Serious fun with the Attacca Quartet

A free Brown Bag Concert held Monday at the State Office Building highlighted the playful side of classical music – and of the serious musicians who comprise the Attacca Quartet, guest artists for this year’s Juneau Jazz & Classics festival.

The four musicians — violinists Amy Schroeder and Keiko Tokunaga, violist Luke Fleming and cellist Andrew Yee — engaged a lively crowd of children from local elementary schools on several topics, including how particular types of music made them feel.

The kids’ reaction to an upbeat, brisk piece in a major key, was unanimous: “Happy!” A much slower selection in a minor key evoked the same response in another young listener — unexpected, perhaps, but an honest indication of the audience’s enthusiasm and the overall energy in the room.

Cellist Yee then helped the young listeners formulate a narrative to go along with segments of a piece by Dvorák. The bright, energetic beginning sounded like “two friends playing tag in the park;” another segment’s ominous tone indicated that the friend had encountered a shark, and then was abducted by aliens. Luckily, a return to brighter tones helped push the story toward to a happy ending. The friend was saved; traded for a cow, in fact.

In spite of the playful atmosphere, the music the quartet performed during the 45-minute concert was seriously fantastic — an aspect that wasn’t lost on the children, who gave abundant compliments during the Q&A at the end. When one listener asked how they were able to play so well, violinist Tokunaga offered a simple response: “We play together for hours. And hours. And hours.“

All four musicians attended the Juilliard School, where they met in 2003. They have garnered numerous awards all over the world for their performances, and just last week were named Quartet in Residence at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Find out more here: attaccaquartet.com.) The next chance to see them is during a “Chocolate, Cheese & Tchaikovsky” event at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The next Brown Bag Concert, featuring Dimitris Kotronakis on guitar and Andrey Tchekmazov on cello, will be held at noon Wednesday. Three more free lunch concerts will be held next week on May 12, May 13 and May 16.

The Jazz & Classics festival runs through May 17. Find out more here: www.jazzandclassics.org.

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