Musicians string audiences along

Turtle Island String Quartet known for enthralling, innovative performances

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2005


  The Turtle Island String Quartet will perform and give a master class Wednesday in Kenai. Photo by Peter Sterling, provide

The Turtle Island String Quartet will perform and give a master class Wednesday in Kenai.

Photo by Peter Sterling, provide

Judging by the group's name, if you thought a concert featuring the Turtle Island String Quartet would entail an evening of classical music, you'd be partially right.

If you're not a fan of classical music and thought the show would be boring, you'd be all wrong.

The quartet, though known for its excellent musicianship in keeping with the classical chamber music tradition is more about combining its classical roots with other musical influences, like jazz, blues, bluegrass, world music and even rock.

"It's a dynamite show, said Performing Arts Society board member Dick Troeger, who saw the group perform years ago on the Kenai Peninsula. "It's a really live-wire show. They had the crowd excited. It was great."

Billed as "chamber jazz" performers, the group does much more than just play jazz tunes on string instruments. All four members are accomplished composers, arrangers and improvisers with far-reaching knowledge of many music styles worldwide and throughout history.

Troeger, who is helping organize a performance by the quartet in Kenai on Wednesday, said in the concert he saw, the quartet played their own arrangements of popular tunes. The musicians announce their program during the concert, so Kenai's show could include anything from well-known tunes to their own compositions or a mixture of both.

"I think the show they're going to do when they come here will not be standard," Troeger said. "... I've heard their CD, and I think it'll be great."

Even if the the song list includes well-known melodies, the audience is sure to hear a new take on them from this group known for its improvisational skills.

Almost every song the group plays includes partially or completely improvised solos, letting each player demonstrate their creativity and command of their instrument. Sometimes even the background music in a piece is improvised with musicians following a fixed set of chords and rhythm and making up the rest as they go along.

The quartet was formed in 1983 by violinist David Balakrishnan and also includes Evan Price, violin, Mads Tolling, viola, and Mark Summer, cello.

Prior to the concert, the group will give a master class from 4 to 5 p.m. in the choir room at Kenai Central High School. Area musicians will get instruction from quartet members, and the public is invited to watch. Admission is $10.

Troeger said the Performing Arts Society often works in educational opportunities for area musicians when they bring professional players to town.

"We try to do that with all our shows that we bring in. It's kind of a double feature for us," he said.

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at KCHS. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for students and youths. Tickets are available at River City Books, Northcountry Fair and Sweeney's in Soldotna, Charlotte's and Already Read Books in Kenai and at the door.

"It should be a really interesting evening," Troeger said. "They're really neat guys and I'm sure the audience will enjoy it."

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