Whimsical storytelling: The essence of Decoda Cello Quartet

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Alan Carr found Decoda Cello Quartet in Blue Hill, Maine. While quite far from their home base in New York City, they were performing at the Blue Hill Concert Series. Carr, the director of the applied music program and manager of the Dean of Faculty Concert Series here at Bates, recruited this young group of four virtuoso musicians and brought them to campus for a two and a half hour concert in Olin Arts Center on January 16th.

A cello quartet is an unusual ensemble because it consists of four equal voices. Carr said, “the instrumentation creates a special sonority and permits the performance of some unique repertoire.” Decoda brought a concert of works that explores the themes of whimsy storytelling, and images from the natural world.

Carr added, “It showcased a wide array of composers from Ravel to Ron Carter, and used the cello as an imaginative muse for telling a story through music. There was a creative and capricious melding of styles featured throughout the program, combining elements of classical music with qualities of jazz.” They also featured the music of three women composers that includes pieces depicting evocative landscapes through melody. These included Jane Antonia Cornish’s Three Nocturnes and Gabriela Lena Frank’s Las Sombras de los Apus, based on folklore of the Andes Mountain region.

Why this ensemble? What do they have to offer? Carr eloquently described why he believed the Music program at Bates would benefit from Decoda’s performance and aura. “Their music is refreshing and progressive,” he said. “In my mind, the members of Decoda represent what it means to be a professional classical musician in the 21st century. Their presence on stage compels the audience to listen. Not only are they superb performers, they find ways to engage the communities and the audiences for whom they perform.”

During its visit to Maine, the quartet will offer master classes on leadership and public speaking to the orchestra students at Lewiston High School. Their willingness to go out into the community is one of the many reasons why Carr values and supports Decoda, not to mention that three of its members were classmates of Carr at Julliard. Community engagement and maintaining personal connections are two values of the Bates community, offering the perfect relationship with Decoda. Carr commented, “Decoda believes that personal connections between [artists] and [audiences] lead to truly meaningful music making. This is an important experience and realization for music students. The hope is that it will give them something to aspire to as performers and underscore the important role of music in our society.”

Carr and the rest of the faculty in the Music Department have been working tirelessly to maintain the charisma and values that Decoda brought to Bates. There are several events and artists lined up for the 2016-2017 school year. Pianist Joyce Yang will be performing next October and has previously been a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, National Symphony, Seattle Symphony and Alabama Symphony Orchestras, among others. Bates is very lucky to have her since the price of admission for her performances would normally have a much higher cost of admission. Carr is also working on a new project called the Olin Arts Alive concert to be built into first-year orientation. It will take place on the first Saturday that students are back on campus, and the band that will perform will be sure to blend jazz and punk to provide a fun (and loud) way to kick off the school year.

Decoda Cello Quartet mesmerizes the audience in Olin Concert Hall. DREW PERLMUTTER/THE BATES STUDENT

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