Apple Hill alive with the sound of music
For as long as music has been performed, audiences have sought groups of musicians who are able to play together in perfect harmony while still standing out and showing off each’s individual skill. On Sat. March 3, music lovers on the Hill only had to walk up the steps of Lorimer Chapel to find this quality in the sweet, crisp sounds of the Apple Hill String Quartet.
The event, which was open to both the Colby and Waterville communities, featured Elise Kuder and Sarah Kim on violin, Mike Kelley on viola and Rupert Thompson on cello. Colby’s Director of Band Activities Eric Thomas also joined the group on clarinet for a piece that he composed.
According to the event program, Apple Hill was founded 30 years ago in New Hampshire, as “a center of chamber music performance and teaching.” The Apple Hill String Quartet is the ensemble-in-residence, “[presenting] concerts and educational workshops throughout the world.” During the summer, aspiring and talented chamber musicians, regardless of age or level, travel to Apple Hill to participate in the Apple Hill Chamber Music Workshop.
Apple Hill not only believes in the power of music for the individual, but also for the world. The Playing for Peace program was created at Apple Hill and “puts musicians of conflicting cultures together in chamber groups, enabling them to transcend national and cultural boundaries while participating in an exceptional pedagogical program.”
Leonard Matczynski, director of the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music opened Saturday’s performance, giving a brief history of the program, sharing some personal and professional anecdotes, introducing the program and explaining the process of musical composition.
Thomas spoke for a few moments as well, describing his creative process and how he came to be a part of the Apple Hill community. At first, Apple Hill was a home away from home for Thomas. He realized that he had found a unique environment “without judgment...or competition,” which he believes “[takes] away from the music.” “Every year, I just could not wait to get to that place,” he explained, smiling, “and eventually I decided, my entire life should be about Apple Hill, instead of the other way around. It just invigorates my soul.”
The quartet performed three lengthy numbers, beginning with Joseph Haydn’s “Quartet No. 5 in D Major ‘Lark’ Op. 64,” a piece that encompassed the standard rhythm and short, clear melodies of chamber composition. After the Haydn piece, which was comprised of four movements that showcased each of the four instruments being played, Eric Thomas’ “String Quartet No. 1 for Apple Hill” was executed to perfection.Afer a brief intermission, the quartet continued with a three-movement composition, and the show closed with Souvenirs de Voyage, a piece written specifically for string quartet and clarinet, composed by Bernard Herrmann.
Not only did the performers display impressive skill, they also showed unmistakable passion for their art. Each member of the group became a part of the piece, swaying with each rise in pitch, some even closing their eyes for the entirety of the movement. While one might expect that the entrance of Thomas to the ensemble midway through the performance would change the dynamic or tone of the sound, the addition resulted in a seamless mixing of strings and woodwinds.
From start to finish, the Apple Hill String Quartet transformed Lorimer Chapel into a concert hall, each note surrounding the audience in a warm embrace. The slowed and quickened tempos, the overlapping solos and the collective dedication of each musician changed what may be seen as a dated genre into a new and interesting experience. The concert concluded with overwhelming applause and a lesson that, sometimes, classical music is classic for a reason.