What do classical musicians listen to when not fiddling around? Violinist Kumiko Sakamoto embraces country music “without shame.” Lauren Spaulding, a violist, enjoys Taylor Swift and bluegrass-tinged “old folk sounds.”
These influences – and classical ones – can be heard on Nov. 27, 3 p.m. when the Thalea String Quartet performs the next concert in the National Music Festival’s Resonance Series at St. Paul’s Parish, Kent, 7579 Sandy Bottom Rd. The program will include Dvorak’s tuneful “American” Quartet no. 12 in F, and works by three 20th century composers, including the Beatles-inspired “Abbey Road Suite,” arranged by Alex Vittal.
The quartet aspires to “reflect the past, present, and the future of the string quartet repertoire while celebrating diverse musical traditions from around the world,” according to its website. In addition to Sakamoto and Spaulding, its members are Christopher Whitley, violin, and Alex Cox, cello.
In a recent YouTube video, Whitley said he sees the string quartet as a model for “demonstrating empathy in our world.”
“I think all the music we play is great. But I think the message that can be just as impactful — if not more impactful — is seeing four people from different life experiences get up on a stage and do something at a really high-level together,” he said in a Zoom interview with Friends of Chamber Music in Troy, N.Y., where the group performed last month: “Not speak, not make it about the individual, but create this thing that is much greater.”
The ensemble, whose name is pronounced TAHL-leah (from the Greek name Thalia, which means blossom or flourish), is currently the Doctoral Fellowship String Quartet at the University of Maryland. It has performed across North America, Europe and China, and has appeared at the Kennedy Center and Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall.
It won the 2021 Ann Divine Educator Award from the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and is recognized for its innovative approach to education and community engagement. In keeping with this, the quartet will visit Garnet Elementary School in Chestertown on Monday, Nov. 28, to perform for and interact with pupils. A generous grant from the Kent Cultural Alliance makes this possible.
Sunday’s concert will be the last Resonance event of 2022. The series will resume in 2023 as follows:
Jan. 22 – Thomas Parchman, NMF Clarinet Mentor, Portland Symphony and University of Southern Maine, with David Brooks, NMF Piano Mentor
Feb. 19 – ARTEK, The Art of the Early Keyboard, Gwendolyn Toth & Dongsok Shin, fortepiano
March 19 – Phil Snedecor, NMF Trumpet Mentor and DC Pops Orchestra Founder
April 23 – Losey/Feder Duo, NMF Harp Mentor Cheryl Losey Feder and Detroit Symphony Principal Cellist Abe Feder
Tickets are $22 and may be purchased online at https://nationalmusic.us/
Please Note: To ensure the health and security of patrons, staff and artists, NMF requires that masks (fully covering the nose and mouth) be worn in order to attend all Resonance performances. NMF will advise patrons of any changes in these requirements.