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Sunday pick: On the way to Dali Quartet festival, The Tower Quartet holds a house party

Forget about hearing The Tower Quartet in a big old concert hall. The cool thing is to hear these four Fresno-area chamber musicians perform in someone’s house. Is that intimate enough for you?

The quartet performs 3 p.m. Sunday, July 7, at the home of local classical-music boosters David Fox and Kathy Wosika. Suggested donation is $40. You can make a reservation by calling 559-248-0511, or sending an email to foxdavid@comcast.net. The occasion is a fundraiser in support of of the Tower Quartet’s fellowship at the Dalí Quartet International Music Festival in Philadelphia that runs July 22-Aug. 4.

Pictured above: Lianna Elmore, Erin Adams, Matthew Smoke and Kelvin Diaz Inoa are The Tower Quartet.

I caught up with Kelvin Diaz Inoa, one of the quartet’s members, to ask about the concert and festival.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar with the ensemble, give us some background. When did you four get together? What is your musical philosophy? What has been your biggest performance to date?

A: The Tower Quartet formed in the Summer of 2018 when Lianna Elmore approached Erin Adams, Matthew Smoke, and Kelvin Diaz Inoa and asked them to form a professional concertizing quartet. The four of us met at the Fresno State music department where Matthew and Kelvin still study. There was an instant musical synergy between the four of us so we all knew we could create something very special. Our philosophy mainly centers around sharing chamber music with as many people as possible, aiming to make it accessible to a diverse audience. We believe music has an incredible power to heal and bring people together and it takes a concerted effort by the classical community to ensure that it’s gift continues to give. Our biggest performance to date is probably the finale performance of our inaugural season this past May. We were lucky enough to collaborate with some great musicians and composers, highlighting the well of talent here in the valley. We performed pieces by two local composers including Mason Lamb’s “Strange Flirtations” (featuring Lamb on electric guitar) and Matthew Wheeler’s “Fever Dream”. We also performed Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet with Selma pianist, Jordan Williams.

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Q: Tell us about the upcoming house concert in terms of program. Will there be any heavy-metal Shostakovich?

A: Our upcoming house concert will include some of our favorite movements from quartets we performed throughout the 2018-19 concert season, which does indeed include some “heavy-metal” Shostakovich. To balance that out, we will also be performing some light and airy music by Faure and Dvorak.  Finally, We’ll be previewing a new work we’ve been rehearsing this summer which will be performed in Philadelphia and on the first concert of our 2019-2020 season here in Fresno. As you can see, Sunday’s performance will have something for everyone to enjoy.

Q: Do you think you ever annoy classical-music purists with your genre-bending ways?

A: Nearly all of the audience members we’ve spoken with express an enthusiasm for expanding the genre and seeing what the modern chamber music experience can provide. A new piece or an unconventional venue can breathe new life into a genre that can often feel like it’s stuck in the past. The Quartet celebrates our own diversity and values inclusiveness in our programming and performance locations. We hope to honor the rich tradition of our craft while still keeping an eye on the future – that’s what keeps us motivated and excited about what we do.

Q: What is the Dalí Quartet International Music Festival in Philadelphia? Is it an invitational thing? If so, what do you think helped get you invited? Is it an honor to attend? First time for all of you?

A: It is one of the east coast’s leading chamber music and orchestral summer programs, with classes for beginners to professionals. DQMF offers a fellowship for chamber musicians to be in residence for two weeks in Philadelphia, following an audition process. The Fellowship provides exceptional performance, mentoring and coaching opportunities to musicians with a high level of experience and commitment to string quartet development. The Tower Quartet is the only pre-formed string quartet to be invited this year. We are beyond honored to spend this time gleaning insight from such a well established touring string quartet!

Kelvin, our cellist, studied in Philadelphia with members of the Dalí Quartet and has previously participated in this festival. In a bit of small-world connectedness, the violist of the Dalí Quartet, Adriana Linares, has spent the past two summers in Fresno on faculty for the FOOSA Festival.

Q: Can you talk a little about the four members of the quartet?

A: Lianna Elmore plays violin and her musical passions are very diverse. Chamber music is her first love within the classical genre but she also enjoys playing with her gypsy rock band, Before Perils which includes violin, cajon, and two acoustic guitars. She loves
collaborating through music no matter the genre and she hopes to some day try tackling gypsy jazz, emulating the style of Stephane Grappelli and honing her improvisation skills. She also has a deep passion for teaching music to young students, hoping that playing music will awaken their souls the same way it did when she was young. Lianna has a Master’s Degree in violin performance from Fresno State, and is a member of the Fresno Philharmonic and Moment Musical.

Also holding a master’s degree from Fresno State in violin performance, Erin Adams enjoys performing a wide range of classical repertoire, from authentic Baroque performance practice to modern day avant garde and minimalist music. Erin greatly enjoys exploring how music theory, history, and sociology together holistically inform all genres of music. Besides the Tower Quartet, Erin enjoys teaching violin privately and freelancing with the Fresno Philharmonic and other performance groups.

Matthew Smoke is a viola performance major at Fresno State, studying with Michael Chang. He is currently preparing for graduate school auditions. Matthew enjoys collaborations with artists from all genres. He has enjoyed performing in orchestras around the state. Besides chamber music, Matthew has a passion for musical theater and has been involved in the scene locally both as musician and music director.

Kelvin Diaz Inoa is a cellist from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has performed with orchestras such as the Sinfonieta Puertorriqueña at the Casals Festival, the Orquesta de Cámara de San Juan, and the Puerto Rico Philharmonic Orchestra. Besides chamber music, Kelvin has a passion for performing as soloist; he has soloed with the Puerto Rico Symphony, Fresno State Symphony orchestra, the Arconet Chamber Orchestra, the Preparatory of the Concervatorio of Puerto Rico, and recently in a program for Orpheus in Fresno. Mr. Diaz Inoa is also establishing a teaching career, and has already taught for Música Sin Barreras, the 100 x 35 music program, CMI in San Antonio Texas, United Conservatory of Fresno, the Youth Orchestras of Fresno and is one of the founders of the Camerata Academy of Fresno. His true passion is to share his music and talent with the world, however and wherever he can. Kelvin currently studies with Dr. Thomas Loewenheim at Fresno State.

Q: Chamber music is a lot about communication. Can you talk about that? Do members of the quartet talk a lot about the music before playing a piece for the first time, or do you just plunge in?

A: We definitely talk about the piece before and during the process of rehearsal, and research the history and music theory behind each work. This helps us stay true to the style of the piece and honor the message of the composer the best we can. There is certainly some woodshedding involved but there’s also a lot of stopping and starting as we discuss exactly what emotion or affect we’re trying to convey at any given moment. We want every note and phrase to be intentional and lead the audience on a journey; that inevitably involves the four of us talking about a plan of execution so that we’re all on the same page and working towards the same specific sound. Thankfully, that great synergy between us has made communicating our ideas quite easy!

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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