Friday, March 11, 2011

The Jupiters are back in town - and there are free tickets for educators on Saturday night

Capping off their second week-long residency at Spivey Hall, the excellent JUPITER STRING QUARTET gives its second Spivey Series concert Saturday, March 12, at 8:15 PM, with a free 7:15 PM pre-concert talk featuring cellist Daniel McDonough and Clayton State music faculty member Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller.

It's been a busy week for the Jupiters.  After arriving Monday, they delved right back into their work with PROJECT JUPITER's southside high-school chamber-orchestra partners, which have also formed their own student string quartets. The Jupiters returned to Union Grove High School and Lovejoy High School on Tuesday, and  then Whitewater High School on Wednesday afternoon, working with the schools' large string ensembles as well as coaching the student string quartets.

Wednesday morning, the Jupiters made their first visit to perform and talk with students at Kennedy Middle School in Atlanta, which is a partner school of PROJECT JUPITER's corporate sponsor, The Coca-Cola Company.  This encounter was a great success, something that the students and musicians all enjoyed very much, thanks to Coca-Cola's kind cooperation in fostering this connection, and extending the artistic and communty outreach power of PROJECT JUPITER to even more young people.

Thursday the Jupiters had some time to rest (!), rehearse, and see a bit of Atlanta before leading the four student quartets in a master class onstage at Spivey Hall:  two from Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, where Darilyn Esterline is orchestra director; one from Lovejoy High School in Hampton, where Stephen Lawrence is orchestra director; and one from Union Grove High School in McDonough, where Kathy Saucer is orchestra director.  The students did a super job, playing well and responding to the remarks made by the Jupiter Quartet to enhance their musical understanding, refine their teamwork as quartets, and bring out the most expressive qualities of the quartets movements by Beethoven and Haydn they performed.  Other students, parents, teachers and music-lovers listened in, to learn more about what it takes for four musicians to come together as one as bring the music to life in performance.  The students thus got a chance to play on stage at Spivey Hall -- which I think many of them will remember for quite some time.

Today (Friday as I write), the Jupiters gave a pair of warmly-received Young People's Concerts.  I heard the second one, which featured music by the Quartet's favorite composer, Ludwig van Beethoven.  The Jupiters played movements of early, middle and late Beethoven quartets, all of which had different characters, representing an interesting musical portrait of the various aspects of Beethoven's artistic personality throughout his life.  Even in the depths of despair (going deaf, feeling terribly isolated, suffering illnesses, lacking the love he sought), Beethoven channeled his emotions and creative genius into composing music of incredible inventiveness and lasting beauty.  Three of the musicians -- cellist Daniel McDonough, second violinist Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel -- gave introductions to the pieces, planting clear ideas in the audiences of ways to listening and understanding what Beethoven wrote.  The students were EXCELLENT listeners and seemed to enjoy what they heard very much.  Towards the end of the concert, first violinist Nelson Lee fielded a wide range of questions from the audience and gave answers as best he could.  One student asked about why the musicians move and nod and twitch as they do when playing...!  Nelson responded that there is no conductor on stage to guide them, so they all use movement in their own ways to give signals to each other, especially in moments that require coordination among them, and also just to express what they're feeling about the music, which also contributes to the shared experience the quartet creates when performing.

Later today, the Jupiters are to be found in Atlanta's Piedmont Park Community Center, where they'll play two 40-minute sets starting at 5:00 PM as "RANDOM ACTS OF CULTURE"!  So if you're out jogging or walking your dog, taking advantage of our bright but still quite brisk early-spring weather, you might hear some outstanding music wafting over the air.  If so, stop in and check out the Jupiters...they're really likeable people and you'll get a true sense of what they're about.

And that means -- in additional to being fantastic educators and advocates for the music they love -- they're about giving GREAT concerts.  Thus comes the grand finale Saturday night, with a lively, engaging early Beethoven Quartet in C minor (Op. 18 No. 4), followed by two pieces by Anton von Webern, one of which is in the language of late, rich, German Romanticism (his "Lamgamersatz" or "Slow Movement'" -- an early student piece), followed by his Five Pieces for String Quartet, which while in an entirely different style of writing called the Second Viennese School (which basically up-ended the rules on how classical music is conceived and organized) -- at times very condensed and pithy, and other times given to incredible, quicksilver changes of mood -- is still very much in Webern's own personal musical language.  This is another illustration of the Jupiters programmingi them of "the evolution of compositional voice" which they're tracing in their concerts this season. 

After intermission, the Jupiters dig into the "red meat" of late Beethoven with the String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, which includes a gorgeous, gorgeous slow section (the third of a total of five movements) which the Jupiters played at the Young People's Concert this morning -- a hymn of thanks from Beethoven who had regained strength and hope and energy after a long illness. This is remarkably beautiful music, the stuff that keeps fans of string quartets coming back for more.  This and everything the Jupiters plays will sound magnfiicent in Spivey Hall's superb acoustics, a space ideally designed for chamber music such as this.

Each spring, Spivey Hall  gratefully acknowledges the tremendous contributions that educators (teachers, principals, administrators, and others) make in the lives of young people with a concert -- and educators can attend for FREE, which is Spivey Hall's way of saying thanks.  Educators can claim their free ticket at the box office from 7:15 PM on Saturday; additional tickets are just $10 each.  And immediately following the concert, with the compliments of the Friends of Spivey Hall, there's a punch and cake reception honoring educators and the Jupiter String Quartet in the Spivey Hall lobby.

So come and hear some extraordinary music that the Jupiter String Quartet will bring vividly into our ears and hearts and souls...and enjoy a sugar rush with them afterwards!  MUCH more interesting than preparing your taxes, channel surfing, or sorting laundry. This is a concert that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution named as one of 11 events not to miss in 2011, and experencing great live music is, of course, one of life's better pleasures.

Thus as always, I join the musicians in hopes of welcoming you to Spivey Hall.  All this activity is made possible with special grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, South Arts, and the sponsorship of The Coca-Cola Company (PROJECT JUPITER's exclusive beverage sponsor) and Country Inn & Suites Atlanta I-75 South -- plus ongoing funding assistance from The Walter & Emilie Spivey Foundation, the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the wonderful Friends of Spivey Hall, who generously sustain the artistic excellence of Spivey Hall's concert and educational programming.  To one and all, and especially to our PROJECT JUPITER high school partners, many, many thanks.

The Jupiters will be back for their second PROJECT JUPITER season in 2011/2012, details of which will be announced to the Friends of Spivey Hall on March 29, and then posted on Spivey Hall's new website (to be launched at the end of the month),, very shortly thereafter.  Our 2011/2012 season book is currently in production (with a very different look than in years past, something I really like).  In it you'll see there are many outstanding artists and programs in store for us.  If you're not already on our mailing list, call the Spivey Hall Box Office at (678) 466-4200 or send a message from our website (via "contact us") and we'll get one sent out to you.


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