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Music & Architecture: A From the Top Groupmuse

Janet Fagan is From the Top’s Recruitment & Alumni Relations Assistant and recently hosted a Groupmuse event at her home in Newton.

It was such a privilege to have nine From the Top alumni performers visit my home on Saturday night – I never dreamed that I could have such beautiful music performed in my own living room. In a first time endeavor, From the Top joined forces with the increasingly popular national organization Groupmuse, a platform which connects young classical musicians to local audiences through concert house parties, to host one such program in my home.

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Our Alumni Relations team was excited to see such a good turnout as my home was filled with From the Top alumni and others who learned about the event online. As is customary in a Groupmuse performance, the evening began with an hour of socializing in which audience members and musicians mingled and munched on delicious food as they got to know each other and anticipated the music to come.

The program began with a warm welcome from staff members of From the Top, including our jovial Director of Admissions & Alumni Relations, Tim Lienhard. Then a From the Top alum in a fleece jacket and jeans strode up to the piano and sat down on the bench backwards, facing the audience. Jingxuan Zhang (Show 199, El Paso, Texas) shared humorous stories with a twinkle in his eye about his chosen composer, Shubert. Once Jing sat down at the piano, he soared through the Schubert Piano Sonata No. 19 in C Minor with finesse, and ended to loud applause. He often smiled while playing , clearly enjoying it as much as we were. Audience members were encouraged to ask him questions and he answered them quite enthusiastically. Jing talked about music being architecture in liquid form, and recited a quote by Goethe. He explained that he tries to play the piece as you would build with bricks, one by one, note by note, section by section.

“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

After a brief rearrangement of furniture and seating, everyone settled in to be part of a profound experience – a performance of the Mendelssohn Octet in E Flat Major, Opus 20 for four violins, two violas, and two cellos. It was enlightening to observe the various “generations” of From the Top alumnithey had each appeared on the show at least once between 2007 and 2015 – performing together as an ensemble. Many of them are currently college students at New England Conservatory, but one is currently a high school senior, and one is a current staff member at From the Top. Each performer shared what episode of From the Top they appeared on, as well as what part they were playing in the Octet. I noticed that the audience members nodded and smiled as the musicians spoke, enjoying the rare opportunity to make a connection with the performers.

 

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Their performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet filled the living room with profound energy and exquisite sound and I was impressed by the rapt attention of the audience. The guests burst into immediate applause after just the first movement, a practice that the folks at Groupmuse encourage, wanting people to express their enthusiasm at any time, whenever the spirit moves them.

After the performance there was a happy din, and I smiled as the discussion continued exuberantly while the guests enjoyed the delicious food. Eventually small groups retrieved their coats from the bedroom upstairs and ventured out into the night towards home. As my home slowly quieted down, I knew that everyone would remember this warm evening of beautiful music for a long time.

The musicians performing in the Mendelssohn Octet were as follows: Alexi Kenney (Show 200, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire) Kate Arndt (Shows 267 and 313, both in Boston, Massachusetts), Claire Bourg (Show 251, Potsdam, New York) and Harriet Langley (Show 135, New York, New York) on violin. Luther Warren (Show 270, Athens, Georgia) and Haruno Sato on viola (Shows 241, Washington, DC; and 275, Aspen, Colorado), and Michael Dahlberg (Shows 158, Philadelphia, Pennsylavnia; and 243, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts), and Andrew Byun (Show 300, Boston, Massachusetts) on cello.

For more information on Groupmuse, go to www.groupmuse.com.