Classical string quartet comes to campus

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Photo by Kathryn Lymburner.

[O]n Wednesday night, a classical string quartet came to play for Ryerson at Oakham House. The Windermere String Quartet, a Toronto-based ensemble, gathered a crowd of over 60 people through the course of the night.

Most of the audience members were part of the student group that organized the event, Musicians@Ryerson, but many others came out to hear a genre of music not played live at Ryerson very often.

The Windmere String Quartet–consisting of violinists Rona Goldensher and Elizabeth Loewen Andrews, violist Anthony Rapoport, and cellist Laura Jones–have been around since 2005 and have played with leading period instrument ensembles in Canada and in the U.S. Some performances include Toronto’s Academy Concert Series, the Toronto Music Garden, and Nuit Blanche.

The quartet mainly performs music from the Classical period, which takes place between the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries.

If any audience members that night expected the performance to be dull and stiff, they were proven wrong. The four string players practically head banged along with their music. They were as close to dancing as they could get while sitting in a chair while holding an instrument between their chins and shoulders.

The atmosphere was a lot less formal and more intimate than some people expected. In the small room at Oakham House, every long note rang and vibrated through the air. The listener could hear the soft intakes of breath at the beginning of each music phrase, each fingerboard slide, and the occasional bow squeak.

The quartet also gave small music lessons. Jones, the cellist and a self-proclaimed geek, made references to Dr. Who because, she said, listening to their pieces was like time-travelling through music.

Loewen Andrews, the second violinist, talked about how they played on stringed instruments from the Classical period, which have a few differences from their modern counterparts.

For instance, the strings of an instrument from the Classical period are made entirely of sheep gut. This allows listeners to hear the textures of a string quartet’s music better, Andrews said.

Anyone looking around the room could tell that the audience was captivated by the quartet’s passionate, and at times almost frantic, performance. Barely anyone spoke and not a smartphone was in sight. It was nothing but the audience and the musicians.