Our town's library has a small music concert series and recently I was able to draw two great performances. The first was Debussy's quartet in g minor, performed by the Boston Public Quartet, the resident string ensemble of a non-profit called musiConnects (http://www.musiconnects.org/boston-public-quartet.html). Making classical music relevant and engaging to a wide audience is a big part of their mission and they had the audience laughing and attentive as they explained how a quartet practices listening to each other and coordinating voices. Their love for the music and for the audience was inspiring to not only listen to but to watch as well.
The Debussy piece they played was unusual in that each of the four instruments took turnswith the melody, rather than it being dominated by the violin as often happens in string quartets. The sound was melodic enough to follow along but also very rhythmically experimental and contemporary.
The second performance was actually more of an informal lecture, featuring violinist Jennie Shames from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the BSO's public program director, Marc Mandel. Using recordings of Mahler and Shoshtakovich symphonies, interspersed with live examples from Jennie, they illustrated the way composers build musical ideas -- like stringing sentences together into longer paragraphs -- and the contrasting moods created with key shifts.
The recordings were lovely, but when Jennie played the audience was captivated, especially when she described the way she always tries to gently pull the sound out of the violin rather than attacking it.
Especially in New England, where late March brings just as much cold as spring sun, classical chords echoing through the library halls is just the thing to keep our little town warm.