Worthington Violist Shines on NPR’s From the Top
Listen Above: Violist Eva Kennedy speaks with Classical 101′s Jennifer Hambrick about her three appearances on NPR’s From the Top, what classical music means to her – and why it’s good for everyone.
Most young classical musicians probably follow NPR’s From the Top. A select group have performed on the hit program. But only an elite few can boast multiple appearances on the nationally broadcast show.
Eva Kennedy is one of them.
Kennedy, 18, makes her third appearance on From the Top Sunday, May 19 at 7 pm on Classical 101. The program highlights the talents of some of America’s most gifted young classical musicians, many of whom have gone on to launch international musical careers. Sunday’s program was taped during a live performance in March at New Albany’s Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.
Kennedy says each of her three appearances on the From the Top , a program that seeks not only to display musical talent but also to nurture it, has been a unique earning experience. Her two previous performances on the show were with chamber ensembles of other string players. However on Sunday she performs Brahms’ Geistliches Wiegenlied (Sacred Lullaby), Op. 91, No. 2, with mezzo-soprano Michaella Cipriani and From the Top host Christopher O’Riley at the piano.
Kennedy says playing chamber music with a singer stretched her to adapt to different ways of making music.
“Playing with other instrumentalists is in some ways easier because I have a much deeper understanding of how they play. It’s a lot easier to follow what they’re going to do because I can see it, number one, and number two, I can do it as well. But with a vocalist, it’s completely different. I was depending a lot more on sort of sensing when she was going to do phrasing and just interpreting her body language a little bit more,” Kennedy said.
In addition to helping Kennedy hone her chamber music skills, already carefully developed through 11 years with Chamber Music Connection, her most recent From the Top experience may even have added another whole dimension to her viola-playing technique overall.
“I think it was really beneficial to my solo playing as well, because everybody always tell (instrumentalists) to phrase like vocalists,” Kennedy said. “When Michaella sings you can really tell where the direction is going and the phrases are soaring. You can really feel the direction of the music a lot more easily, so that is something we can really emulate.”
The May 19 From the Top broadcast also marks Kennedy’s first time collaborating with O’Riley, whose career highlights include early honors at a number of the world’s most important piano competitions, concert performances around the globe and a discography ranging from standard classical piano repertory to the songs of Radiohead.
Kennedy said working with O’Riley gave her a fresh perspective on how to perform Brahms’ Geistliches Wiegenlied, which she and Cipriani had rehearsed with different pianists before joining O’Riley for the taping.
“One of the things that he said that really stuck out to me was that it’s a lullaby and we really just need to sing it to each other. Because one thing that can be kind of daunting, especially in such a big hall, is to try to project and play really loud so the person in the last row can hear you. When we really just thought of making it intimate and playing it for each other, that really helped the character and the tone a lot.”
Kennedy’s From the Top performance comes as she finishes her senior year at Thomas Worthington High School. She intends to pursue a career performing with a professional string quartet and is awaiting the results of her college auditions.
The taping for From the Top, came right as the hustle and bustle of Kennedy’s college auditions ended. It also gave Kennedy a chance to remember why she wants to build a life in music.
“I went through this whole crazy month of flying and driving all over the country, and it was really, really fun to come to From the Top and know that no one was there to specifically judge me, but everyone was just there because they wanted to be there because they love music and they were just there to support and listen to what we had to share with them.”
Hear Eva Kennedy and other central Ohio young musicians on NPR’s From the Top Sunday, May 19 at 7pm on Classical 101.