(Bridges has lived in Pickens County for 10 years. She began playing the violin in 5th grade and ultimately made her career as a strings teacher in Tampa, Florida.)
You are a violinist and founder of Sharptop Strings, a community orchestra consisting solely of a string section. Tell me about the group.
I was teaching private students for the Creative and Performing Arts Academy and a lady came in looking for a youth orchestra for her children. We decided we didn’t have enough people for a youth orchestra but we did for a multi-generational group. And we’ve collected people for the group ever since.
I was having dinner at the methodist church one evening and the person across from me said she used to play cello in high school so we loaned her a cello. She came and started playing with us, liked it and then bought her own.
We really want to serve our community and our music choices reflect our community and its heritage. We just enjoy the heck out of playing.
What instruments are represented in Sharptop Strings?
Violin, viola (it’s a little larger than a violin and has a deeper sound), cello and bass.
How many members do you currently have?
Ten. We range in age from 14-84.
I find it very exciting - the large age range. We have the energy from the young folks and they are getting their bearings and learning to play with a group. And the older ones still have things to give. I find that process exciting. It’s just like digging for gold when we find someone who hasn’t played in a while and get them to dust off their instrument.
Is the violin the only instrument you play?
It’s the only instrument I’m good at. I can play viola and cello but I’m not good at them.
What type of music do you all play?
I love a mixture. When I was in college we’d have to go to these all Bach concerts. They were wonderful but by the end of them I was really tired of Mr. Bach. I love things that have a folk background to them, particularly hymn arrangements that are folk-tuney. Be Thou My Vision is one we’ve performed. We have a lovely arrangement of Deep River.
Where has the group performed?
We’ve performed at both Tate and Jasper United Methodist churches, the Episcopal church and the Presbyterian church. We’ve gone out to Big Canoe, performed a Christmas program for the DAR, played at the hospital, and played at two of the nursing homes.
What do you enjoy most about belonging to a group like Sharptop Strings?
The magic of it. It’s one of those synergy things that we are greater than the sums of our parts. There’s something about coming together and creating something lovely. That’s the exciting part.
I also really love the fact we’re not competitive. We’re one for all and also all for one.
It’s so good for us, because one hand does one thing and the other hand does another and our minds are so focused that everything in our whole life kind of falls away and you create something that’s really nice.
Ann Bridges founded Sharptop Strings, a community strings orchestra. The group will resume practice sessions after Labor Day on Thursdays at 5:45 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family, 200 Griffith Road at the intersection of Grandview and Cove roads. Bridges invites anyone who would love to play stringed instruments with a group to join them.