The Way We Were...

I suppose returning to Eliza Brown’s String Quartet No. 1 is getting me all nostalgic. 

Remember that, at the time we first performed this piece, less than a year had elapsed since we were just a weirdo bro-down that bought sixers of beer and sightread quartets. We titled the concert Break Right Through That Line as a nod to our (well, 3 out of 4 of us, anyway) alma mater’s fight song, and we even had a cake made with the concert poster edibly printed on the fondant.


It was Russ’s final recital before collecting his DMA at NU–and this bears mentioning–one of the faculty members on his committee didn’t want to pass him because it was a concert featuring…SHOCK! HORROR!…all contemporary music and he wasn’t playing solo. His name wasn’t Capt. Cranky Pants, but it might as well have been. Way to promote initiative and entrepreneurship, Captain!

This has to go down as one of the only DMA recitals at Northwestern that filled a hall, and it firmed up our commitment to champion the music of Chicago composers. And hey, the performance really isn’t half-bad, either!

It’s just a little vertigo-inducing to imagine how much we’ve changed since that day in 2011. There are the obvious elements, like bringing on two incredible new violinists, not hearing crickets each time we apply for a grant, and getting our ensemble name spelled correctly in emails (92%?). And then there are the perhaps less obvious ones. Like the trust and wordless communication that is only earned from years of being on stage together. That sounds kind of grand, but I just mean that the six years since that performance have added up to something. 

So of course the way that we play Eliza’s first quartet has changed since then. I recall that when we recorded it for our debut album, Chambers, Russ was riding a pony of playing-harmonics-sans-extraneous-noise deep into the sunset…which made me want to scream that, yeah, well, his shoes did not compliment his belt so well…and now this sort of picking nits is standard, and encouraged. We would apply the same rigor to this generation of music as the Mozart quartet we were playing at the time. Oooh boy…I am not posting that Dissonance video.

We have so much more to tell you–and of course, so does Eliza–and this is the reason we created the Once More, With Feeling! series at Constellation. There’s always more to the story than what you hear in a performance, and our aim is to take you deep inside a single piece of music. Not just to give you the backstory, but to show it to you from the inside, out. We considered titling the series Inside Out during an early brainstorming session, but Disney shut it down via a text message from their Future Crimes division.

- Doyle


featuring composer Eliza Brown

Friday, Dec 1
Tickets here