When the Marian Anderson String Quartet came together in September 1989, the group had no idea it would make history just three years later in winning the International Cleveland Quartet Competition, becoming the first African American ensemble to win a classical music competition.
The quartet, named for the great contralto Marian Anderson, will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday in Grass Valley. The Quartet’s distinguished history includes performances throughout the United States and abroad, including the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In 1993, the Marian Anderson String Quartet performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the 52nd presidential inaugural celebration. The Marian Anderson String Quartet has also been on the faculty of numerous universities throughout the country.
“I was intrigued when I first ran across the MASQ by their story and their championing the music of African American composers. I was delighted upon listening to them to find that they are truly an accomplished performance ensemble,” says Ken Hardin, artistic director.
Appropriately scheduled this weekend preceding Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the inauguration of the president, the program includes the works of William Grant Still, known as the “Dean of African-American composers.” He enjoyed a career with many “firsts”: the first Afro-American to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, the first to conduct a major orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and the first to have an opera televised on a national network, among others, according to program notes by Aileen James.
Also on the program will be works by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Amongst his many works for film and television scores, he wrote the music for the documentary “From Montgomery to Memphis,” honoring the life of Dr. King. Perkinson referred to his compositional style as “written improvisation,” and today’s artists will precede his quartet with the spiritual “calvary” upon which his music is based.
“This is an especially fine program,” says musicologist and pre-concert forum hostess Aileen James. “I have performed the music of William Grant Still, and I am looking forward to hearing the Marian Anderson String Quartet.”
The concert is sponsored by the Porter family in memory of Virginia Porter and B&C True Value Home and Garden Center.
For information about the performance, go to www.inconcertsierra.org.