sections, bring home the gong circle and repeatedly view and copy the video.

It was such fun to have a chance to play the instrument every day.  I also brought it to the classroom for about a month. The students were SO interested and respectful, and several of them started to learn the tune. I still make a lot of mistakes and I’m not aware of them. I need to unlearn the pattern, and make it work for when I play with others. I notice that this happens when I put the melody into a more regular rhythmic pattern. I don’t even notice that I’m doing it!

Janet recorded Rita playing Bopha Lokey in sections and as a whole.  We often used this technique, recording each other’s work in parts and as a whole for reference when the master was not here to teach us.







On May 4 I will play Sarika Keo on the Kong Thom.  I’m very excited to perform as at the beginning I thought for sure I would never be able to figure this out.  I am so excited to share what I’ve learned and I hope that there are more opportunities in the future to continue to learn Cambodian music.