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Parker String Quartet

Parker String Quartet

April 26, 2020

“…exceptional virtuosity [and] imaginative interpretation…” 
The Washington Post

Inspiring performances, luminous sound, and exceptional musicianship are the hallmarks of the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet. Renowned for its dynamic interpretations and polished, expansive colors, the group has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation, dedicated purely to the sound and depth of their music. The Quartet has appeared at the world’s most important venues since its founding in 2002.

Following a 2019 summer season that had the ensemble crossing North America for appearances at music festivals from Banff to Bard, the Parker Quartet began its sixth year as faculty members of Harvard University’s Department of Music in the group’s role as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence. Recent seasons included performances and residencies around the United States and Europe, including at the University of Iowa, the University of Chicago, the Wigmore Hall, the University of South Carolina, the Schubert Club, Skidmore College, and Kansas City’s Friends of Chamber Music.

The Quartet has been influential in projects ranging from the premiere of a new octet by Zosha di Castri alongside the JACK Quartet at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity; to the premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Helix Spirals, a piece inspired by the Meselson-Stahl DNA replication discovery; to the “Schubert Effect,” in collaboration with pianist Shai Wosner at the 92nd Street Y. Other recent highlights include appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Slee Series in Buffalo, and New York’s Lincoln Center Great Performers series. The Quartet also continues to be a strong supporter of their friend and frequent collaborator Kim Kashkashian’s project Music for Food by participating in concerts throughout the United States for the benefit of various food banks and shelters.

The Quartet has been particularly focused on recording projects this past year. For ECM Records, they recorded Dvořák’s Viola Quintet, joined by Kim Kashkashian, as well as Kurtag’s Six Moments Musicaux and Officium breve in memoriam. Under the auspices of the Monte Carlo Festival Printemps des Arts, they recorded a disc of three Beethoven quartets, due to be released this fall. The Quartet’s recording featuring Mendelssohn’s Quartets Op. 44, Nos. 1 and 3, was widely lauded by the international press, and their debut commercial recording of Bartók’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 for Zig-Zag Territoires won praise from Gramophone: “The Parkers’ Bartók spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” Their Naxos recording of György Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance (the last string quartet to win this category).

Recent collaborations include those with acclaimed artists like violist Kim Kashkashian, featured on their recent Dvořák recording; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianists Anne-Marie McDermott, Orion Weiss, Vijay Iyer, and Shai Wosner; members of the Silk Road Ensemble; Kikuei Ikeda of the Tokyo String Quartet; clarinetist and composer Jörg Widmann; and clarinetists Anthony McGill and Charles Neidich.

Founded and currently based in Boston, the Parker Quartet’s numerous honors include winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition, the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at France’s Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition, and Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award. Now Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music, and also in-residence at the UofSC School of Music, the Quartet’s numerous residencies have included serving as Artists-in-Residence at the University of St. Thomas (2012–2014), Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Minnesota (2011– 2012), Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008-2010), and as the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009-2010).

The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School, and the Quartet was part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006–2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the original members of the Cleveland Quartet as well as Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.

Program

SALONEN
Homunculus

SZYMANOWSKI
Quartet No. 2, Op. 56, M64

-Intermission-

BEETHOVEN
Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

Members

Daniel Chong, violin
Ken Hamao, violin
Jessica Bodner, viola
Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

“Passages that demand ensemble precision were flawlessly balanced, perfectly tuned and sheathed in lustrous textures.”

- New York Times

“Pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.”
- Boston Globe

VOCES8 Outreach Event

VOCES8 at University United Methodist Church on March 2, 2020

Monday morning, March 2, the members of VOCES8 directed a most memorable masterclass for three local schools.  The participating choirs were from Atonement Academy, Reagan High School, and UTSA.  Each group sang a choral work and was then coached by VOCES8 Co-founder and Artistic Director, Barnaby Smith.  Barnaby also sings countertenor in the group.  All the other members of VOCES8 were standing by, and they sight-read bits of each chorus’s piece to demonstrate various techniques of vocal ensemble singing for the benefit of the students.  Towards the end of each choir’s time with Barnaby, the members of VOCES8 stood side by side with the students and sang with them, once more, their piece.  It was amazing to hear the difference in the “before and after” performances. 

Throughout the class, Barnaby discussed various concepts of choral singing for the benefit of both the students and the audience members.  After a round of Q and A from the students to the members of VOCES8, the ensemble sang a few songs to show that they “practice what they preach”.   At the end of the class, all the choruses combined and “learned” a new song via improvisation.  Tenor Blake Morgan lead this exercise throwing out rhythms and vocal bits for each group of singers (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) to take up and chant repeatedly.  The result was ecstatic and joyful, everyone clearly relishing the time with the infectiously spirited members of VOCES8.

Submitted by Allyson Dawkins

Music Mysteries

I sincerely hope you heard the VOCES8 concert Sunday.  Like me, you may have thought about some eight-part mysteries:

1. First and foremost, how do they do that?? 

There are eight vocalists, performing everything from medieval madrigals to jazz and never missing a beat – literally.  Not only maintaining the sometimes intricate rhythms, they managed to do it without so much as a snapped finger or obvious beat-keeping.  The music just flowed, in a manner of speaking.

2. Second, how do they do that, part II?? 

The harmonies and the discords were exquisite with each voice contributing perfectly to the whole.  We’ve all heard a Capella groups, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one where I there was not one misstep, not one sound of “soprano stretch” nor “basso bumble.”  It’s so unusual to hear eight very distinct voices blending into one glorious sound.

3. Third, how many of them were there? 

It seemed sometimes like I was listening to a full choir; other times, I heard one voice.  This is the tricky part of choral singing, and I know because I am an abject failure at it!  We learned at the post-concert dinner that there is a very extensive winnowing process for applicants to VOCES8.  Each time the word has gone out that the group is interviewing for a particular voice, they receive hundreds of applicants.  After about 14 months of getting down to two or three hopefuls, they choose someone who not only has the right voice and skills (“Can you sing madrigals?”) but whose talents blend into the whole.  The eight people we heard are the absolute best of the best.  You can tell.

4. How do they select their music? 

The variety, the colors of the music performed perfectly suited this group and amply demonstrated their skills.  I can’t imagine how many hours were spent finding everything from the composition of Gibbons (simple, elegant) to the music of Britten (complex, rhythmically complicated and satisfying).  I wonder if, like prospective singers, they sift through hundreds of candidates.

5. What happened to our audience?

I heard not a sound, not a rustle, not a beep or ping during the whole concert.  The audience was more than quiet; they were taken up into this incredible music.  I think “rapt attention” would describe the reaction.

I often eavesdrop on conservations as our patrons leave the Temple, and everything I heard on Sunday was positive.  The only complaint was that the concert seemed too short, and I would agree.  I could listen to this group for hours.

I hope we’ll see you at our last concert of the season.  On April 26th, we will enjoy the artistry of the Parker String Quartet.

– E Doyle

VOCES8

VOCES8

March 1, 2020

“The singing of VOCES8 is impeccable in its quality of tone and balance. They bring a new dimension to the word ‘ensemble’ with meticulous timing and tuning.” Gramophone

The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is proud to inspire people through music and share the joy of singing. Touring globally, the group performs an extensive repertory both in its a cappella concerts and in collaborations with leading orchestras, conductors and soloists. Versatility and a celebration of diverse musical expression are central to the ensemble’s performance and education ethos.

VOCES8 has performed at many notable venues including Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Cité de la Musique, Vienna Konzerthaus, Tokyo Opera City, NCPA Beijing, Sydney Opera House, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, Victoria Concert Hall Singapore, Palacio de Bellas Artes Mexico City and many others. As the group celebrates its 15th season they will perform in fourteen countries in the UK and across Europe, in Russia, in the USA and Japan, as well as make its debut visit to New Zealand. Keen musical collaborators, this season will see concerts with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and with baroque violinist Rachel Podger, with whom the critically acclaimed ‘Guardian Angel’ project will continue.

With an on-going programme of recordings, videos and live broadcasts, VOCES8 is heard regularly on albums, international television and radio, as well as maintaining a vibrant web performance presence. The ensemble is a Decca Classics artist and has released acclaimed recordings that have all reached the top of the classical charts. Their latest release is ‘Enchanted Isle’, released in January 2019. This season sees planned releases with Decca Classics as well as the group’s own label.

VOCES8 is passionate about music education and is the flagship ensemble of the music charity the VOCES8 Foundation. Engaging in a broad range of outreach work that reaches up to 40,000 people a year, the group runs an annual programme of workshops and masterclasses at the Foundation’s home in London, the VOCES8 Centre at St Anne & St Agnes Church. Dedicated to supporting promising young singers, the group awards eight annual choral scholarships through the VOCES8 Scholars initiative. These scholarships are linked to the annual Milton Abbey Summer School at which amateur singers of all ages are invited to work and perform with VOCES8. Through the separate VOCES8 USA Foundation there is another set of 8 talented Scholars. The ensemble is proud to be the Associate Ensemble for Cambridge University and delivers a Masters programme in choral studies.

VOCES8 has premiered commissions from Jonathan Dove, Roxanna Panufnik, Alexander Levine, Alec Roth, Ben Parry, Ola Gjeilo, Philip Stopford, Graham Lack, Thomas Hewitt Jones and Owain Park. 2019/20 will see Roxanna Panufnik as the group’s Composer-in-Residence, and Jim Clements as Arranger-in-Residence. As ambassadors for Edition Peters the ensemble publishes educational material including the ‘VOCES8 Method’. Developed by Paul Smith, co-founder of VOCES8, this renowned and unique teaching tool is available in four languages and adopts music to enhance development in numeracy, literacy and linguistics. Also available are two anthologies of its arrangements, and an ever-expanding ‘VOCES8 Singles’ range.

Program

BYRD
Sing Joyfully

TALLIS
O Nata Lux

SIBELIUS
Be Still My Soul (Finlandia)

RUNESTAD
Let My Love be Heard

PANUFNIK
Love Endureth

GIBBONS
Drop, Drop, Slow Tears

PÄRT
The Deer’s Cry

ELGAR
Lux Aeterna

-Intermission-

BRITTEN
Hymn to St Cecilia

WEELKES
As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending

DI LASSO
Dessus le Marché D’Arras

TRADITIONAL
Danny Boy

RUSBY
Underneath the Stars

MacLEAN
Caledonia

MORRISON
Moondance

Members

Andrea Haines, soprano
Eleonore Cockerham, soprano
Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto
Barnaby Smith, countertenor
Blake Morgan, tenor
Euan Williamson, tenor
Chris Moore, baritone
Jonathan Pacey, bass

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

“The slickest of the lot… fans of a cappella ought to hear this.”
- CD Review

BBC Radio 3

“Eight beautifully integrated solo voices… Every number here has something particularly arresting within it, all supported by persuasive and committed singing.”
- BBC Music Magazine Choral and Song Choice

A Purcell Collection

It’s Just Too Much

I’m giving serious thought to finding a cave and becoming a hermit.  I’m suffering from overload, you see.  There’s the Senate hearings, the Super Bowl, corona virus, Iowa Caucus, the NY Times crosswords and a car with its “Check Engine” thingamajig glowing. I see escape as the only option, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe you’re one of the lucky souls who never feel like running away from it all.  Since I really can’t become a hermit – I’d seriously miss my daily crossword puzzle and joys like symphonies and chamber music and cello solos (say that last out loud:  “cello solos.”  It has a lovely sound of sibilance and sonority, don’t you think?  But I digress.)  Can I really hermit-out in this world of ours? Here’s a resounding, “Yes!” and here’s what I contemplate.  When I was a child in a parochial school, there were annual visits from missionary sisters. In retrospect, I suppose they were Mother Theresa Light.  But they were invariably young, earnest, willowy and very convincing about the joy of living in a slum in Nicaragua, teaching, praying, meditating and feeling that their vocation to serve the poor was worth giving up what was referred to as “the world.”  And – as another selling point in their messages – their long habits with their wooden rosary beads and designer head gear were exotic and graceful.  By the eighth grade, I was ready to pack up my meager possessions and sign up. Then high school happened; need I elaborate?

A cloistered order in my home town offered a summer program for girls on the cusp of big decisions, so off I went. 

I didn’t completely lose my fascination, though.  When high school was over with its Friday night angst, I decided to try something different.  A cloistered order in my home town offered a summer program for girls on the cusp of big decisions, so off I went. I packed up my meager possessions, said good-bye to my cats and shared a sad moment with my dog, Murphy, and “got me to the convent.”  The first thing I noticed was how cold the place was, the second thing was how quiet.  When the big door closed on the outside world, the sound was downright scary.  I was ushered to a large room (a “refectory,” I learned) and was soon joined by a few other girls.  Looking around, I thought they all looked a lot more devout and determined that I and there was no doubt that the freckled red-head with the downcast eyes would make a great nun.  Mother Clare materialized from somewhere.  Just a faint clatter of wooden rosary beads, but not so much as a swish of wool serge or the faint tap of sandals on a stone floor announced her presence. Spooky!

She welcomed us (I wondered when was the last time she had spoken) and explained how we would be living.  In silence.  With chores.  In meditation.  Kneeling.  Arising at the appointed hours of worship, one of which was at 3 a.m., for pete’s sake.  This was, perhaps, going to be a little more of a challenge than I had bargained for.  We were shown to our room – singular: room.  There was a row of cots, each with a small pillow, a white waffled bedspread and a suspicious sag in the middle.  There was a tiny cupboard beside each bed, but no lights.  Next came the clothes we would wear:  a brown smock thing with white apron, black cotton stockings and the sandals.  There were showers at the end of the hall with the scent of good old Ivory soap and a few white towels on a stool in front of each.  Where’s the toilet?  I suddenly felt an urgent need.  “Just there,” said our guide, pointing at a door next to the showers. One door would apparently suffice.

            We would be permitted a visitor on Sunday afternoon for ½ hour.  And there would be a half hour during the week when we could speak.  Mostly, we didn’t.  There was no TV or radio, and the music was provided by the other-worldly voices of the sisters, singing Gregorian chant.  Sometimes, there would be a sound from outside the walls:  a loud motorcycle, a car horn.  But these intrusions into an utterly quiet world were rare and unwelcome.  One of the girls, unaccustomed to sandals, stubbed her toe on a rock in the garden and came very close to an un-nun-worthy expletive, but only got as far as “Sh…”

You might think this is an ideal escape, but it’s not.  The problem is you will find yourself inside your own mind, and that can be a very difficult place to be. 

You might think this is an ideal escape, but it’s not.  The problem is you will find yourself inside your own mind, and that can be a very difficult place to be.  You can learn to meditate, of course, but only the most adept are able to shut out all intrusions. There has to be a conscious effort to close the door on something, and bang! There goes the meditation. Now, where was I?  It just doesn’t work that way. Silence is not too difficult to learn (even for me) and what is called the “habit of prayer” really does become a prayer, helping the prayer novice to close herself off from worldly intrusions.

So I guess I’ll just create my own hermitage. I would never make it as a cloistered nun. Those women are stronger in every way than I could ever be.  Besides, I learned the hard way, being in a cloister is no escape; it is a reality on a different plane and only those with extraordinary willpower and self- control survive the experience.  What I can do, though, is what I learned in the cloister:  I can ignore what I can’t control and do my best to control those few things that I can. And I can absolutely richly enjoy those gifts I’m given, from the bright red blooms on the Christmas cactus to the achingly gorgeous sound of nuns singing Gregorian chant, not to mention the angelic voices of VOCES8, the incomparable British a capella ensemble which will be here on March 1, 2020, at Temple Beth-El.

– E Doyle

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