St. Lawrence String Quartet

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Noe Valley Chamber Music concludes its 2018-2019 season with two star-studded events.

Noe Valley Chamber Music is two shows away from concluding its 26th season, and its first under the artistic direction of Meena Bhasin and Owen Dalby. The nonprofit continues its storied tradition of bringing high-caliber, star-powered performances into a more informal, welcoming community.

The first of the two shows will feature the world-renowned and Bay Area-based St. Lawrence String Quartet. They will be performing at the Noe Valley Ministry on Sunday, February 10, at 4 p.m. Of the four pieces the Quartet will be playing, one is by a local and still living composer: Tango alla Zingarese (2016) by Jonathan Berger. Berger will be in attendance at the concert and will speak with musicologist Kai Christiansen at the post-show reception, as will the musicians from the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The Quartet will also be performing a piece by Haydn, a composer they are well-known for executing flawlessly.

Directors Bhasin and Dalby have taken the reins from founding artist director Karen Heather. Meena Bhasin is a violist who started honing her musical skills at the age of four. In addition to performing chamber music, she has played with the San Francisco Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston-based chamber orchestra A Far Cry, and has toured the U.S. as a soloist with rock band Jethro Tull. Bhasin has also performed Persian music as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic. She is a co-founder of Decoda, the Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall, which creates performances and programs designed for social impact.

Bhasin also marries her love of music with entrepreneurship: she recently launched Reveler, an arts and culture startup that helps members make their nights out in San Francisco “effortless and special” through curation of a surprise pair of tickets each month to one a cultural event in San Francisco.

Owen Dalby is a co-founder of Decoda along with Bhasin and a lauded violinist and violist. He is the most recent addition to the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and before that, he was a frequent fixture with musical ensembles in New York City and a fellow with Ensemble Connect, a fellowship of Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School that combines musical excellence with community engagement, advocacy, education, and leadership.

“Meeting the musicians at post-show receptions and seeing them as people with emotional ties to the music creates opportunities for audiences to connect more to the material,” said Tiffany Loewenberg, Executive Director of Noe Valley Chamber Music. “Noe Valley Chamber Music prides itself on offering accessibility and informality.”

The St. Lawrence String Quartet, which was established in Toronto in 1989, is described as having a “rock n’ roll energy” by The Los Angeles Times. Since 1998, they have been the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University, where they direct the music department's chamber music program, host an annual chamber music seminar, and run the Emerging String Quartet Program, through which they mentor the next generation of young quartets.

One of the quartets the group is currently mentoring, the Omer Quartet, will be doing two performances in conjunction with the February 10 show, called Snapshots and Classical Kids. These two programs supplement the mainstage Sunday concerts for Noe Valley Chamber Music. While the Classical Kids concerts introduce children to live music through short performances with activities and games, the new Snapshots series caters to young adults. The Snapshots are organized as casual yet intimate happy hours to reach people after work with the goal of attracting a young crowd who is open to new experiences and less familiar with chamber music than the average Noe Valley Chamber Music concert-goer.

The St. Lawrence Quartet concert is also the first concert in partnership with the Bay Area Music Consortium (BAMC), a collaboration between Berkeley Chamber Performances, Gold Coast Chamber Players of Lafayette, Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, and Noe Valley Chamber Music. By forming this consortium, the groups can combine their resources to bring in bigger musical groups, like the St. Lawrence String Quartet. All of the groups in the BAMC will be presenting a concert to their audiences, and it will be the first time all of the groups will have the St. Lawrence String Quartet on their stages.

The last show of the season will be on May 12 and will feature new artistic directors Bhasin and Dalby performing alongside local musicians Tanya Tomkins, Eric Zivian, and Tom Stone. They will be playing chamber music from the 1800s with rare instruments created in the 17th and 18th centuries—widely considered a “golden age” of violin-making. It’s a spectacular show that is sure to close out the 2019 season beautifully.

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