Blog

CCC Season 2

From our concert at the Simsbury Historical Society

From our concert at the Simsbury Historical Society

Over the past few months, we've enjoyed playing in beautiful open-air settings at the Florence Griswold Museum, the Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and more. 

As the summer fades, we're excited to kick off our fall with a second season of free community concerts at Christ Church Cathedral. We've been busy preparing some new music for our upcoming season including works by Gyorgy Ligeti, Claude Debussy, and Antonin Dvorak. 

If you live or work in the Hartford area, we hope you'll join us for our first concert on September 10th at 12:00 PM on the Cathedral patio. We'll perform indoor concerts on October 22nd and April 28th, 2016 at 7:00 PM, and another noon concert on May 19th, 2016. We invite you to bring a lunch to the noon concerts. 

Christ Church Cathedral is located at the corner of Church Street and Main Street. The Cathedral is the seat of the diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and has been a parish church for over 250 years. Drawing a diverse congregation from the Greater Hartford area and beyond, it is a spiritual center for those who work in downtown Hartford, a resource for the needy of the city, and an advocate of musical, artistic and cultural organizations that enrich the wider community.

Our continued thanks to Music Director Josh Slater for his leadership in shaping this series, and thanks to Christ Church Cathedral for their partnership!  

 
 
 

Up North

In March, we were Artists-In-Residence with the Arts Alliance of Northern New HampshireThis residency was supported in part by the New England States Touring Program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program, and the six New England state arts agencies, including the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative Foundation. While there, we were involved in 34 engagements in less than six days, traveling through Berlin, Whitefield, Lancaster, Bath, Lisbon, Woodsville, North Haverhill, North Conway, Sandwich, Moultonborough, Franklin, Plymouth, Meredith, Littleton, Gorham, and Bristol. 

It was a whirlwind of a week: we presented numerous school concerts (an addendum to our 2014 Gymnatorium Tour), several saxophone clinics, and music educator workshops. In the evenings, the festivities continued with performances at the St. Kieran’s Community Center for the Arts, the Plymouth Congregational Church, and the Littleton Opera House. We also had a memorable experience playing for an appreciative and gracious group of 40 men at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin.

Our view from the stage of the Littleton Opera House.

Our view from the stage of the Littleton Opera House.

Other special moments during the tour included our first onstage selfie with enthusiastic high-schoolers (eat your heart out, Ellen), setting a record for the most wraps consumed by a saxophone quartet within a six-day period, gorging on delicious sweets at Chutters, setting up camp at M-Zo Tea and Co., having some high-caliber guest artists fill in for Andrew, and engaging with over 1,800 students from grades Pre-K through high school.

After our nonstop week in New Hampshire (including a performance at the First Church of Nashua), we headed home for a quick breather, only to return and travel further north—this time for our Maine debut. The Arts Institute of Western Maine graciously hosted our performance at the historic Nordica Auditorium on the University of Maine at Farmington campus. We were met by an eager and electric crowd throughout the concert, and even got called back for an encore!  Let us know when you want us back, Maine!

A special thanks goes to: the Cold Spring Resort in Ashland; Northland Restaurant & Dairy Bar of Berlin; Flatbread Company in North Conway; Topic of the Town, M-Zo Tea & Co., and Miller's Cafe in Littleton; Adair Inn, Bethlehem; North Conway Music Center, Bethlehem Public Library and the Town of Lancaster; Hannaford in Franklin; Marie Beringer in Randolph; and lastly Frumie Selchen and Jamie Feinberg of the AANNH for a masterfully orchestrated tour.

Another warm round of thanks goes to the Keiths and the Priors for making our brief stay in Maine a memorable one.

Next up: AQ keeps it local, with performances in Hartford, Simsbury, and West Hartford.

Musical Masterworks

This fall we had the privilege of being this year’s artists-in-residence for Musical Masterworks, a fantastic arts organization whose mission is  in part to bring musical experiences to under-served areas of New London and Middlesex County, Connecticut. Since the commencement of their outreach program in 1997, Musical Masterworks has presented more than 100 concerts for more than 15,000 students, featuring various artists including the Harlem String Quartet, the New England Percussion Ensemble, and the Imani Winds. During our residency we had the pleasure of sharing our music with some amazing students at their fantastic schools.

The cozy BP Learned Mission theater.

The cozy BP Learned Mission theater.

Our first performance took place at the Interdistrict School for Arts And Communication (ISAAC) located in New London’s historic Waterfront District. Music and the arts are considered a foundational part of the learning experience at ISAAC, and we were excited to perform for and work with the music students there. In addition to working with woodwind students, we had the opportunity to work with a vocal ensemble. While at first we were, admittedly, a little out of our comfort zone, we quickly found our stride and proceeded to have one of our best masterclasses in which we explored the ideas of musical phrasing and ensemble communication.  To end our day, we headed over to the BP Learned Mission and performed for the students at their after-school program. It was an intimate little concert for a great group of kids.

Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School

Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School

 

A good friend of the quartet and fellow saxophonist, Lisa Conant, is the band director at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. We were more than happy to spend two days there, giving us the chance to perform for the entire student body and still spend an entire day working with our colleague's band students. During the masterclasses, we spent time one-on-one with the students which was a nice change of pace from the larger group lessons that we had been presenting.

 

One of the more unique schools we visited was the Integrated Day Charter School. IDCS boasts a truly interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum and learning environment. The school has a very open layout with very few barriers dividing the community learning spaces. Grade levels are often combined and students routinely demonstrate their learning through multiple disciplines and mediums. The bright and talented students were an engaged and enthusiastic audience for our two performances there. We also enjoyed spending time with a small group of instrumental students for a fun afternoon class. Did we forget to mention that IDCS is housed in an old Thermos® factory? It came as a surprise to us as well.

Getting settled in at IDCS.

Getting settled in at IDCS.

However, the Regional Multicultural Magnet School gets the award for the most historic building that we visited. A portion of RMMS is located in the refurbished gothic-style Bulkeley School for Boys, founded in the 1880s. In addition to admiring the stonework and the stained-glass, we were also admiring the RMMS students who were a very attentive audience and posed some very thoughtful questions such as, "Which saxophone is the hardest to play?" and "Why did you decide to play the saxophone?". We also had some help from the wonderful “Miss Cinderella”, who lead the students in a movement activity during the tune Groove Machine.

                                                Miss Cinderella in action!

At the Friendship School we were thrilled to play for our youngest audience to date (3 to 5-year-olds). We were pleasantly surprised at how well they paid attention to these four strangers with big, loud, and shiny instruments. However, for some of the little ones, this new experience was a little too much to process. One particular student quote remains in our minds from the Friendship School: “My feet are really hot right now.

Throughout our residency with Musical Masterworks we were constantly inspired by the students and staff of these fantastic schools. We are very thankful to everyone at Musical Masterworks for giving us this opportunity to share our music with almost 2,000 students this fall. We would also like to extend our biggest thanks to Pam Allen Hunter, who worked tirelessly to arrange and schedule all of our school visits. Without her hard work we wouldn’t have been able to share our music with so many young people. We are eternally grateful for this experience.

October

Though our busy summer has faded to fall here in New England, we kept up with some exciting and unique performances throughout October!

(If Tony and Andrew look a little tired here, that’s because they had both just finished the Hartford Half Marathon that morning!) 

(If Tony and Andrew look a little tired here, that’s because they had both just finished the Hartford Half Marathon that morning!) 

A few weeks ago we made the scenic drive from Hartford to New Milford, Connecticut to present a concert at the Merryall Center for the Arts. Located in rural Litchfield County, the Merryall is an intimate theater where all the seats seem to be front-row center. The space was truly special, and we played many of our favorites, including Ivan Božičević's Coiling Clouds (video here), and Erberk Eryilmaz' Dances of the Yogurt Maker. For some more information on both of those pieces, head over to our Collaborations page!

The following morning, we performed in a service at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Hartford, as part of our year-long residency. From our perch in the organ loft, we had an awesome view of the cathedral's nave. The acoustics of the hall were perfect for our performance of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and Polina Nazaykinskaya’s Pavana pour Quatre. We'll be presenting several more performances throughout the year— check out our previous blog post for more information!

Later that week, we also performed for the first time at the Boston Athenaeum, presenting a program of American music to an enthusiastic audience. We’ve performed many times in libraries, but nothing quite like the Athenaeum, which describes itself as “one of the oldest and most distinguished independent libraries and cultural institutions in the United States.” As we played, we were surrounded by historic pieces of American art and gorgeous sculptures. We took advantage of the setting and had some new photos taken by photographer Andy Hurlbut. Here are a few of our favorites:

Two of our new friends at PARMA Recordings also made the trip from New Hampshire to hear this performance; check out this very kind blog post from PARMA A&R Representative Blake Seale!

Thanks so much for reading, and stay tuned for more news and updates! We’re going to have a busy end of the year!

Christ Church Cathedral Residency

A new community initiative in downtown Hartford

This month, we're starting a one-year tenure as Ensemble-In-Residence at Hartford's Christ Church Cathedral. Throughout the year, we'll rehearse at the Cathedral and present a series of five free, public concerts for the Hartford community. 

Three indoor concerts take advantage of the historic sanctuary space, built in 1827. Two outdoor concerts on the patio will continue a long tradition of “brown bag” concerts at the Cathedral.  

Indoor concerts take place on at 7:30 PM on Thursday, January 22nd and April 23rd, 2015. Outdoor concerts take place at 12:00 PM on Friday, October 3rd, 2014 and May 28th, and June 19th, 2015.

Christ Church Cathedral is located at the corner of Church Street and Main Street in downtown Hartford. The Cathedral is the seat of the diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and has been a parish church for over 250 years. Drawing a diverse congregation from the Greater Hartford area and beyond, it is a spiritual center for those who work in downtown Hartford, a resource for the needy of the city, and an advocate of musical, artistic and cultural organizations that enrich the wider community.

We're so grateful to Joshua Slater, Music Director of Christ Church Cathedral, for his vision and hard work in shaping this new initiative.

At The Movies

This year's Traverse City Film Festival poster features the  festival's historic State Theater, restored in 2007 and recently named by the MPAA as the number one movie theater in the world!

Traverse City is a small Lake Michigan town, known for much of its history as the cherry capital of the world. In the last decade however, an annual world-class film festival has become the center of a cultural renaissance in TC. Founded by Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, the Traverse City Film Festival - now in its tenth year - brings great films and filmmakers to northern Michigan for five days each summer. This year, the festival presented 250 affordable public screenings with 180,000 admissions at 9 venues – all in a town with a year-round population of under 15,000. As we saw it, the only thing missing was a saxophone quartet.

Live music has become a big part of the festival. Musicians perform before almost every film, entertain at festival parties, and give concerts on two outdoor stages - opportunities and challenges we'd been eagerly awaiting. After a quick fifteen hours in our rented Dodge Durango, we arrived in TC just in time to play at the festival’s Opening Night Party. Stationed just inside the party's entrance on Front Street, we greeted guests with music by Ljova and Alan Thomas.

TCFF Opening Night Party on Front Street - State Theater in the background. 

Over the five days of the festival, we played six pre-film concerts. For each, we selected music to compliment the film's unique mood, setting, and themes. In our concert before Fishing Without Nets, a gripping drama about Somali pirates, we featured Guillermo Lago’s East-African-influenced Addis Ababa, along with Marc Mellits’ relentless Groove Machine and Ivan Božičević’s churning Coiling Clouds.

Opening for Fishing Without Nets at the State Theater. 

Opening for Fishing Without Nets at the State Theater. 

Still from Fishing Without Nets

We also played concerts before the films 5 to 7, The German Doctor and Magic in the Moonlight, and opened the festival's "Evening with Larry Charles", featuring the comedy writer from Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. One of the highlights was a concert before the new comedy Fading Gigolo starring Woody Allen. We showcased some klezmer and gypsy jazz, and met with some great energy from the audience. After leaving the stage, we were surprised to discover a tweet from celebrity chef and Traverse City resident Mario Batali. What can we say...the man has good taste! 

The largest festival venue is Open Space Park. Each night, thousands of people show up for a free, classic film screening on a giant, 50-foot-tall inflatable screen. Crowds gather hours before the film to stake out seats on the grass and enjoy live music. Our sound was amplified to reach people spread over a distance of nearly two football fields. As we played, we heard our sound reflected back at us by from buildings at the opposite end of the park. It was a bizarre experience - a bit like singing in the shower, if a shower were a quarter of a mile wide!

View from the Open Space stage, playing before Casablanca.

Playing at The Workshop Brewing Company.

We took a break from playing for films to head to The Workshop Brewing Company. The Workshop partnered with the festival to present TCFF musicians each night of the festival. It's a great spot - a family-friendly brewpub complete with craft beers and food, board and arcade games, a small library, Soviet-themed ambience, and a stage with a full sound and light setup. We loved playing in this creative, vibrant atmosphere. The musical theme of the night was “Avant Garde / Experimental”, we split the bill with a group called George Morris and the Gypsy Chorus, a hard-hitting Detroit band with an undeniably compelling sound. We found ourselves returning to The Workshop throughout the festival for drinks, food, and music. Props and gratitude to Pete Kirkwood and Chef Scott Williams for creating this Traverse City gem!

Amidst the shuttling around, we had some time to take in the beauty of Traverse City and some of the festival’s movies. One of the most powerful films was a documentary about the remarkable film critic Roger Ebert called Life Itself. Ebert expressed his love for film in a simple but beautiful metaphor: “We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls.” It’s a great reminder about the power of the arts to open our minds and our hearts. If the films we played before at the festival were windows, we hope our music made them a little bigger and a little clearer.

With Pete Kirkwood of The Workshop Brewing Company at the festival's Opening Night Party. 

We had an incredible week and we owe it to a few people. The TCFF Music Team – Mike Sullivan, Quinn McKay, and Brooke Porter-Jordan – worked tirelessly to make this experience a great one. We are grateful for the generous festival sponsorship and housing provided by the Schwimmer family. Special thanks to Jack Schwimmer and Amanda Glass for their support. Thanks to you all! And thanks to Traverse City for listening!

The Farm

We first came across Avaloch Farm Music Institute's website last November. As a free(!) retreat for chamber ensembles to live, work, and rehearse, away from the distractions of everyday life, this place looked like exactly what we needed to develop as a group. Further tantalized by phrases like "heaven for musicians" and "delicious, creative meals", we submitted an application in December. For the next 6 months, we dreamed about Avaloch, speculated about what it would be like and what we would accomplish there.  

Rehearsing with composer Ryan Jesperson in our Avaloch studio. 

Rehearsing with composer Ryan Jesperson in our Avaloch studio. 

Before we knew it, June 1st was upon us, and we packed up the cars for Boscawen, New Hampshire. As soon as we arrived at Avaloch, we knew that "heaven for musicians" was no exaggeration. We were shown to our own 4-bedroom apartment, complete with a common area and our own rehearsal studio. In an adjacent building was the main hall with a dining room and a living room for informal concerts. Large open fields, ideal for frisbee practice breaks, surrounded the campus. 

But the biggest luxury at Avaloch is time. Even though we all live in and around Hartford, our schedules and professional obligations prevent us from rehearsing more than a few hours each week. We often meet late at night, when we're tired after full days of work. Because of these time constraints, we've often had to push aside or put off learning certain pieces simply because we don't have the rehearsal time they require. Besides our musical practice, the quartet takes some considerable administrative work - writing emails, researching venues and grants, developing marketing materials, and more. We work as a team on all these things, but because we're rarely in the same room, it often takes us a bit of time to establish group consensus. 

All in a day's work!

All in a day's work!

At Avaloch, all these obstacles vanished. We practiced an average of six hours a day, learning 45 minutes of new music and polishing another 30 of our existing repertoire. We got the chance to focus on the music we had to put off at home, including Erberk Eryilmaz's new piece, Dances of the Yogurt Maker, our arrangement of Philip Glass's 5th String Quartet, and an arrangement of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, the last of which requires some pretty intense intonation work! We devoted time each day to tackling administrative work as a group, bouncing ideas off each other and collaborating on tasks as we've never been able to do before. 

Group admin hour, or "world domination" as A/B Duo called it. 

Group admin hour, or "world domination" as A/B Duo called it. 

"Dammit Denise, I said hold all my calls!"

"Dammit Denise, I said hold all my calls!"

Liber Ensemble gives a mindblowing performance of Medieval music. 

Liber Ensemble gives a mindblowing performance of Medieval music. 

Avaloch also gave us much more. While there, we were inspired by our fellow residents, the flute/percussion new music ensemble A/B Duo, renowned Early Music vocal quartet Liber Ensemble, and pianist Rosabel Choi. Most days, one or more of these musicians would perform a piece or two they had been working on. These informal concerts were refreshing and thrilling, opening our eyes and ears to new artistic possibilities and motivating us to aspire to new levels of performance. We thoroughly enjoyed their company throughout our stay and will miss them a lot!

Avaloch is also committed to enriching it's surrounding community, and we were thrilled to present an outreach concert at Boscawen Elementary School, organized by David Seaton - thank you, David! We spent the previous day planning a program we hoped would engage the 200 + students, and we were delighted at how they responded to our concert with enthusiasm and full attention. 

Outreach concert at Boscawen Elementary School. 

Outreach concert at Boscawen Elementary School. 

Will enjoys cake on his birthday.

Will enjoys cake on his birthday.

We would be leaving out a significant part of this place if we didn't mention the food. For two weeks, we ate like kings. The resident chef is Will Gamble, a real virtuoso in the kitchen. Will is also a personal trainer who looks like he could rip you in half if he wanted to. In reality, he's one of the most friendly, thoughtful people we've ever met. We loved learning from him about the artistry of cooking. When not indulging in huge gourmet meals, we snacked on cookies, baked fresh almost every day by Diane, who became our adopted grandma over the two weeks. 

Beet and goat cheese salad.

Beet and goat cheese salad.

Wings buffet. Enough said. 

Wings buffet. Enough said. 

Breakfast fruit plate.

Breakfast fruit plate.

Dinner, nbd. 

Dinner, nbd. 

You're probably wondering by now how this improbable, utopian place came to exist. The story of Avaloch begins with two amazing people: Deborah Sherr and Fred Tauber. Deb is a cellist and director of a high school summer music camp in Massachusetts. Fred, a renown physician and philosopher of medicine, began attending concerts at the camp. Impressed by the profound affect of music on young people, he approached Deb and asked her if she had an idea of a project he might fund through his family foundation to help young musicians. Deb had thought about the lack of professional development opportunities available for emerging professional chamber ensembles, and proposed an artist retreat dedicated to these young artists. Three years later, in 2013, Avaloch welcomed its first residents.  

We're so grateful to Deb and Fred for their vision and dedication in making Avaloch a reality. We have benefitted tremendously from our time and we can't wait to share what we accomplished there! 

Until next time, Avaloch!

Until next time, Avaloch!

Underground

After a show, we love hearing the words: "I've never heard anything like that!" Nothing beats that feeling of having created a totally new and surprising experience. Though we love playing for classical music and saxophone quartet aficionados, we're also always looking to reach new audiences who wouldn't otherwise get to hear us. 

To that end, we submitted an audition CD a few months ago to "Music Under New York", a program curated by New York's MTA, bringing diverse music to the city's subway system. Playing in New York's subway presents a unique opportunity for musicians to reach massive amounts of people from all walks of life.

We were thrilled to hear back that we had been selected from over 1,000 applicants for 60 audition spots. On Tuesday morning, we woke up way too early and caught the train in New Haven, heading for NYC. On the way, we thought about what was at the end of the line - a city with a rich history blurring the lines of traditional arts venues, a city where the arts infuse its streets, buildings, parks, and of course, it's iconic underground corridors. 

Tuesday’s audition in Grand Central Station's Vanderbilt Hall was a fascinating experience. We were allowed five minutes to make an impression on a group of thirty-five judges. We choose to perform "Cordoba" from Guillermo Lago's Ciudades, a piece that evokes the southern Spanish city with virtuosic flair, and clocks in neatly at just under four and a half minutes. As we played, a crowd accumulated as fast-walking travelers stopped to watch us. Media outlets from around the world showed up to cover the auditions, and after our performance, reporters from Al Jazeera America and other outlets took us aside for interviews.

In the next couple of weeks we’ll hear back if we were one of the 20 granted permission to perform as featured artists in the subway. But win or lose, we were honored to take part in this mini music festival, and we're more committed than ever to bring our music to new and unsuspecting audiences.  

You can read about the auditions in this article from amNewYork - and be sure to check out the video where you can hear a clip from our audition! 

Back Roads and Back Alleys

The Asylum Quartet hit the road these past two weekends to play our first concerts in Vermont and Rhode Island. We had the pleasure of presenting two very different concerts in two very different venues.

Hooker-Dunham Theater

Hooker-Dunham Theater

On April 4, we performed at The Hooker-Dunham Theater & Gallery in Brattleboro, Vermont. The theater is in the center of downtown, although you’d never know it. Through the alley and down the stairs lays a vibrant arts space. The cozy 99-seat theater is nested into the foundation of the building giving it an almost subterranean feel.

Being the first Friday of the month in Brattleboro, we weren’t the only show in town. Gallery Walk was going on in full force with people enjoying some of the thirty-two art galleries and exhibits that are open to the public in downtown Brattleboro. Our contribution to the festivities was a fun program that included electronic works, indie-rock, and even a little funk-klezmer fusion. Jerry Springer also made an appearance as a part of Jacob TV’s, Heartbreakers. According to one audience member, it was “a complete gas!” 

This past weekend we took a pleasant Sunday drive through the winding scenic roads of Eastern Connecticut to the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church in Chepachet, Rhode Island as part of their Music at the Meetinghouse series. 

 

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church

Playing in front of a one hundred year old pipe organ in an almost two hundred year old church isn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We presented a program of our staples, featuring works by Glazounov, Lago, and Moondog. Afterwards we had a chance to talk with many of the audience members, the vast majority of whom had never heard a group like ours. Their response and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. It was certainly a pleasure to share our music with such a delightful audience. 

Preparing to play in front of a one hundred year old organ

Preparing to play in front of a one hundred year old organ

E. W. Lane Organ

E. W. Lane Organ

 

 

Where We Live: A Love (Theme) Story

Yesterday, we drove over to the CPTV building on Asylum Avenue for an interview and in-studio performance WNPR's Where We Live with John Dankosky. Max and Tony are our resident public radio junkies, and they were especially giddy as we walked down the WNPR hallway, past some of the people whose voices we hear during our daily commutes. 

Max thoughtfully examines the Where We Live sign. Photo credit: Tony

Max thoughtfully examines the Where We Live sign. Photo credit: Tony

When we came to the studio, we met WWL producer Lydia Brown and host John Dankosky. We set up to record our in-studio performance first. John sat in his desk at the other end of the small studio as we played. 

John was especially excited about our version of the Where We Live theme music, arranged by our good friend Ryan Jesperson. Lydia asked us earlier in the week if we would be able to put together a version of this music, and within a matter of hours, Ryan had something awesome for us. We hope you'll agree that it's a beautiful arrangement, incorporating singing upper voices, and tenor/bari slaptongues mimicking the percussion in the original version. 

After the show, John tweeted this about our performance of the WWL music: 

and showed us some more love: 

You can listen to our full interview and in-studio performance here: 

At the end of our interview, we headed down the hall to play a short concert as part of WNPR's new Cafe Cutie series, a Connecticut version of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Check out the video by Chion Wolf: 

Roots

Our last blog post dealt with our desires to redefine a traditional, classical concert space, especially in unique venues around town.  As a group, we aim to connect the best of both worlds: the intimacy and sheer fun of a small venue with the excitement of high-energy instrumental music, typically played in the concert hall.

Our February 28, 2014 performance at J. René Coffee Roasters.

This past week however, Asylum went back to our roots on the concert stage, participating in the 2014 International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition at Boston University.  The two-day competition brought classical groups from everywhere and from a wide age range.  As you might have expected, we were the only saxophone quartet selected.  We decided on a short 20-minute program to illustrate who we NOW are as self-motivated musicians.

We had a fun time rediscovering ourselves in the competition setting, and ultimately winning the Grand Prize.  But our performances in untraditional settings have definitely helped give us the upper hand with confidence, stage presence, and meaningful programming.

High five!

Here's a tidbit from our Finals performance that night.  Enjoy!

Spaces: J. René and The Buttonwood Tree

Since we founded Asylum in 2012, we’ve been fortunate enough to perform in a variety of interesting venues. We’ve played in churches, recital halls, homes, art galleries, elementary schools and universities. Along the way, we’ve found it an exciting musical challenge to adapt to difference spaces, different acoustics, and different audiences. Some of our favorite venues have been those that allow us to present chamber music in it’s truest form: small, intimate spaces that allow us to make a stronger connection with our audiences. 

photo.JPG
photo1.JPG

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of playing at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, Connecticut. This venue was entirely new to us. The Buttonwood is an art gallery, bookstore, and performance space all rolled into one, and hosts a wide variety of cultural events; we loved the eclectic nature of the entire space. We were placed very close to our audience – this always encourages more involvement and allows our audience to connect to the performance on a new level.

Our first performance at J. Rene in 2012.

Our first performance at J. Rene in 2012.

One of our favorite places to play has been J. René Coffee Roasters, located in our home base of West Hartford, Connecticut. (Coincidentally, they also roast and brew the best coffee in West Hartford.) Our first performance together as a quartet was actually at J. René in September, 2012, soon after they opened for business. We loved the atmosphere and the acoustics, which allowed us to play lush classical works and booming electronic pieces. The relaxed and social nature of playing in a coffee shop makes performing here a blast for us and our audiences alike.

We’ll be returning to J. Rene for the third time next week, on Friday, February 28th. For more info, head to the event page here.

Branding the AQ

A couple months ago, we came across the website of Karl Fekete, a graphic designer out of Columbus, Ohio.  We loved the classic, hand-drawn feel of his work, and we started to talk to him about designing a logo for the quartet. One of our favorite logos of his is the "GC" design below, for a grilled cheese food truck. Mmmm.

2013-Grilled Cheese-Logo.jpg

On his website, Karl features a design project he calls "Branding the Wonders of the World." Each design features a postcard-like combination of image and text. This series really shows off Karl's ability to evoke a distinct atmosphere through design. On the right is his branding of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (full collection here). 

For our logo, we asked Karl to make something bold with a classic and not-too-serious feel. We're really happy with what he came up with. We love the way the letters intertwine and interlock, like the individual voices of the quartet coming together (or maybe we're reading too much into that part...)

27---Burj.jpg

Here's a poster-ized version of our logo:

2014-AQ-Logo2.jpg

And a flashy GIF: 

AQ-GIF2.gif

The AQ bullseye:

AQ-Black-Knockout.png

Coming soon: Asylum swag! We're also thinking about a hand-stamp we can use on audience members, as a temporary souvenir from the show. We'd be tempted to use it on ourselves though, all the time...

Thanks, Karl!

Call for Scores

We're always on the lookout for exciting stuff to play. In the past, we've added to our repertoire in three ways:

  1. We come across pieces from our favorite recordings, like Guillermo Lago's Ciudades from Amstel Quartet's album, Amstel Tracks Now! This piece vividly depicts exotic places, and it's as fun to listen to as it is to play.   
  2. We ask composers like Ryan Jesperson and Erberk Eryilmaz to write for us. These are people we know personally and whose work we admire, and we're thrilled to have pieces from them on the way. Check out their music! 
  3. We arrange our favorite music for saxophone quartet like Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" (inspired by this beautiful Time for Three version).
Imogen Heap: an unwitting composer for Asylum.

Imogen Heap: an unwitting composer for Asylum.

But now, we're going to try something a bit different. We're putting out a Call for Scores to composers. We want to find out about pieces that haven't yet been recorded, or maybe even performed - pieces we would not be able to discover any other way, except by asking and giving some incentives...

If you have a piece for saxophone quartet, we hope you'll consider submitting it to us. We'll choose one piece for a Grand Prize of $400, a studio recording, and at least one performance on our 2014-2015 season. We'll also award two winners a studio recording of their pieces, and consider them for performances and recording projects. 

The judging process will be completely anonymous, so our decisions will be based purely on the music. We'll accept submissions until March 1st, and then we'll announce prize-winners in April. 

We can't wait to see what's out there. Check out our Call for Scores and apply here.