Dr. Valerie Arsenault’s violin speaks. Over time, the president and music director of the Tallahassee Bach Parley has become inseparable from her instrument. She draws parallels between the “voices” of an orchestra string section and a choir — if the cello is a booming bass, then the violin is the twinkling soprano.
Arsenault enjoys how an instrument can say so much without words. The baroque music the Parley performs communicates a wide breadth of emotion and feeling. Their spring concert draws in nearly 300 attendees every year.
For Arsenault, the upcoming June 2 performance at St. John’s Episcopal Church is another chance to open channels of understanding and empathy.
“I don’t have to worry about saying anything controversial [with my violin],” explains Arsenault. “There’s so much conflict and distress in the world right now, that more than ever, it’s all about being able to bring people together.”
One highlight from the program is J. S. Bach’s Cantata No. 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden.” Though the lyrics are sung in German, Arsenault appreciates how the piece’s instrumentation can connect anyone to the music regardless of language or experience. It’s her mission as music director to facilitate a program that rises above differences and connects with audiences.
Arsenault attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and earned her master’s degree in baroque violin from Indiana University and doctorate from Florida State University. She drew pictures of violins as a young child, and her studies deepened as a teenager when she first heard Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin.
“The music just soaks into you and starts to change you,” says Arsenault. “It becomes a part of you.”
As a student, baroque period music came most naturally. One of her favorite musical structures is the fugue, which starts with one idea that is permutated into different combinations. The subsequent passion and rationality draws Arsenault in. She describes the feeling as going on an odyssey through sound before coming back home again.
Read the rest of the story by visiting the Tallahassee Democrat
or read more by downloading the article here