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NC Symphony String Quartet

NC Symphony String Quartet

Kip Tabb

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that the beauty and power of music are found in how it brings communities together. It is not only the adults, the over 21 or 30 or 45 crowd that comes together to experience a concert. Included in that community has to be the youngest members of it, the children.

And that is what made the North Carolina String Symphony concert at St. Andrews by the Sea Episcopal Church on Monday, January 23 so special. It was all about the kids.

With about 25 young musicians from the Hatters Island Community Strings on hand, principal violin David Killbride and the other members of the string quartet performed for the audience the performance they had been presenting to Dare County elementary schools earlier in the day.

As Killbride explained, what the adults got on Monday evening was an expanded version—the quartet played full movements instead of snippets from them as they would for a half-hour school assembly. Still, there was joy and innocence to what took place as the music was played.

What the audience heard were descriptions of the instruments and how the music comes together followed by virtuoso performances. The selections were the well-recognized classic masters—Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. And a bit more modern composers featuring Ravel and Dvorak.

The evening began with Beethoven’s String Quartet No.1 in F Major, the first movement, Allegro con brio, was performed.

The composition is one of his earlier works, and some of the extraordinary complexity that is so much of his works later in his life were just beginning to emerge in this. It has, though, a distinctly Beethoven sound. He often used one or two measures of distinctive notes to suggest a theme or melody—a motif—and that is very apparent here with a quick one measure introductory theme that the quartet builds on, and then returns to in various forms throughout the movement.

It has a bright, cheerful feel, and whether as an introduction to classical music for a ten-year-old or an adult, it’s a great way to begin a concert.

The performance followed that with an arrangement of Amazing Grace by American composer Jennifer Higdon.

This was an interesting choice. Certainly the melody is immediately recognizable. But Higdon uses that as a springboard to merging other musical themes with that very recognizable melody. Running through the arrangement are hints of music from the American folk tradition.

The wonderful performances aside, what made the evening of music so wonderful was how well the quartet engaged the younger members of the audience.

The only complete symphonic work that was performed was Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major, K. 138. Written early in his career, the piece is tuneful, cheerful and easily followed.

Before the third movement, Presto, was played, though Killbridetook a moment to explain that the third movement was a rondo, and the melody it was based on would keep reappearing. He then told the audience—really the kids—to count how many times they hear the melody come around.

After finishing, he canvassed the HICS students and Sophia Ballard had the right answer with five.

Next Sophia was called to stand by the performers, was given an off-white straw hat and instructed to place the hat on the head of the musician that was playing the melody in the Haydn Serenade that followed.

The arrangement of the piece was interesting in itself and how well Killbride, second violin Anton Shelepov, viola Amy Mason, and Lisa Shaughnessy cello, pulled it off is a real tribute to their musical genius.

The second movement of Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 3, No. 5 usually focuses solely on the first violin with the other quartet members play pizzicato in accompaniment. There was still a lead string playing the melody, but now it shifted among the quartet—viola, then cello, then second violin, and back to first violin—with Sophia valiantly chasing the melody with her hat.

The evening concluded with two remarkable pieces from late 19th-century composers.

Ravel’s second movement Assez vif—tres rythmeof his String Quartet in F Major is extraordinary in the range of technique and sounds the composer demands from the musicians. After explaining all the different sounds that string instruments could make—glissandos, trills, glissandos with trills, harmonics—the quartet performed this expressive and beautiful movement to perfection.

The fourth movement of Dvorak’s String Quartet No.12 in F Major, his “American” composition, Finale: vivace ma non troppo, paints a picture in motion of what the composer saw and experienced when he visited the United States from 1892-1895. Evocative, melodic and fulfilling, it was the perfect way to end a marvelous evening of music.

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