“Classical musicians wow crowd”

Accomplished. Marvelous. Extraordinary. Once again, there was no absence of flattering adjectives following a Heifetz concert in town.

heifetz_jp_web“They always knock the socks off of everybody,” said Karen Conway, events coordinator at the Jamestown Arts Center.

A quartet of young international musicians ended a weeklong residency in Jamestown with a concert at the arts center Saturday. Students, who hail from the Heifetz International Music Institute in Virginia, performed a selection of classical and chamber music to a near-capacity crowd.

The concert and residency was part of the Heifetz on Tour program, which features students and alumni of the institute. The performing quartet consisted of French violinist Chloe Kiffer, American violist Erica Gailing, Chinese cellist Mo Mo and Taiwanese pianist Hsin-Chiao Lao. They were accompanied by violinist and Heifetz faculty member Andy Simionescu on several numbers.

Heifetz executive director Benjamin Roe said that the musicians were specifically chosen following the institute’s summer program.

First and foremost, he said, the institute chooses musicians who play at a “very high level” for the tour.

“They’re essentially representing the institute on the road,” Roe said. “We really want to make sure we’re showing the great artists that we are training and developing.”

The institute also looks for musicians who can handle the tour’s demanding schedule, which calls for multiple performances over the course of a week. The tour, Roe said, would prepare the student for life as a professional touring musician.

Even more impressive, the four musicians who played over the weekend had never played together as a group, he said.

The quartet played at several area schools, including Lawn and Melrose schools in Jamestown, the Pennfield School in Portsmouth, Exeter-West Greenwich Junior High, and the Jacqueline Walsh School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Pawtucket.

“It’s very important for us to get involved with how music is understood and appreciated in the schools,” Roe said. “Particularly, a lot of people don’t have access to string programs or they’ve never seen a viola or a violin before.”

At the schools, the musicians, who are all in their early 20s, interacted with the student bodies to promote classical music. For instance, along with chamber pieces, Mo performed the theme music from the “Harry Potter” films at the assemblies. Roe said it provoked strong reactions among the students.

“They’re giving people a taste of all the things that you can do with a violin or a viola or a cello,” he said. “I think that for many kids, it’s a little mind-blowing. They’ve never heard it played that way before.”

Roe said last week’s tour of Rhode Island was among the most successful residencies that the institute has done. He highlighted the different venues and the enthusiastic receptions that the musicians received. In addition to the school performances, the musicians also played intimate concerts in private homes. The highlight was a recital at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport.

“I don’t think our players performed around sawdust before,” he said.

The quartet’s concert at the arts center Saturday marked its 10th performance in six days.

The residency was the sixth time that the Heifetz Institute has collaborated with the arts center to bring the tour to Newport County. The partnership has been so successful that the institute recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the local tour stop.

The concert on Saturday featured pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Aaron Copland, Antonin Dvorak and Franz Schubert. It concluded with a performance of all four movements of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Eflat major.

The concert was well received by the audience. Nancy Bennett highlighted the group’s finale as her favorite part of the show.

“I love the Schumann quintet. It’s one of my favorites, and to hear it in Jamestown is pretty special,” she said. “From the very first note, you could tell they were really accomplished musicians.”

Julie Smith agreed. “I thought it was marvelous. The musicians were so extraordinary. It’s wonderful that Jamestown has this going on. It’s really great.”

The Jamestown residency is one of six tours that the institute conducts annually. On Sunday, the quartet followed its Saturday performance with a recital in the New York village of Dobbs Ferry. Earlier this month, a different group of Heifetz students performed in Charlotte, N.C.

Daniel Heifetz is the institute’s namesake, who founded the school in 1996. A virtuoso on the violin, Heifetz has toured the globe playing his instrument for more than 30 years.

Written by Ryan Gibbs  | Jamestown Press | See Original Article

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