Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Region has a unique classical music ensemble all its own

Critic At Large

The Griffon String Quartet

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Something extremely unusual is happening on the music scene in our area.

Four musicians are making history as concert artists who teach.

 It is wonderful listening to the beautiful playing of The Griffon String Quartet.

The professional group performs regularly in our area, often for free.

Of note is a monthly casual concert held at First Presbyterian Church in Green Bay.

The first was held Oct. 27, and seven more chances lie ahead to hear the quartet and ask questions.

Here are the musicians, all with advanced degrees and wide experience:

+ Viola: Blakeley Menghini (blake-lee men-ghee-knee).

+ Violin: Ji-Yeon Lee (gee-yun lee).

+ Cello: Ryan Louie.

+ Violin: Vinicius Sant’Ana (who goes by his nickname, Vinny, and then sant-ana).

These musicians are personable and energetic, and their performances are fun to watch (my review of a concert).

The quartet has connections in Door County through Midsummer’s Music ( and Green Bay East High School’s Fine Arts Institute and St. Norbert College in De Pere.

With the COVID-19 pandemic loosening, the group has man appearances in the works for teaching and playing.

Notably, Midsummer’s Music co-founder Jim Berkenstock will feature the group in his program on music’s role in nurturing the brain.

Nothing like this group has existed in Northeastern Wisconsin, and there are many ways to experience it. Here is the latest calendar:

+ “From Cradle to Grave: Music’s Unsung Duo with the Brain” presentation by Jim Berkenstock (more on the program below).

Live: November 8 – 3 p.m. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Sister Bay.

Virtual: November 9 – 1 p.m., Brain Center of Green Bay, www.braincentergb/better-together.

+ “Griffon String Quartet: B Double Sharp Program.”

November 11 – 11 a.m. Good Samaritan Society, Scandia Village, Sister Bay.

+ “Gather with the Griffon” mini concerts for seniors.

November 17; December 15; January 12, 2022; February 9, 2022; March 9, 2022; April 13, 2022; May 11, 2022 – 11:30 a.m. First Presbyterian Church, Green Bay.

+ “Griffon String Quartet: Music for Food” to support the Door County Food Pantry Coalition.

November 20, 2021 – 5:30 p.m., Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor.

+ “Griffon String Quartet: Community Concert for Sunshine Resources.”

December 10, 2021– 1 p.m., Sunshine Resources, Sturgeon Bay.

+ “Griffon String Quartet: Memory Café – B Double Sharp Program.”

December 14, 2021– 1 p.m., Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay. 

+ “Griffon String Quartet Holiday Concerts.”

December 17– 5 p.m., SWY231, Sturgeon Bay.

December 18 – 2 p.m., Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor.

December 19 – 2 p.m., Brown County Central Library, Green Bay.


Jim Berkenstock, president and artistic director of Midsummer’s Music, will present “From Cradle to Grave: Music’s Unsung Duet with the Brain” at 3 p.m. November 8 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Admission is free, but tickets are needed. Info: Note the November 9 virtual presentation below.

According of a press release: The in-depth program is aimed at associating music with brain functionality in humans of all ages. A bounty of recent research has led to new insights into how humans process, use and enjoy music. We now know that infants (even prenatal) recognize certain musical components well before language comprehension begins. We also know that adults with late-stage dementia, who are beyond most normal means of communication, are able to be reached in remarkable ways that can improve their sense of contact, their behavior, and feelings of well-being.

“From Cradle to Grave: Music’s Unsung Duet with the Brain” is an interactive exploration to answer such questions as, “Why do I enjoy music?” … “Do I have any hidden talent?” … “Is there innate musicality in infants that persist throughout life?” … “What hidden promises does music possess?” and “What musical secret did Einstein know about and employ?”

Learn how music works and how we work, especially from a musical standpoint. The presentation will be informal, informative and intriguing, and it will be enlivened by the talent of The Griffon String Quartet.

The session will last about an hour and will include a question-and-answer period.

The November 8 program will be recorded for the November virtual presentation at 1 p.m. from the Brain Center of Green Bay as part of its Guest Speaker Series. To view the virtual presentation, visit www.braincentergb/better-together to request free access to the program.

Midsummer’s Music was co-founded in 1990 by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, long-time Door County summer residents and principal orchestral players with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.


In its twelfth season, Music for Food is a musician-led initiative to fight hunger, where musicians perform and choose a local pantry support. Audience members donate to benefit the pantry, and the pantry then creates meals for those in need.

The free concert features the Griffon String Quartet playing selections from Danish String Quartet’s “Last Leaf” album, Astor Piazzolla’s dramatic “Four for Tango” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 12 in E-Flat, Opus 127.” Attendees of the event November 20, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Donald & Carol Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor, can bring a nonperishable food item or make a monetary donation to the Door County Food Pantry Coalition at the door. Visit to reserve free tickets.

Music for Food’s concerts have raised funds to create more than 1.5 million meals. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, food-insecurity affected countless Americans, especially those with children and those who self-identified as Black, Latinx or Native American. More than 35 million people in the United States faced food-insecurity in 2019, and Feeding America projects that 42 million people – including 13 million children – may be food insecure in 2021. More information about Music for Food, including the locations and dates of other events, is available at

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