The Wistaria String Quartet– a newly formed ensemble affiliated with the Wistaria Chamber Music Society–will be giving three concerts of American music in Greenfield and Cummington on the weekend of Sept. 27-29.

The first–the quartet’s formal debut–will be at the Pushkin Gallery in Greenfield on Friday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. The “American Visions” program will include Jay Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell” (the popular theme of Ken Burns’ Civil War TV series, arranged for string quartet), Marc O’Connor’s “Appalachian Waltz” and “J.C.’s Jig,” Aaron Copland’s Two Movements for String Quartet, and Antonin Dvořák’s “American” Quartet.

The strings will be joined by other members of the Wistaria Chamber Music Society in music by early American composer Benjamin Carr and Civil War–era songwriter Stephen Foster. Tickets are $20 at the door

The concert will be repeated in Cummington on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 3 p.m. in the “Hay Mow,” the hay loft in the red barn at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead after the Homestead’s fall open house (1-3 p.m.). The concert is free. Donations will be welcome. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Homestead.

A short preview concert will be given at the Old Creamery in Cummington on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 11:30 a.m.

The Wistaria String Quartet consists of four accomplished professional string players who live in western Massachusetts and who have performed often as members of the Wistaria Chamber Music Society: Sarah Briggs and Kaila Graef, violins, Delores Thayer, viola, and Rebecca Hartka, cello. (See bios attached.)

“I noticed how beautifully these musicians played together in a piano quintet in May and encouraged them to perform regularly as a string quartet,” said David Perkins, artistic director and founder of Wistaria Chamber Music Society. “They are eager to tackle this music, which is perhaps the most complex, nuanced, and thrilling of all classical music. I also realized that we’ve performed very little of the quartet literature over the years—partly because professional string quartets are rare.  These players are fiery and committed. I look forward to their explorations.”

Classical and folk music are often not very far apart” Perkins says. “One hears similarities between Dvorak’s ‘American’ quartet, which was written during his summer stay in Spillville, Ohio, and the classical bluegrass of O’Connor and Ungar. There’s nostalgia in the quiet passages and a dancing energy in the fast ones!”

The Sept. 29th concert is the first of its kind in the Bryant Homestead’s Hay Mow (pronounced “Hay MAOW”) , a long central room in the beautiful barn where hay was once stored for the milk cows. At one end is a large window that looks out over the hills. “I like to discover interesting and unusual venues for music Perkins said. “And when I was visitng the Homestead I asked to looked inside the barn. As soon as we entered, I thought, ‘This is the ideal place for this program!’” The many layers of wood and the high open ceiling create an excellent acoustic for strings and voice.

Also performing in the September concerts are Diana Brewer, soprano, Peter W. Shea, tenor, David Perkins, baritone, and pianist Edward Rosser.

       Photograph by Benjamin Rosser.




2013-14 SEASON–PROGRAM ONE, SEPT. 27-29, 2013

American Visions

Ungar, O’Connor, Foster, Dvorak

Friday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.: Pushkin Gallery, Greenfield

Sunday, Sept. 29, 3 p.m.: Bryant Homestead, Cummington


Marc O’Connor, J.C.’s Jig

Jay Ungar, Ashokan Farewell

Wistaria String Quartet

 Sarah Briggs, violin * Kaila Graef, violin

Delores Thayer, viola * Rebecca Hartka, ’cello


   Benjamin Carr, Rondo (Variations on Yankee Doodle)

Spoon River, arr. by Percy Grainger

 Edward Rosser, piano


 Stephen Foster, Songs and Duets

 The Hour for Thee and Me

Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway!

If You’ve Only Got a Moustache

Beautiful Dreamer

Slumber My Darling

 Diana Brewer, soprano, Peter W. Shea, tenor,

Mr. Rosser, Wistaria String Quartet


 Aaron Copland, Two Pieces for String Quartet (1928)


Wistaria String Quartet




Antonin Dvořák, String Quartet No. 12 in F major,

“American,” Op. 96



Wistaria String Quartet


  Wistaria String Quartet


Violinist Sarah Briggs teaches at Amherst and Smith colleges, and performs regularly with the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School, and received a MM at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a fellow for two summers at Tanglewood, participated in the Heidelberg Opera Festival, the Bach Aria Festival, and Tafelmusik seminar, and has been coached by members of the Juilliard and Cleveland Quartets. Sarah began her career in the Charlotte Symphony, and was next tenured with the Colorado Symphony in Denver. She moved to Chicago in 1994 and performed with the Chicago and Milwaukee Symphonies, Concertanti di Chicago, and toured Japan with the Chicago String Ensemble. Before moving to Massachusetts, she lived in Ketchikan, Alaska, where her son was born, and then lived in Germany for two years. Sarah is an avid yogini and Zen meditator. She lives in Northampton, MA.

Violinist Kaila Graef has performed with a diverse range of groups, including a swing band in Baltimore, the Springfield Symphony, and the Inscape Chamber Music Project in Washington, D.C. While on faculty of the Vermont Youth Orchestra’s summer festival, she collaborated in performances with the Amabile String Quartet. Kaila holds a Bachelor of Music from Peabody Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music from UMass Amherst, where she was a member of the Graduate String Quartet. Her principal teachers include Shirley Givens and Marylou Speaker Churchill. Kaila is a dedicated teacher, maintaining a large private studio in Amherst. Her students perform in outreach concerts throughout the Pioneer Valley. She lives in Amherst, MA.

Delores Thayer is the associate principal violist of the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra. She also performs with the Arcadia Players Early Music Group, the Berkshire Symphony, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. In addition to teaching at Amherst College and the Northfield Mount Hermon School, she has headed the chamber music department at Deerfield Academy and served as guest instructor of viola at Mt. Holyoke College. Delores has performed in summer music festivals in Ayamonte and Santander, Spain; Spoleto, Italy; Tanglewood; and the Yale Norfolk Music Festival. She has also performed at Alice Tully Hall, Kennedy Center and in numerous premiers and recordings. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Yale School of Music. She lives in Northampton, MA.

Cellist Rebecca Hartka is active as a soloist, chamber musician and educator.  As comfortable in a café as a concert hall, Hartka has appeared in a wide range of venues from the American Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam to Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. She has recently performed as solo recitalist at the Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture, on the North Quabbin Center for the Arts series, the Exploring the Arts series, the 88 Keys series, and the Jazz and More series. In October 2010, she released her debut CD “Folkfire.” As a dean’s scholar, Hartka earned her Doctorate of Musical Arts and Masters in Music from Boston University College of Fine Arts and her Bachelor of Arts in Music from Oberlin College and Conservatory studying with Andor Toth, Rhonda Rider and Leslie Parnas among others. She lives with her husband in Ashfield, MA.



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