October 27, 2003

New York-based Ethel makes Schwartz Center debut, Nov. 1

By Sally Corbett

Ethel, New York’s critically acclaimed string quartet styled more like a rock band, will make its Emory debut on Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. as part of Emory’s SoundScapes Series at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently wrote of Ethel, "This ultra-virtuosic ensemble can dig into its strings like rockers." Ethel includes talented studio, Broadway and classical musicians. Unlike other quartets, their freedom in approach is more like that of a rock group with a range of influences including blues, bluegrass, jazz, Latin American music, classical and rock.

"Take the potency of an amplified, edgy rock band—replete with reverb and distortion pedals typical of a rock guitarist’s setup—mix it with the accuracy and hipness of the Kronos Quartet, crank up the intensity and throw in some improvisation, and you’ll get New York’s most daring string-quartet sensation, Ethel," wrote Strings magazine.

The foursome—Ralph Farris, viola; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins—joined forces in 1998. Since then they have collaborated with many artists and ensembles including The Bang on a Can All-Stars (performing at Emory Feb. 21, 2004), the New York Philharmonic, the Steve Reich Ensemble, Joe Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Dick Connette, Sheryl Crow, Roger Daltrey, Reba McEntire and Yo-Yo Ma. Ethel also has been featured in stage and film work including film scores by Don Byron and Bennie Wallace.

The quartet’s Schwartz Center program will feature seven works by six living composers. They will perform Todd Reynolds’ "Uh … it all happened so fast" and "Alap." The latter draws on Indian and blues music. The composer of the "The Blue Room," Phil Kline, said this dense, multilayered work’s "initial impulses are subjected to geometric development, which in turn yields to purely intuitive decisions and denouements."

Also on the program are Julia Wolfe’s "Early that summer"; Ralph Farris’ arrangement of Finnish fiddler Timo Alakotila’s "Pelimanni’s Revenge"; Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos’ "Nepomuk No. 3," a piece inspired by a character from Thomas Mann’s novel Doktor Faustus; and composer and guitarist John King’s "Sweet-HardWood," a blues-based piece with improvisation, originally written for the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Ethel released its debut album on Oct. 14. To preview selections, visit www.ethelcentral.com. The concert is $15 for the public, $12 for faculty and staff, and free for Emory students. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050 or online at www.emory.edu/ARTS.