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Cypress String Quartet’s Call & Response marks its fifteenth anniversary

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2014 is the fifteenth anniversary year for the Call & Response program run by the Cypress String Quartet (CSQ), consisting of violinists Cecily Ward and Tom Stone, violist Ethan Filner, and cellist Jennifer Kloetzel. This ensemble has committed itself to community outreach in a variety of ways; but Call & Response has become their “flagship” effort, due to the significant extent of participation with Bay Area Schools. The basic idea is that every year CSQ commissions a new work, requiring only that the composer treat it as a “response” to the “call” of pieces in the string quartet repertoire.

This fifteenth anniversary occasion will mark the second time that George Tsontakis has been commissioned to “respond.” The string quartet he had composed in 2005 was a “response” to the “late” quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven, created at a time when CSQ was working on recording those Beethoven quartets. This time the scope of the “call” is even broader, crossing from the nineteenth into the twentieth century. It couples Franz Schubert’s final string quartet (D. 887 in G major) with two transitional compositions by Anton Webern, the 1905 “Langsamer Satz” (slow movement) in E-flat major, one of his first works composed under Arnold Schoenberg’s supervision as a teacher, and one of his earliest ventures into atonality, his Opus 5 composed in 1909 and called simply “Five Movements.”

In addition, as part of the program, CSQ began this month to offer Call & Response workshops at Bay Area schools; and those workshops will continue into next month until the Call & Response concert is given on March 14. This year the participating schools include Piedmont Hills High School, Aragon High School, The Nueva School, University High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Lowell High School, Novato Charter School, Marin Academy, Enriching Lives Through Music (E.L.M.), Miller Creek Middle School, Berkeley High School, Longfellow Middle School, Westlake Middle School, Edna Brewer Middle School, and Corpus Christi School. Participating students will be able to attend the final concert free of charge as recipients of scholarship tickets.

That final Call & Response Concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 14, at the Marines Memorial Theatre (609 Sutter Street, near Union Square). A pre-concert talk with Tsontakis will begin at 7:15 p.m. Tickets will be available for $40 at the door and for $35 if purchased in advance. There will also be a Preferred Seating section for $50, $45 if purchased in advance. Admission for seniors will be $20. Students who are not in need of scholarship tickets will be admitted for $15, which is also the price of tickets purchased for groups of ten or more. Tickets are currently on sale and may be purchased online through a hyperlink on the CALL & RESPONSE Web page on the CSQ Web site.

In addition the Community Music Center (CMC) will host a free Community Preview Performance. This will take place in the Capp Street Concert Hall in the CMC building at 544 Capp Street in the Mission. The performance will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 1. (That early hour will not conflict with the other Saturday activities that I reviewed yesterday!) Seating is first-come-first-served; so arriving early is recommended.

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