We were a small audience, but a good one — an appreciative one.
We were delighted with the DaPonte String Quartet’s performance Wednesday night at the Waterville Opera House.
It was excellent. It was worth every minute of venturing out mid-week on a work night, and on a chilly April evening to boot.
My husband, Phil, and our friend, Irv, sat together in the orchestra section in prime seats on the aisle.
When I bought the tickets earlier in the week, I was stunned to discover that the choice of seats was wide open — only 13 tickets had been sold for the performance, which included Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia,” Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A Minor, Opus 13 and Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Opus 132.
The refurbished Opera House offers a variety of performances — plays and musicals, ballet, stand-up comedy — and live performances, via satellite, of the Metropolitan Opera, to name a few. Opera House officials seek feedback from audiences so as to offer patrons what they want.
Would officials view our audience of about 30 as evidence there is a paucity of interest in chamber music? I hope not.
We listeners clapped harder and cheered louder to make up for the dearth of bodies.
And from the first note of the Thompson piece to the final cadence of the late Beethoven quartet, any chagrin we may have initially felt had dissolved. The music had worked its magic, and it didn’t matter whether we numbered 30 or 300.
We are lucky that the members of this world-renowned quartet, who travel the globe and could base themselves anywhere, choose to live in Maine. Violinists Lydia Forbes and Dino Liva, violist Kirsten Monke and cellist Myles Jordan perform in schools to help instill in children a love for music. They teach and educate audiences about the music they play by chatting informally during performances.
As a trip to the movies is always more fun when you go with friends who love film, so it is with musical performances. Both Phil and Irv are violinists who play chamber music in a quartet that gets together every week.
Once a month they play at our house, from 10 a.m. until noon, at which time they break for lunch. The person hosting the quartet makes the main dish; the others bring salad, bread and dessert.
This ritual is a special time for me, particularly when I happen to have the day off or otherwise have ample time to listen and lunch.
Having live chamber music in our home is a treat, and socializing with our musician friends afterward serves as icing on the cake.
Hearing the DaPonte perform pieces Phil’s quartet plays — and in the acoustically superb Opera House — is a special privilege.
For me, at least, time stops. At some point my brain stops scrutinizing the technical performance and enters the ethereal — a place where the beauty of sound is too exquisite for words.
It’s at that place when I’m struck by how lucky I am to have an affinity for the classics, without which my world would be much diminished.
I thank my father for that gift. We listened to the classics from the time I was born, and they are as much a part of me and as vital as my physical being.
As I sat Wednesday, eyes closed and mesmerized by the Beethoven, I recalled my childhood, where we were transported to that “other” world while listening to Johann Strauss II’s “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and “The Blue Danube” blaring from the old record player in our living room. We often listened to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Later, I would grow to love composers from the Baroque Period including Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, as well as those from the Romantic Period, including Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
My thoughts wandered during Wednesday’s performance to long Columbus Day weekends Phil and I spent in Rockport for Bay Chamber Concerts’ Fall Foliage workshop at the Rockport Opera House. As part of the event, Phil and other amateur musicians took master classes with top-notch musicians such as violinists Peter Zazofsky and Bayla Keyes, violist Maria Lambros and cellists Mike Reynolds and Marc Johnson. Reynolds and Keyes were founding members of the Muir String Quartet. Johnson performed 35 years with the former Vermeer Quartet.
Sadly and to our disbelief, Johnson passed away unexpectedly April 8 after suffering a heart attack at his Cushing home. Phil and I liked him a lot and had shared lunch with him in 2012 at Rockport. To think we will never hear his exquisite cello again is too difficult to comprehend.
Yet, we know that as time passes, such extraordinary musicians will inevitably leave us, and others will carry on.
We must support their efforts, attend their performances and pass our love for their music on to our children.
I hope the DaPonte String Quartet returns soon to Waterville. Its members delivered beautifully Wednesday.
I know that Johnson, in spirit, was applauding with us.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]