GREEN BAY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Brown County

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Marvelous sounds rise from ‘your’ string quartet in Green Bay concert

Critic At Large

The Griffon String Quartet

Vinicius Sant’Ana, from left, Ji-Yeon Lee, Ryan Louie and Blakeley Menghini are The Griffon String Quartet. (Midsummer’s Music)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A stream.

Four stones in the water of different sizes and textures.

And sounds.

Water tumbles over the stones’ shiny surfaces. The water bobs, weaves and churns in a constant flow that’s never quite the same from instant to instant. A breeze changes the dynamics differently on each stone. Onward the flow and churning continue, like teamwork. Water is the ultimate team.

It’s beautiful in its organized complexity.

The mind’s eye pictures are a metaphor – a way to describe something that’s fairly indescribable. Such as…

A specific type of music, that of the string quartet. It has been around for centuries and continues today thanks the likes of – in our neck of the woods – The Griffon String Quartet.

The Griffon musicians bob, weave and churn in waves of action, pouring a kind of athleticism into their performance. All their action is fun to watch, adding layers to kaleidoscopic musical images.

The Griffon String Quartet performed (another) fine concert Saturday afternoon in First Presbyterian Church in Green Bay. It was one of three pay-what-you-can concerts the quartet offered during the weekend. The others were in Sturgeon Bay and Sister Bay.

The quartet continues to spread the word, notably this: “We are your resident string quartet in Brown County and Door County,” stated Saturday by viola player Blakeley Menghini.

The Griffon String Quartet consists of young professional players to teach and perform as an arm of the enduring Midsummer’s Music organization.

Saturday’s concert started with the playing of “Happy Birthday” as violinist Ji-Yeon Lee had a surprise sprung on her by her compatriots she has known only a few months. That’s called “Building Camaraderie, 101.”

The weekend’s program included works by two masters and a living composer (to show the group’s range).

Quick summation: High quality music, high quality musicianship, marvelous listening.

Background on each work was given by one of the musicians.

Out poured more than two hours of full, firm, strong, clear and dynamic playing.

This stuff is by a brilliant composer giving voice to four instruments playing different yet unified notes in a kind of gush. My notes for a work by Caroline Shaw read, “… levels of intricacies wired together in a kind of form having to do with time and what exists in that period by agreement of the four instruments.” (People who write about music are fools).

The works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven were rewarding from end to end – rich musical tapestries for the ages – played with luster all around.

This is “your resident string quartet” to experience sometime.

***

Program

Part I

“String Quartet No. 14 in G Major, J.387” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

   Allegro vivace assai

   Menuetto

   Andante cantabile

   Molto allegro

“Entr’acte” – Caroline Shaw

Part II

“String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Opus 127” – Ludwig van Beethoven

   Maestoso – Allegro

   Adagio, ma non troppo e molto cantabile

   Scherzando vivace

   Allegro

Musicians (who performed wearing masks for COVID-19 considerations)

Ji-Yeon Lee – violin

Ryan Louie – cello

Blakeley Menghini – viola

Vinicius Sant’Ana – violin

***

NEXT (special): “Patchwork Narratives of Sound” featuring the work David Gerhard Utzinger and Jon Mueller, 8 p.m. Oct. 31, SWY231, Sturgeon Bay.

Other quartet events:

Oct. 26: Watertown School visit, Watertown.

Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m. – “Gather with the Griffon,” First Presbyterian Church, Green Bay.

Nov. 9: Brain Center of Green Bay.

Nov. 11: “B Double Sharp,” Scandia Village, Sister Bay.

Nov. 17, 11:30 a.m. – “Gather with the Griffon,” First Presbyterian Church, Green Bay.

Nov. 20: 88 Key Society and Music for Food, Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor.

Dec. 10: Sunshine Resources, Sturgeon Bay.

Dec. 14, 1 p.m.: “B Double Sharp,” Green Bay Botanical Garden.

Dec. 16, 11:30 a.m. – “Gather with the Griffon,” First Presbyterian Church, Green Bay.

Dec. 17, 5 p.m. – Holiday Concert, SYW231, Sturgeon Bay.

Dec. 18, 2 p.m. – Holiday Concert, Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor.

Dec. 19, 2 p.m. – Holiday Concert, Brown County Central Library, Green Bay.

Scene at The Griffon String Quartet at First Presbyterian Church in Green Bay. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: Located at 200 S. Ashland, First Presbyterian Church has a long history in Green Bay (formerly Fort Howard) starting in 1876. Portions of the current buildings were dedicated April 19, 1925. Additions and remodeling continued through the years. The Griffon String Quartet performed in the sanctuary, which on a sunny afternoon is a bright, colorful space. Key visual elements start with a large stained-glass window to the rear of the nave of Jesus Christ with the message, “Come Unto Me.” Additional stained-glass windows are to the congregation’s right and left in two levels of three windows each. A balcony divides the images. Walls and the concave ceiling are cream colored. Above the main seating area with standard pews are two lantern-like lights. The space has an echo for the speaking voice, but the sounds of The Griffon String Quartet filled any gaps with fullness.

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