Rural life in Oso allows brother, sister to grow as musicians
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Sarah and Aaron Hall entertain a resident audience member, one of the roosters that lives at Fruitful Farm, while practicing outside their Oso home.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Sarah Hall watches her brother, Aaron, while playing together outside their home in Oso.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Aaron Hall practices outside his home at Fruitful Farm in Oso in April 14.
It's a difficult piece that is not often played because it requires two brilliant and equally matched soloists, which is an apt description for Sarah, 19, and Aaron, 21.
Home-schooled, employed at home and allowed plenty of time to practice their instruments, the Halls are developing careers as solo and chamber musicians.
The concert begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 26, in McIntyre Hall on the Skagit Valley College campus.
Even with the big performance looming, the Hall family is busy preparing for the opening of their Fruitful Farm stand near Oso.
The farm stand relies on traffic on Highway 530. For the past month, since the devastating landslide up the road, the Hall family has wondered if they will get any business this season. They sell fresh eggs, honey, nursery plants, hanging baskets, vegetable starts and fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
As Christians, their parents Carla and Tom Hall believe that the family's needs will be met. Still, it's a tough time.
Their oldest son, Isaac, 26, who lives with his wife and children at Whitehorse on the Darrington side of the mudslide, was part of the rescue effort to find people trapped in the slide. The Halls, who regularly play benefit concerts, also have helped raise money for the recovery.
Because it has been a sad time, it's been good to force themselves to prepare to play the Brahms, Sarah said.
Aaron, the cellist, and Sarah, the violinist, began playing their instruments when they were age 6 and 4, respectively.
Their father, now an occupational therapist, played clarinet in the Husky marching band when he was a student at the University of Washington. Their mother, who met their dad at the university while studying to be an architect, did not have a music background.
"But I knew that music is good for the brains of children," Carla Hall said. "Learning to play a stringed instrument seemed to be the way to go. For me, it wasn't an activity, but a way to nurture my children."
In addition, the family limited any distractions. The Halls do not have television and only recently got computers and cellphones.
For about five years, the Hall kids received lessons from their friends, the Overman family, who attend the same church, Atonement Free Lutheran in Arlington.
Then Aaron became a student of Toby Saks, an acclaimed Juilliard-trained cellist who taught for 30 years at the University of Washington, founded the Seattle Chamber Music Society and previously played with the New York Philharmonic. (Saks died in August 2013.)
Meanwhile, Sarah began studying with Ronald Patterson, who teaches violin at the UW, studied with Jascha Heifetz and performed as a soloist and concertmaster with numerous orchestra across the county.
Each Saturday, Carla would load up her kids and their instruments and drive them to Seattle for a long day of lessons and group classes at Academy of Music Northwest.
Wondering why the Hall family would live so far from Seattle, their teachers visited the Halls' beautiful, idyllic farm across the highway from the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.
"Ron and Toby understood, then, why we did not want to leave home," Aaron said.
Aaron runs the farm stand and Sarah has become adept at canning, sourdough bread baking, charcuterie and cheese making. She also teaches violin lessons to siblings from two Arlington families and her students plan to attend the concert Saturday in Mount Vernon.
Much of the siblings' time is taken with preparing for national and international concerto competitions. Aaron also is in charge of making audition recordings for himself and his sister. The prize for many of these competitions includes the chance to solo with big-city orchestras and regional symphonies.
This January, Sarah performed two movements of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Seattle Symphony in a matinee performance at Seattle City Hall.
The Brahms has required months of individual work and rehearsals together, Aaron said.
"We know each other well," he said. "We just need to look at each other to know what we're doing next."
And sometimes they don't even have to do that, Sarah said. It doesn't mean that each rehearsal is perfect, she said.
"Sometimes we're upstairs practicing and Mom will tap on the heating pipe if she hears something out of tune," Sarah said with a laugh.
"For me, it's not about pride in my children, but about enjoying the music and watching them mature as adults," Carla said.
Pair in concert Saturday
Sarah and Aaron Hall will play Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello with the Skagit Symphony at 7:30 p.m. April 26 in McIntyre Hall, 5201 E. College Way, Mount Vernon. Conducted by Roupen Shakarian, the program also includes Mozart's Impresario Overture and Haydn's Symphony No. 54. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 866-624-6897.
The Fruitful Farm stand's spring opening is May 9 at 21308 Highway 530 NE, Oso. More information is available at www.fruitfulfarm.net.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com.
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