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Strings come together in harmony

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Gayle Blankenburg, Rachel V. Huang, Roger Lebow and Mark Menzies, members of Quartet Lykos, play in the Balch Auditorium at Scripps College as part of the Friday Noon Concert series. Quartet Lykos began with compositions by Robert Schumann and finished with the premier of an original song, “Morning Pastiche: Magpie and Fantail,” by Menzies, the violaist. / photo by Katherine Careaga

Mariela Patron
Staff Writer

Faculty members from Pomona College, Scripps College and Cal Arts formed a quartet and performed classical string music to a diverse audience of children and adults on April 6 in Balch Auditorium at Scripps College.

The concert, titled “Quartet Lykos,” was part of the Friday Noon Concert Series, which puts on concerts throughout the school year.

The quartet was formed by Scripps College faculty members Rachel V. Huang on the violin, Gayle Blankenburg on piano, Pomona College faculty member Roger Lebow on the cello and Cal Arts faculty member Mark Menzies on the viola.

The music performed was by classic German composer Robert Schumann, as well as one of Menzies’ compositions.

The concert began with Schumann’s “Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47,” which consists of four movements.

The first part, “Sostenuto Assai. Allegro ma non troppo,” began with long extensive notes from the three strings, followed by an uplifting tune from the piano.

The strings and piano would take turns playing and would then join in harmony.

In the middle of the song, the quartet went back to the beginning arrangement of extensive notes, followed by suspense from the low notes of the piano.

The second movement, “Molto Vivace,” captivated the audience with its speed.

The cello and piano played a duet and was then joined by the violin and viola.

The quartet slowed down in the third movement and played with emotion Schumann’s “Andante Cantabile.”

In this movement the strings were gently plucked until it ended quietly with a piano tune.

The final movement “Vivace” came with the same rushing speed as “Andante Cantabile,” and proved to be a great conclusion to Schumann’s composition.

The final note of “Vivace” was followed with a roar of applause; the audience was enthralled by the velocity with which the musicians played.

After, “Quartet in E-flat Major, OP. 47,” Menzies introduced the premiere of his composition, “Morning Pastiche: Magpie and Fantail.”

Menzies, who grew up in New Zealand, said that his composition is not necessarily about the country, but about his relationship with his home.

“It is more about my memories growing up in New Zealand,” Menzies said.

Both Menzies and Blacken­burg played their instruments in a unique way that produced a screeching, squeaky sound like birds singing in the morning.

Magpie and Fantail are the names of birds that reflected the sounds Menzies heard during his childhood.

Menzies’ composition ended quietly with dispersed bird sounds.

“I didn’t know it was possible to play such high notes on the violin,” Zachary Wakefield, age 11, said.

Wakefield was part of a group of students from Sycamore Elementary School who got to enjoy Schumann’s and Menzies’ compositions.

“We come over about every Friday,” Melissa Jackson, a teacher from Sycamore Elementary, said. “My husband is a director here so we kind of have inside access.”

Joe and Diane Schreiber have been coming to the Scripps campus for 28 years.

“I enjoyed the creativity of Dr. Menzies and the impact it is having on young people, like the students of Sycamore Elementary,” Joe Schreiber said.

The next Friday Noon Concert will take place today.

Mariela Patron can be reached at

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