The Dover Quartet - casual

The Friends of Chamber Music in Conversation with The Dover Quartet

December 16, 2015

The Dover Quartet – dubbed as the young American string quartet of the moment by the New Yorker – performed for the Friends of Chamber Music audience in October of this year. We welcomed the quartet to our stage for the first time, and the audience loved them! FCM wanted to get to know the musicians a little more personally so we conducted a short interview – complete with a video – where each of the players were able to express their passion for chamber music, and tell us what inspired their journey with it.

Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
I came to chamber music because I loved being part of something that was so much bigger than just my own part, but also have the chance at my own individuality. I think that is something that is very special in chamber music from an audience’s perspective because they get to experience that kind of intimate relationship between the different players. On stage, and I think I speak on behalf of the entire quartet when I say this, we can all feel (it’s very palpable) the audience and their energy. That’s what makes every concert so different; you get a different energy from all the people in the room, and that’s the exciting thing about playing live concerts.

With this particular group, The Dover Quartet, we’ve all been playing together since we were about 18 years old so in a sense, we’ve grown up together musically! Something that’s nice about that is we naturally gravitate towards similar interpretations, but we have such different personalities we’re always keeping each other in check and pushing each other to go further.

People who aren’t used to chamber music concerts should probably expect a lot of conversation between the different instruments. It’s actually very engaging if things are much more spontaneous, I would say even more than a rock concert where everything is a set list and they perform as they rehearsed it. With chamber music every moment can change if someone does one tiny thing different –it changes the mood of the entire passage.

Bryan Lee, violin
I agree, there’s a certain energy that an audience gives that you can’t recreate in a practice room.

Joel Link, violin
The performances are always different. I guess part of what’s really amazing about a conversation is you can have it with the same four people, for example at a dinner, but it’s always going to be different depending on how people feel or what they’re bringing to the table, and it’s no different with classical music or with a string quartet. People really bring their life experiences into a music performance. A lot of it is predetermined by the composer and it’s our job to interpret it, but a lot of it is also our own selves coming forward. It’s special!

Those nights are really great when everyone is in a special kind of zone. You can’t reproduce it every night and a lot times, honestly, it’s the audience’s doing of making something feel really feel special. The feedback you get from them makes you just want to go to town on stage. The audience participation may be more subliminal than anything, but it’s definitely a huge part of the performance!

Chamber music is doing great so I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like everyone can be a part of it, and everyone can really just sit and escape from their day. Even if it means just an hour and a half or two to be transported to a completely different universe by just three of four people.

Camden Shaw, cello
You really do get a unique sense from every crowd, and of course the venue contributes as well –the feel of the room, the size of the room, even the temperature of the room. Really, there’s this “animalistic” feeling you get where you can sense when everybody’s with you, when everyone’s paying attention, and you feed off that energy in a way that’s tremendously inspiring. It does make it so that you can’t ever play at that level outside of the concert, and it’s not because you don’t want to, but you just need that. The energy that they gave you is fuel for the expression and the passion, and you feel like you’re becoming part of this slowly resonating glowing energy.

Chamber music has a very adaptable nature. It’s very flexible and it does well in any venue of any size and any crowd. I think it’s very accessible, in a way. In fact, we just performed in Banff before arriving in Vancouver, and there were some singer-songwriters and rock musicians doing residencies who came to our concert. Many of them had never seen a chamber music concert before, and they were so excited and amazed by the vulnerability and the (physical) effort. They had the chance to watch us up close, and to see that creates an instant connection, even with those who have not grown up with chamber music or haven’t seen it live before. So I do think chamber music is capturing new interest. There are so many young musicians in the world, young people studying music, that I’m not worried for the future of music in that sense.

I think the cool thing about the future of the quartet, if we focus specifically on that, is that there has been a really interesting relationship with that repertoire and with composers. They treat it very seriously because of the amazing canon of repertoire that exists already. They generally don’t approach a quartet writing unless they feel very confident in that they’re going to produce something at a high level. So the fun thing we’ve seen looking back on maybe the past 50 years is that the way of the repertoire has grown has been fairly slow while welcoming some incredible new pieces into the repertoire. I think that’s continuing to this very day. It grows very slowly, but at an exceptional level. I don’t think it ever explodes into too many random directions to really clash which makes it fun.

For future Friends of Chamber Music concerts, please visit our concert page. We hope to see you!