the classical flipside

Quartsemble's new album, TangoQuartsemble's new album, Tango
Today a few Rochesterians will go hear string quartet Quartsemble perform in the Hochstein Performance Hall.

Next month, others will hear the same group -- in a bar.

WRUR’s Scott Regan tipped me off to the fact that Quartsemble has been playing a monthly gig at the Flipside Bar and Grill. (Next time they’ll play is December 16th.

A lot of classical musicians, impatient with the clunky cultural trappings of the traditional scene, are popping up in unexpected places.

Baltimore-based saxophonist Brian Sacawa writes about his experience playing bars,

“ . . . it does make me feel different, in a good way. It’s not that peoples’ expectations are lower, but the environment, to me, seems much more relaxed and inviting . . . when I play with Hybrid Groove Project in a bar or club or on the sidewalk in front of a skate shop, I feel completely free as a player . . . Playing in non-traditional venues—good for classical music and I like it too.”

Sacawa’s feelings are shared by a lot of performers. Together they indicate a widespread shift in where the art form might live in the future.

Greg Sandow posted this apocalyptic blog about a year ago:

"...the era of classical music is going to end. Not this year, not next year, maybe not in 10 years.... But sometime reasonably soon, the era of classical music will be over. . . . To be as precise as I can, I might say that the apparatus of classical music, as we know it now, will very likely fade away. We won't see many concerts (or at least not nearly as many as we see now) featuring only music from the past. We won't explain classical music primarily in historical or structural terms. We won't tell classical musicians that their main job is to serve the great composers. We might not ask our audience to sit in silence, clapping only when it's told to. "

Sandow suggests we might create a new ecology for music that’s more connected, personal, and sustainable.

Sounds great, but musicians still have bills to pay. When violinist Joshua Bell played a short gig as a busker on the Washington D.C. subway, he barely earned enough money for a decent meal.

Still, climate change is already underway. Scott Regan said he loved hearing a string quartet play in a Rochester bar.

What I’d like to know is this: how is it for Quartsemble? How is it for you?


Brian Sacawa’s blog:
More from Greg Sandow:



Break of Reality

I saw this band open for someone at Water Street last year and thought they were great. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it. The group's made up of three cellists and a percussionist and they call themselves a rock band, but one that combines "the beauty of classical music with the energy and chaos of rock". It could just as easily be the beauty of rock and the energy of classical. Maybe that's the point.

Thoughts from Quartsemble Violinist

Quartsemble is committed to nurturing the art of playing, preserving, and composing chamber music in all of its forms, and to valuing our diverse chamber music audiences by performing dynamic concerts in intimate and unexpected settings. We play Beethoven and Mozart side by side with tangos and Beatles tunes.

Quartsemble does not want to be defined by one type of venue any more than we want to be defined by one genre of music. We are expressive and flexible by nature. As a group, we want to communicate the beauty of the music we play and we want to connect with our audience.

We try to share performances with those less likely or unable to attend concerts in traditional venues, and we search out ways to incorporate educational and community building aspects into performances, seeking to cross lines of race, class, age, and culture to help unify the diverse members of the Rochester community through music.

We love to play in bars, parks, churches, schools, private homes, and concert halls and have found that people enjoy listening to music in all of these places. We have to turn people away from the Flipside because it is too small to accommodate our fans, but we love being so close to our audience. We like to talk with them at the break, and we love the casual atmosphere. Beethoven, Turina, Mozart and Dvorak are received with as much enthusiasm as Diego’s tango arrangements and our favorite pop songs when we play at the Flipside.

We have found that classical music is far from dead or dying. We had not just “a few” community members but actually quite a large and enthusiastic crowd at our Live From Hochstein performance last week. We were happy to see several of our Flipside regulars at Hochstein smiling up at us from the front row. We were also happy to see a few RPO musicians, some stalwart classical concert goers, and even several school music teachers venturing out to our recent Flipside performances.

We are not, by the way, a string quartet. Without Gaelen, our bass virtuoso, we would not be able to play most of our repertoire. To quote a recent review of Quartsemble: Tango, “she is the heartbeat of Quartsemble…” (see review at http://www.allabout php/article. php?id=27600.) We also love the singers, dancers, narrators, and instrumentalists with whom we routinely collaborate.

We feel proud that our Tango CD is loved by real estate agents, restaurant owners, city police, bus drivers, classical musicians, jazz musicians, tango dancers, music students and teachers alike. We are passionate about performing, teaching, and sharing great music with everyone in the Rochester community in a wide variety of settings.

Karine Stone
Violinist and Executive Director of Quartsemble


Karine's response reflects a passion for performing and connecting with non-traditional classical audiences that's inspiring. Live from Hochstein host Mordecai Lipshutz said he was impressed by the size of the crowd at their recent lunch-time concert. I heard this dynamic group a few years ago perform with Madrigalia. Their next gig at the Flipside is December 16th. It sounds like you'll have to go early to get a seat!

Thoughts on Performing from Quartsemble Cellist

From its conception in 2002, Quartsemble has sought ways to bring chamber music to new audiences and to promote arts education. Performing in different venues has been an enlightening and inspiring experience to me as a musician. I have been amazed to see how open our listeners are to a variety of music, and my expectations about the tastes and responses of our audience have been dismantled. It has given Quartsemble an entirely new perspective about how we program and perform chamber music.

The power of playing at venue like a club is that the audience comes without preconceived expectations. When Quartsemble plays at the Flipside, there is no published program. We loosely plan several sets, but we might change based on the mood of the audience, and we may even take a request or two. I love the fact that I can play chamber music for an audience I can interact with. These performances have a level of intimacy, intensity, and friendliness which is unique. The audience is free to be emotional with us as we play. Clapping in between movements is welcome, yelling Bravo after someone plays a virtuostic lick is ok.

In contrast, I love the silence and suspense as we begin to perform in a concert hall. I love a space that has an acoustic which is a blank canvas for us to paint with sound. I love that the audience has come because they can’t wait to hear a piece of music they already know, and they want to hear us recreate the sounds that they love.

The joy of playing chamber music at a variety of venues is that each experience is unique for performers and audience alike. We don’t necessarily prefer one over the other because every performance allows us to grow, increases our creativity, and strengthens our connection with our audience.

Since Quartsemble feels enriched by performing in casual and intimate settings as well as in formal concert halls, an ultimate goal for us is that our diverse audience members are able to enjoy the music we perform everywhere.

Diego Garcia
Quartsemble Cellist