Ken Carter says the phone calls have been coming in for some time now.
The Executive Director of The Lucas Theatre says that members of the community have been contacting his box office, wondering how they go about nabbing tickets to one of the most eagerly anticipated free musical events of the year.
The act? Cuarteto LatinoAmericano, known worldwide as the leading proponent of Latin American music for string quartet. The Mexican ensemble has been nominated for multiple Grammys, and won extensive praise for their numerous recordings and international concert appearances. The Washington Post describes them as “Matchless in tonal magnitude, tuneful fluency and concentrated teamwork.”
Yet, as far as Carter is concerned, all the kudos in the world can’t hold a candle to the positive influence of their last stay in Savannah — which he witnessed firsthand.
“We had them here last year and were so impressed by their musicianship — which is extraordinary,” he relates. “But we were also amazed at how great they were at working with the kids.”
He’s referring to the few days before their last Lucas Theatre concert, when the group visited area schools to play for students, and conduct hands-on workshops.
“The great thing about last year’s show was that the audience included a great many students and their family members who had been exposed to the Cuarteto during their school residencies. We gave coupons to kids at the workshops so they could attend at a really low cost. It was an interesting mix of our usual classical audience and new young people,” says Carter.
“We knew from the outset that some folks we traditionally draw for chamber music shows probably wouldn’t come out. It’s unfamiliar territory for them. Some of those regulars just want to hear the same pieces they’ve been listening to for the better part of forty years. (laughs) That’s okay, but it makes it harder for us to bring in artists they’re unfamiliar with,” he says.
“But the Cuarteto worked alongside Carl Polk’s orchestra class at the Savannah Arts Academy, and some of those kids actually came out on their own! You know, for teenagers to show up to a Saturday night chamber concert on their own dime is pretty rare these days, so that gives you some idea of how worthwhile this year’s concert is going to be.”
Carter says that he’s especially happy to be able to allow this celebrated group of fine artists the opportunity to perform music that’s truly dear to their hearts.
“They’re usually expected to play more traditional material, but we specifically ask them to showcase Latin American composers. We’re never exposed to that around here.”
However, it’s the Cuarteto’s ability to work with children that Carter finds most impressive. To him, the group of violinists Saùl and Arón Bitràn, violist Javier Montiel, and cellist Alvaro Bitràn is one of the best hopes for classical music’s future.
“We put them into the cafeteria of Pt. Wentworth Elementary last year —because there’s a fairly high Hispanic demographic in that school system— and we literally had the principal and a few teachers in tears, telling us how thrilled they were. They’d never seen a group of artists so adept at engaging young kids with music,” Carter says.
Although tickets to this grant-supported public performance are free, they must be reserved in advance, and Carter says that so far, seats are moving briskly.
“Last year was such a wonderful and personal experience. The chemistry between this group and the students and the older public was magical. It was home run, as far as we were concerned. I remember after one piece last year, there were whoops and hollers. Hey, you don’t hear that at a Concert Association show around here.” ƒç
For free tickets to Saturday’s 8 pm show, call the SCAD Box Office at 525-5050 or visit www.lucastheatre.com.