Jan 122016

Rivendell is coming to Salem, featuring music from Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and More – as performed by the New England String Quartet. It is the much-awaited second production from Salem Classical and is set for Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8pm in Old Town Hall.

RivendellRivendell is of course an Elven outpost in Middle-earth, a fictional realm created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It can be found, for example, in the The Lord of the Rings tales.

As for Salem Classical, it is intended to become the home of classical music located in the heart of the pedestrian zone of historic downtown Salem with the Old Town Hall as its principal venue. Created to establish a musical home for local and touring musicians, it is designed to provide a constant source of classical music to the residents of Salem and the thousands of visitors to the city.

The fertile mind behind Salem Classical is Richard Guérin, and we asked him two basic questions to help entice potential attendees. Why a string quartet and why science fiction & fantasy themed music?

Guérin explains, “the medium of the string quartet is the most intimate of them all. The grandiosity of the scores chosen for this program take on an entirely fresh form for listeners when heard this way.”

On the other hand, he points out that string quartets present the greatest challenge to composers, “to many it’s the most intimidating way of writing because for centuries it has been the proverbial mirror to which composers hold up to themselves to see if they have anything to say as artists – because it’s not possible to hide behind the orchestra.”

By expressing this music through the intimacy of a quartet, the Rivendell concert will bring the folk tunes of our time into a fresh light, all the while also showcasing their absolute musical value. Translate that as give your ears a delightful treat!

Established in Boston in 2007, the New England String Quartet is dedicated to expanding the contemporary chamber music tradition through performances, recordings, educational activities and community outreach projects. The ensemble seeks to develop collaborations with contemporary composers, soloists and other ensembles. Having made their debut at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, the ensemble is featured in concert series across New England including 3rd Sundays @ 3, Menotomy, Bach’s Lunch, Parma Music Festival and the Chromatic Club of Boston.

String QuartetThe quartet also collaborates with popular music, soundtrack, and video game producers. In 2014, NESQ recorded soundtracks for Lord of The Rings and Dungeons & Dragons online video games (for Warner Bros. Entertainment).

Guérin describes, “The huge canvas and broad brush strokes of the brilliant tapestry of sound Howard Shore created in his scores for Lord of the Rings will be communicated brilliantly through this new arrangement by Nikolai Clavier by an ensemble the size of which you might find in a pub in the Shire.”

“And as a simple matter of musicality,” he adds, “I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say what Ramin Djawadi’s theme to Game of Thrones which we will hear performed by the sublime New England String Quartet, is possibly the biggest ear-worm composed in the last decade. I met Djawadi this summer in Poland and heard the piece played by a 100 piece orchestra in a stadium of 10,000 listeners. I myself can’t wait to hear it in the warm setting of Salem’s Old Town Hall with some of the finest players in this area.”

As for the SF/fantasy theme of the music, he notes we are in Salem which can have its own comparisons with Rivendell.

“The strongest commonality is the sense of being a magical place. People from all over the world come to Salem and we meet them all the time. I met someone from California last week visiting Salem for the first time. To her eyes Salem appeared to be a movie set. She’d go up and knock on the bricks to see if the buildings are part of a set like in Hollywood.”

Guérin points out “Salem’s greatest asset is, more than any other factor including its history and architecture, its gravitational pull that makes you feel you are at a destination. There are very strong reasons why people want to live and work here and it’s the same magical pull.”

As odd as it seems, this concert might be the first opportunity some of these people have had to hear a string quartet. For more info on the quartet, go to www.nestringquartet.com

“There’s a great responsibility here to present interesting things in the right way because everything Salem Classical will present, will aim to transcend barriers and make people excited to come hear what we are doing. These things happening in Salem are so exciting and wonderful, even if it’s like the weather north of The Wall,” muses Guérin.

He concludes, “The music on this program is tremendously important to me and to have a chance to bring people together in Salem to celebrate it, is significant. This is music that everyone knows and loves.”

For the full musical program go to this Creative Salem page. For ticket details go to Eventbrite.

Sep 242015


When first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1913, the avant-garde nature of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” caused a sensation and reportedly near-riot in the audience. New local organization Salem Classical is bringing this work to Salem on Sept 26th to Old Town Hall in a slightly different format through the Cambridge-based Composer Focus concert series.

Salem Classical is intended to become the home of classical music located in the heart of the pedestrian zone of historic downtown Salem with the Old Town Hall as its principal venue. Created to establish a musical home for local and touring musicians, it is designed to provide a constant source of classical music to the residents of Salem and the thousands of visitors to the city.

The brainchild of Richard Guérin, the vision of Salem Classical “is to remove the boundary between the public and performers, bringing some of the greatest music ever composed to Salem. Audiences are invited to frequent concerts as a complement to the overall cultural experience in the city of Salem that includes dozens of award-winning restaurants, shops, and museums.”

Salem Main Streets, Creative Salem, and the City of Salem have partnered with Salem Classical to bring this project to fruition.  “We have a cultural scene that’s constantly evolving in Salem, but classical music, especially chamber music, really doesn’t have the presence in the downtown that it should,” says Salem Main Streets Executive Director Kylie Sullivan. “Richard came to us with this idea for a classical music series that would be high-quality and innovative, but accessible in every sense of the word – content, location, ticket price – and it just seemed like a no-brainer that this needed to happen.  And with a beautiful asset like Old Town Hall, it’s such a natural fit.”

This Salem Classical performance, “Composer Focus: Stravinsky at Old Town Hall,” will feature chamber music transcriptions of Stravinsky’s revolutionary “The Rite of Spring” (a Salem premiere) and his neoclassical “Pulcinella”.  Also included will be shorter solo and chamber works, and commentary by Composer Focus founder Nick Dinnerstein.

This presentation of the Composer Focus concert program includes:

  • Salem premiere of the four-hand piano version of The Rite of Spring performed by Paul Jacobs and Yilin You
  • Suite italienne for violin and piano from Pulcinella
  • Three Pieces for String Quartet with violinists Angel Valchinov and Li-Mei Liang, violist Chen Lin and cellist Nick Dinnerstein
  • Elegy for solo viola performed by Chen Lin
  • Tango for solo piano performed by Paul Jacobs

Composer Focus is a classical concert series, specializing in 20th and 21st century chamber music for piano and strings. The series introduces local audiences to some of the most original and accomplished composers of our time through vibrant performances in Cambridge and in towns throughout New England. Each concert explores the music of a single classical composer and consists of major as well as rarely performed works in a variety of instrumental combinations. For more information please visit www.composerfocusconcerts.com.

For tickets go to this link.  Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for seniors and students. The performance begins at 7:30pm at Old Town Hall which is located at 32 Derby Square.

Salem has welcomed Jazz, Steampunk, and other forms of music— time for classical, wouldn’t you think?