Helen Cudahy Niblack ‘42 Arts Lecture Series: Garth Newel Piano Quartet Enlightens and Astonishes

Whether it was their performance and accompanying lesson on teamwork on Tuesday morning, the master class for several lucky music students, or the evening concert open to the Middleburg community, the musicians of the Garth Newel Piano Quartet enlightened and astonished all.

The day began with a special concert for the student body that included a performance of “Red Vespers,” a haunting and contemplative piece by a friend of the quartet, David Biedenbender, as well as all three movements of composer Mark Carlson’s moving “Piano Quartet.”
Cellist Isaac Melamed explained that the piece follows Carlson’s journey through grief after the death of his life partner. In the first movement entitled “Tarantella,” the manic pace mimics the first throes of grief. The second and third movements, entitled “Song” and “Capriccio,” bring the listener through acceptance and finally, to the return of joy.

In between the two musical performances, members of the group offered lessons on the unique form of teamwork that a quartet practices. The quartet is a team in which all members are equal. All four members lead, all four members follow, and all share the same goal of giving the best possible performance. Teresa Ling, the quartet’s violinist, invited the girls to think about how the musicians managed to stay together without a designated leader or conductor to lead them. Eye contact, physical cues, listening to each other, the percussive effect of the piano, practice (of course), intuition, and even trust were offered as suggestions — and it turns out all were correct! Amara B. ’19 volunteered to play a game of mirroring Ling’s hand motions, and quickly was able to mimic her perfectly. Then, Ling asked her to mirror her again, but with her eyes closed — definitely a harder trick — illustrating just how important all the senses are to the quartet musicians when they play together.
Immediately following the morning concert, Lindy D. ’17, Zoey X. ’18, and Camille V. ’20 played pieces for the quartet in a master class. Camille, who played Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Gigue” from Cello Suite No. 1, received helpful tips from both cellist Isaac Melamed and viola player Evelyn Grau. Pianists Lindy and Zoey, who both played pieces by Chopin — “Fantasie Impromptu” and “Revolutionary,” respectively — benefitted from quartet pianist Jeannette Fang’s guidance on everything from how to use the pedals for best effect to specific techniques for working the keys. Several other music students watched, serving as friendly faces for the nervous and excited trio and learning much from this one-of-a-kind experience as well. You can read more about Zoey’s Master Class experience here.

The evening performance brought more than 60 people from the Middleburg community to FoxHound Auditorium for a program entitled “Czech Mates,” featuring pieces from Czech composers Joseph Suk (1874-1935) and Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), plus a surprise vocal performance from the Executive Director of the Garth Newel Music Center Shawn Puller. The Quartet opened with three movements from Suk’s Piano Quartet in A Minor, Op. 1, followed by Puller’s beautiful rendition of Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” and ending with four movements from Dvořák’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87. The musicians astonished the assembled crowd with the impeccably played performances and were rewarded with a long and hearty standing ovation. As the final installment of the Helen Cudahy Niblack ‘42 Arts Lecture Series, the Garth Newel Piano Quartet did not disappoint and was the perfect finale for this year’s theme, “Inspired by Performance.”

The Garth Newel Piano Quartet hails from Bath County, VA, and plays more than 50 concerts every year across the country and around the world. More information about the quartet and the programs of the Garth Newel Music Center is available at www.garthnewel.org.

The Helen Cudahy Niblack ’42 Arts Lecture Series, established by Austi Brown ’73 in memory of her mother, has brought a variety of literary, performing, and fine artists to Foxcroft to share their work, stories, and perspective on the nature of the creative process with both students and the larger community since it began in 2007, and perhaps inspire a few to strike out on an artistic journey of their own.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.