On Palm Sunday, April 9, Jewett Hall Auditorium will host the return of Farmington native and violinist, Sarah E. Geller, and her pianist, Wenhan Anderson, in a 2 p.m. concert.

Back in November of 2014, this duo had their debut at the popular venue and I had the chance to chat with Geller about her Maine roots, her classical career and her return home for a show in Augusta. I called her in New York City, where she now resides, for an interview to talk about her music. I began by asking her what was going to happen this time around at Jewett.

Geller: All right, well, this time around I have a program called “Nordic Reflections” and it’s based largely on sort of Northern European pieces with a little bit of stretching it out from there. Some of the more northern composers being (Edvard) Grieg, (Jean) Sibelius and then a Polish composer, (Karol) Szymanowski. So it’s an interesting program. I’ve had one sort of develop this way before and then I kind of modified it a little bit. Even though it’s from the north, it’s a nice mixture of some sunny pieces and very cheerful. The Grieg is actually very cheerful and celebratory where it’s more dark and stormy in the Szymanowski. And in the second half I’m doing a Schumann A minor Sonata, which definitely has lots of passion and lots of smoldering emotions. So lots of light and dark weaved in between.

Q: How do you go about choosing the pieces to perform?

Geller: Well, I have a lot of fun doing that. I have a lot of interest in trying to create a program that I think stretches an audience but also gives them a taste of what they do expect or what they are comfortable with and familiar with. So it really depends on each situation. I usually start with a piece that I really want to play or something that I haven’t played yet. I do like to stretch a bit and do something new on each program that I do so I keep learning new things. So in this case both my pianist, Wenhan, and I wanted to do Schumann together. I’ve done Schumann before but we haven’t done it together — so we decided to tackle that. And then I had been wanting to do this Northern Light kind of idea for a while so I had to figure out how to weave in that idea. I’ve played Grieg’s first sonata when I made my Carnegie Hall debut back a number of years ago, and then I decided to take out a second sonata for this concert and see what that’s all about. So that was the something new. In terms of the Szymanowski, I did that years ago as well. It’s a relatively short piece. It’s not a full sonata just a romance. I like finding these little, golden nuggets that not too many people play very often but are kind of interesting, that get you thinking and kind of hearing things in a new way.

Q: Well, it’s always a good thing to be educated as well as entertained.

Geller: Yes, and I don’t want to hit anyone over the head with that but I do like to weave that in (in) a way that can stretch but yet still be comfortable and palatable for a wide range of audience members.

Q: Not wanting to assume, but I would imagine that you introduce the pieces to your audience?

Geller: Yes, I like to speak to the audience and give them a little eye into what we’ve been doing and discovering so they can be included in that journey.

Q: Now have you performed here in Maine since that last Jewett Hall show?

Geller: No, I don’t think I have.

Q: Well then, a return in the truest sense.

Geller: That’s right. It’s a lovely organization there and I’m very happy to be included again.

Q: Are there any venues that you haven’t played that you’d like to?

Geller: That’s a good question. I haven’t thought about it lately. Well, I like the smaller, intimate kind of venues — not the Merrill Auditorium sort of venues — because for duo playing or chamber music, the more intimate it is. You also have a better connection to the audience. So in terms of where do I want to play, it’s not necessarily the name of the venue, but the type of performance area. That’s more of what I’d go for than whether it has a special name or (is) a famous place.

Q: Is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you think we should?

Geller: Well, the only other thing I could mention is that a large part of what I also do is some teaching and educating the next generation. Having been a native of Farmington where music was so rich — when I was there, every third-grader learned to play the violin — and being a part of a community like that was very meaningful to me going forward. And now living here, I certainly like to bring that education to the next generation and have enjoyed working with my group of students that I have in New York. I think it really enriches my own playing, as well. Both the performance and the teaching kind of go hand-in-hand for me; they complement each other well for me.

Q: Is there anything you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Geller: No, I think you’ve covered it pretty well, and it’s interesting going to Maine in April. You never know if it’s going to snow or whether the flowers will be coming out, so in a way the program is a little bit of that: the darkness of winter but also the light of spring on the horizon.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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