Harlem Quartet to Make VPAC Debut, 11/5

The HARLEM QUARTET, praised for its "panache" by The New York Times, is "bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent," says the Cincinnati Enquirer. This unique Salon experience will be found on the VPAC stage November 5 as the ensemble invites 200 audience members to join them onstage for a rare, intimate performance of their classical and jazz program. Ticket-holders will also have the opportunity to participate in an exclusive meet and greet with the artists, following the performance.

Founded in 2006 by the Sphinx Organization to advance diversity in classical music, the Harlem Quartet was created to bring classical music to inner-city school children and to engage new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. The November 5 program will include works by old and new names, alike.

"Is there a better way to introduce classical music to people than inviting them to experience the music onstage with the musicians?" asks VPAC Executive Director, Thor Steingraber. "In this unique staging format, toggling back and forth between jazz and classical music, it's easy to see how the Harlem Quartet has been met with great success in the U.S. and abroad."

In addition to performing chamber music series around the world, Harlem Quartet most recently toured with Chick Corea and Gary Burton, won a Grammy in 2013 for Best Instrumental Composition (for "Mozart Goes Dancing") and shared stages with Itzhak Perlman, Carter Brey, Paquito D'Rivera and other jazz and classical musicians. They performed at the White House for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009.

The Harlem Quartet is composed of violinst Ilmar Gavilan, violinist Melissa White, violist Jaime Amador and cellist Felix Umansky. Each member of the quartet is a seasoned solo artist, having appeared with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, National, Utah, Puerto Rico, Juilliard, New World, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras. Harlem Quartet's solo work as an ensemble is also a significant part of their career. The most recent collaboration was with Music Director Mei-Ann Chen and the Chicago Sinfonietta, where in June 2012 they gave the world premiere of Bernstein's West Side Story arranged for string quartet and orchestra by Randall Craig Fleischer. The quartet repeated performances of that score in September 2012 with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra under Fleischer's direction, and again in December 2012 with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Chicago Sinfonietta and the quartet have recorded the West Side Story arrangement, along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees, now available on the Cedille Records label.

The Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, the Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. They made their European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. Harlem Quartet is regularly featured at jazz festivals around the world, including the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City, Montreal Jazz Festival, and Miami Nice Jazz Festival.

Their recording career began in 2007 when White Pine Music issued Take the "A" Train, a release featuring the string quartet version of that jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn; the CD was highlighted that year in the November issue of Strings magazine. A second CD, featuring works of Walter Piston, was released in 2010 by Naxos. The quartet's third recording, released in early 2011, is a collaboration with pianist Awadagin Pratt and showcases works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont. And two recording projects in collaboration with Chick Corea were completed at the end of the 2010-11 season. In May 2013, the quartet released a live CD from New York City's Merkin Hall with works by Mozart and Schubert.

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