After three days of being immersed in scores, recording equipment, and coffee, six composers and the four members of Sirius Quartet emerged triumphantly from the studio room at Oktaven Audio just outside New York City. The week had been spent recording music for string quartet, to be released on a multi-composer album through Navona Records later in 2019. Instead of being at the end of the journey, however, the artists were off to the culmination of this project: the live performance of each piece in the heart of NYC.
The entire first week of March 2019 was devoted to Sirius Quartet and these six pieces by six unique composers. The artists convened at Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, a new, industrial facility that also houses a visual art studio in the same building. This was a week of firsts for many of the artists. For Ian Erickson, who is just breaking into the contemporary scene at the start of his promising career, recording his piece öðlo with Sirius was some of his first exposure to working directly with musicians on his pieces. Ian was encouraged to go forward with the project by composer and Navona artist Michael Murray, who unequivocally encouraged Ian to have the piece recorded with Sirius.
“This entire experience was extremely positive!” Ian later stated. “Working with the production crew at the session was very smooth, and a lot of fun; definitely a great learning experience!” As for the Quartet, he expressed his deep gratitude. “I really could not be happier with the Sirius Quartet. They possess incredible talent and musicianship, while bringing their own amazing energy and sensitivity to the performance. I am beyond honored to have been a part of this project and presented alongside this group of talented composers.”
Another first was for composer Mari Tamaki, who flew in from Japan with her husband on their first trip ever to New York City and was completely immersed in the entire recording and performance experience with her piece, sneak into the Q City. Marga Richter’s session saw a familiar face: PARMA artist and fellow New York Women Composers Inc. member Rain Worthington, who stopped in to listen to the session and offer Marga support.
After each piece had been recorded, the artists shifted focus, and location, to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, where the DiMenna Center for Classical Music stands in the heart of the Garment District. The evening consisted of each recorded piece, plus three from the composer-performers of Sirius Quartet which opened and closed the performance, to tie the evening together.
The exhilarating evening of music representative of different influences, styles, and passions began with an address from Sirius Quartet cellist Jeremy Harman, thanking the audience for joining them in the culmination of this project. Then each piece was brought to life, captivating both audience members and composer alike. As composer of String Quartet #1 Brian Field stated, “It was wonderful to hear all of the composers’ works – there was such a wide variety of styles – and the Sirius Quartet played them with great feeling.”
“I wrote the piece over ten years ago when I was a graduate student,” composer Jennifer Castellano said after the performance of her piece Images by Paul Klee. “It never had a full performance though. So for many years the work was tucked away.
“I was a bit nervous about how the work would sound prior to listening to the recording session,” she continued. “It’s a bit ‘out there’ compared to the majority of my works, but everything came through. The rhythms and timbre are the glue to this concision and it shined in the performance. The Sirius Quartet did a wonderful job.”
Marga Richter (who gave each quartet member a hug after their performance of her piece) had similar sentiments. “It was exhilarating to hear my quartet played with such passion, rhythmic vitality and persuasive understanding of its constantly shifting moods” she later stated. “Bravo!”
After the final bows were taken, composers and performers met for a post-concert celebration nearby in the city, where connections were further bonded. Music proved, as it usually does, to be the connecting force within language, cultural, and generational differences. Mari Tamaki and PARMA Senior Publicity Coordinator Patrick Niland, despite not sharing a common language, were able to spend time in conversation discussing their enjoyment of artists from Pink Floyd to Japanese pop artists.
The energy of the night still lingers, but this project doesn’t end with the March concert. This September, each piece from the evening will be released on a full album through Navona Records, where listeners can relive the experience from that week in New York City.