Famed quartet’s concert mimics ‘The Sounds of Autumn’

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By Erin Place

 

PARIS—“The Sounds of Autumn” will fill the walls of the First Baptist Church of Paris—complete with notes mimicking birds and mosquitoes—on Sunday, Aug. 31, when the DaPonte String Quartet plays its second concert in the historic building.

The concert with commence at 4 p.m. at the church, 500 Paris Hill Road, South Paris. Tickets are $15 and available at the door and online at www.daponte.org.

The quartet is comprised of founding member Ferdinand “Dino” Liva on violin, Lydia Forbes also on violin, Myles Jordan on cello and Kirsten Monke on viola. Monke says the group has tried to branch out to different audiences and is excited about returning to the First Baptist Church, calling it “a really great place for music.”

“It’s such a beautiful, scenic spot. We did it last year for the first time, it was really festive because it’s such a neat place to come, look over the White Mountains [and] hear beautiful music,” she says, adding it feels like one is transported back in time while listening to the pieces played inside the 176-year-old church.

On the concert bill is a piece by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn, Liva and Forbes playing some of Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók’s collection of folk songs, and a piece by German composer, pianist, organist and conductor Felix Mendelssohn. According to Monke, the Haydn piece mimics the lark and opens with bird sounds.

She calls Bartók “the original ethnomusicologist,” citing his travels through North Africa, along the Silk Road of what was then part of the Ottoman Empire.

“He collected all of these folk sounds. He recorded them on wax cylinders before they had tape recorders, wrote them all into pieces for two violins,” Monke says, noting “Harvest Song,” “Mosquito Dance” and other solstice songs will be performed. “It really sounds like mosquitoes buzzing around. It’s really, really cool music. … They’re just very sort of nature themes, and they have this great ethnic sound, [with] really weird, strange dance rhythms.”

As for the Mendelssohn piece, it was one he wrote when he was 19-years-old and is full of teenage angst, Monke says. While there will be no lyrics to accompany the DuPonte String Quartet, she says the words he wrote to go with his piece essentially translate to, “Is it true, is it true that you’re waiting for me out there in the vineyard?”

“The whole piece is spun out from this song, which is really beautiful,” Monke says, adding the song is nature themed “and seemed appropriate for what we call ‘leaf peepers.’”

The Mendelssohn piece is the one the quartet will record in mid-September for the group’s upcoming CD. It will feature one of Beethoven’s late quartets, the A Minor, Opus 132, and Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Opus 13. The group launched a Kickstarter campaign to cover the gap in the production costs for the CD, which has been met. Bob Ludwig—who’s won scores of Grammys and has worked with the likes of the Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springstein and Daft Punk—is doing the sound engineering for the quartet’s new CD.

“He’s really big time and he just happens to be a friend and he loves classical music. He’s doing this for us for no charge and it’s really the greatest gift,” Monke says, adding that the first half of the recording for the CD was done in an old church in Alna. “It’s great music. I think the sound is going to be wonderful.”

In addition to receiving awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Philadelphia Musical Fund Society, the Music Teachers National Association and Chamber Music America, the DaPonte String Quartet was just named Best Musical Group in Maine for 2014 by the readers of Down East Magazine.

“We are deeply honored by this vote, especially since it was not just for best classical music group, or even chamber music, but best music group, period,” writes Amy MacDonald, executive director of the Friends of DaPonte String Quartet, in an email. “And I think one of the reasons we were chosen is that we have a fan base spread across all of Maine—such as here in Paris Hill—and not just southern or coastal Maine.”

The DaPonte String Quartet was formed in Philadelphia in 1991 and came to Maine in 1995, Liva says. The group landed a three-year residency as part of Chamber Music America’s Rural Residency program and after the three years were up, everyone wanted to stay in Maine and not return to the big cities they had come from.

“The big city it has its appeal, I guess, but when you’re trying to worry about how I am going to make rent … what gigs I have to play, that all sort of disappeared up here,” Liva says. “You could manage on a lot less and really focus on rehearsing and being an ensemble and all that.”

Monke, who returned to her home state of Maine from California and joined the quartet in 2008, agrees.

“Here in Maine it’s great because it’s just peaceful and that seems so perfect for music,” she says. “You can really center and we dedicate four days a week [to] rehearse together and sometimes, more than that. We really just move together as a musical unit so it’s really unusual that way. I think it just makes a great bond and makes it really focus on our musical identity. We’re not trying to imitate anyone else, we’re just trying to do our own thing.”

Monke encourages people to attend the concert on Paris Hill on Aug. 31.

“I hope people come. We love playing music and we love sharing it with our audiences,” she says. “It’s great music and it’s a great way to soak in the environment through your ears and eyes and the whole package.”

 

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