Symphonic Seniors: La Jolla-based band befriends making music together

For La Jollan Martin Nass, 94, playing music is a very important part of life. “It’s a way of expressing feelings that can’t be expressed in words,” he said.

He has been playing the violin for 86 years, the last five with La Jolla residents Jack Clausen and La Mesa resident Cathy Comstock and Willis Frisch, who meet at the Nass condominium in the village of La Jolla to play chamber music .

The quartet performs regularly together, with the exception of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jack Clausen (left) and Willis Frisch have been playing music together for over 50 years.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Clausen, 81, plays the viola and said the quartet “is just a lot of fun, trying to make music coexist with other people.”

Frisch, 82, plays the cello. “Music has been my main interest all my life,” he said. Playing in the quartet, “when the four players are on the same page, if they interpret the music the same way, it kind of feeds. It gives off a lot of enthusiasm in the process and a lot of satisfaction. “

Comstock, whose age has not been disclosed, plays the violin but has taken a hiatus for health reasons and has not performed with the quartet in months, Clausen said.

The members reunited thanks to a mutual friend who put Comstock in touch with Nass when he visited his daughter in La Jolla five years ago from his New York home.

Nass then contacted Clausen via the Associated chamber music players, an international repertoire of professional and amateur chamber musicians, and Clausen brought in Frisch, with whom Clausen has been playing for over 50 years.

Nass moved to La Jolla four years ago and the quartet started weekly sessions.

Clausen said the group picks a piece of music and “we go home and practice our individual parts. We come back and often we will work on only one movement per session. “

“After feeling that we have overpowered or destroyed this room,” Clausen said with a chuckle, “we move on to another room.

During the COVID-related restrictions that kept each member of the group isolated at home, Clausen played on his own “a little bit, and I took lessons.” I didn’t play as much as I should have.

For Martin Nass, 94, playing music is a way to express feelings.

For Martin Nass, 94, playing music is a way to express feelings.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Nass also performed on his own in quarantine, but said he prefers the way stringed instruments “resonate with each other” when played together. “The sound is much richer.”

Clausen, Frisch and Nass started in-person practices a few weeks ago and expressed their joy at being able to meet again.

None of them have been professional musicians, although all of them, like Nass, have been playing their instruments since childhood.

“Music is a non-verbal way of accessing parts of yourself that you otherwise cannot reach,” said Nass, a former psychoanalyst.

His wife passed away in August and “starting to play music brought me back to life a little bit more,” he added.

Clausen, a former UC San Diego lung specialist, bought a violin at age 6 and switched to viola at age 12.

Frisch learned to play the cello at age 12, when he inherited the instrument from a parent. He later continued to use his ear for sound as a naval contractor working to “dampen noise from ships,” he said.

Playing music also opened “a nice social window,” Frisch said. He used the ACMP directory to assemble string quartets on trips to Hawaii, Mexico City, Wales and Australia.

“It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests,” he said.

Nass and Clausen also used the directory when traveling. By playing chamber music abroad, “we got to know a different side of the city. [and] meet people, ”Nass said.

Clausen said the opportunity to play with other devotees in faraway places has contributed to his love of music. “I love the lasting friendships associated with chamber music,” he said. ◆

About Raymond Lang

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