Hailed as "a triumph of ensemble playing" (New York Times), Fry Street Quartet has perfected a "blend of technical precision and scorching spontaneity" (Strad). Since securing the Millennium Grand Prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Fry Street Quartet has reached audiences from Carnegie Hall to Sarajevo and Jerusalem, exploring the medium of the string quartet and its life-affirming potential with "profound understanding, …depth of expression, and stunning technical astuteness" (Deseret Morning News).
Founded in Chicago in 1997 under the mentorship of Marc Johnson, cellist of the Vermeer Quartet, Fry Street received rave reviews as prizewinners at the Yellow Springs Competition and the Banff International String Quartet Competition. The quartet traveled to Israel to participate in the International Encounters Chamber Music Seminar in 2000, where they studied with Isaac Stern. He invited the quartet to the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop in New York City and subsequently arranged for the quartet's Carnegie Hall debut in 2001.
The Quartet's early years were also defined by a three-year "Rural Residency" in Hickory, NC, sponsored by Chamber Music America and the National Endowment for the Arts. It was during this period that the quartet cut its teeth winning competitions, building a local audience for the first time, and becoming relevant to the community with music making. The FSQ is proud that the residency in Hickory continues to this day without national grant support.
Fry Street Quartet began its international career as cultural ambassadors to the Balkan States, sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the U.S. Department of State. This tour featured the European debut of J. Mark Scearce's Y2K, commissioned for Fry Street with a grant from Meet the Composer. Subsequent international appearances have included the ProQuartet Academy at Pont-Royal, France, the Prague Chamber Festival and Trutnov Autumn Festival in the Czech Republic, Kulturvereinigung Oberschützen in Austria and three visits to the Oficina de Musica de Curitiba, Brazil.
A defining endeavor was the quartet's first complete Beethoven Quartet Cycle. "These works put players to the test in terms of interpretation, technique and musicianship. And the Fry Street Quartet made it look easy. They exhibited the highest standards of their craft both weekends. Solid technique, wonderful musicality and fabulous artistry combined to make the six concerts they played special. The Fry Street Quartet is without question to be reckoned with among today's quartets. It has arrived" (Deseret News). A sold-out event with pre-concert lectures by renowned scholar Robert Winter, the Cycle was presented at Utah State University over the course of two weeks, offering the audience a Beethoven-immersion experience.
"Equally at home in the classic repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven or contemporary music" (Palm Beach Daily News), the quartet created an innovative series called From Prodigy to Master, pairing early and late works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn with engaging modern compositions inspired by these masters of the quartet genre. Modern works included the complete string quartets of Benjamin Britten, and st qt, dedicated to Fry Street by composer Thomas McFaul.
Recent commissions include a work for string quartet and chamber orchestra titled Pandemonium by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad which was premiered with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, as well as a string quartet by composer Michael Ellison entitled Fiddlin' co-commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music Series and the Salt Lake City based NOVA series.
New Works, Ideas, and Collaborations
In response to the issues of global sustainability, the Fry Street Quartet, alongside physicist and educator Dr. Robert Davies, developed The Crossroads Project: Rising Tide. At the heart of the project is an evocative performance blending music, information, imagery -- and a dash of theater. Crossroads is a deep-seated and visceral contemplation of the choices before us, the paths they forge, and the dramatically different landscapes to which they lead. The full-length concert version features composer Laura Kaminsky's string quartet, Rising Tide, alongside projections of paintings created for the project by artist Rebecca Allan, and photographs by Garth Lenz. With sustainability concerns on the increase alongside a rising awareness amongst the public, TCP is in its third season and looking to move this dynamic conversation forward. There is a sequel currently under development with Dr. Davies and composer Libby Larsen entitled The Crossroads Project: Great Transitions, taking the performance experience into a new realm that explores possibilities, solutions, human potential and action.
As One is a new chamber opera—created by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell, and librettist/filmmaker Kimberly Reed—that relates the experiences and inner life of a transgender person moving toward self-realization. The Fry Street Quartet will be premiering this work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in September 2014 with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf who share the role of the protagonist.
The FSQ performs a program that highlights connections between music and Theosophy as part of the Leverhulme-funded network titled Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy and the Arts, 1875-1960. This includes rarely heard works from the twentieth-century British composers Cyril Scott and John Foulds. Scott found inspiration in the writings of Theosophical Society founder Helena Blavatsky, and Foulds worked for a time on behalf of the Society as director of music at the London headquarters. The concert will close with the music of Beethoven, a favourite musical topic in Theosophical journals and one of the composers often celebrated by Theosophists. This program will be part of an exhibition at Columbia University in 2015.
In 2002, at the invitation of Utah State University and the Caine Foundation, the Fry Street Quartet arrived in Logan. The task was to build a performance-based approach to a string program in its infancy. Years later, the area has transformed into a vibrant center for string performance in the Intermountain Region. The Fry Street Quartet is pleased to hold the Endowed String Quartet Residency at the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University.
Cultivating authentic and creative artistic voices alongside collaborative skills through chamber music is central to the quartet's teaching. As guest faculty, the quartet has made repeated visits to Madeline Island Music Camp, the Oficina de Musica in Curitiba, Brazil, The Virginia Suzuki Institute, the David Einfeldt Chamber Music Seminar, and the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute, and Credo at Oberlin.
Because You're Wondering...
"Fry Street" was the location of the quartet's first rehearsal space in the Chicago neighborhood once ruled by Al Capone.