An evening of 'beauty' will play out at Silvermine
There are not many obstacles that can slow down the musicians of Ethel.
"We find music that
really turns us on and we find out how to make it happen," said Ralph Farris, who plays viola for the New York City-based string quartet. "If we don't have the skills or technique to make it happen, we find a way."
There should be little doubt that the quartet finds their way often and successfully, given the group has performed around the world since 1998.
Ethel arrives in New Canaan today, when the Silvermine Arts Center welcomes the group for an evening performance.
"They are very dynamic, fun to watch and very engaging," said Leslee Asch, the center's executive director.
As part of the program "Present Beauty," the group will play five pieces from its new arrangement of Philip Glass' score from the 2002 movie, "The Hours."
"We listened to that gorgeous score and said wouldn't it be great to build a program around this gorgeous music," Farris said. "It's just stunningly beautiful music. It's about being in the moment -- the beauty of the moment."
The Silvermine performance will mark Choi's public debut. She came on board after longtime member Mary Rowell retired from the group last month.
Asch said she was excited to have such a vibrant group in the relatively intimate space of the arts center.
"This is a world-class group," she said.
The concert also marks a return to music at the center, which used to organize a long-running summer chamber-music series. Asch said there are plans for other musical performances throughout the year.
It is a love of music, and the desire to broaden their musical experience, that led the members of Ethel to first form in 1998, Farris said.
"We all had classical training and were looking for other options. What was possible with these instruments of ours," Farris said.
The Juilliard-trained performers turned their attention to contemporary works that took innovative approaches to music. It is not unusual for this quartet to seep over musical lines to work in other genres or with their peers in the world of jazz, world and popular music, or to amplify their sound or improvise. Nor is it rare for the quartet's work to be called "adventurous."
"What keeps us going is this incredible inspiration to move from one musical inspiration to another musical inspiration, and to find joy and refreshment in brand-new sound and color," Farris said.
It also means leaving yourself open to all the sounds of the world around you, Farris said, and working with artists who are willing to try new techniques.
For instance, one composition in its repertoire, Huang Ruo's "The Flag Project," requires the group to play small Tibetan finger cymbals with their bows.
"A magical sound comes out of that instrument," Farris said.
In 2007, the group branched out from straight performances and launched the TruckStop project. The quartet travels the world developing residencies and staging performances with diverse musical communities.
And diversity is something Farris promises for those who will make the trip to Silvermine.
"There is always a little something for everyone on an Ethel program," he said.
The Silvermine Arts Center is at 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan. Today, 8 p.m. $30, members; $40, nonmembers. Space is limited, reservations encouraged. 203-966-9700, ext. 22 or www.silvermineart.org.