Apple Hill takes Playing for Peace to Ireland

The Apple Hill String Quartet recently returned from a tour of Ireland and a university-wide residency at Dartmouth College as part of its Playing for Peace program.

In Dublin, Ireland, the Apple Hill String Quartet — Elise Kuder and Colleen Jennings, violins; Michael Kelley, viola; and Rupert Thompson, cello — performed to a sold-out crowd at the Royal Irish Academy of Music Concert Hall and coached several chamber groups. Apple Hill Director Leonard Matczynski taught a master class for violas and coached the academy’s resident high school quartet.

At Magee University in Derrytown, Northern Ireland, the players coached sections of the university orchestra, gave individual lessons, and performed in its concert hall. They also met with Mayor Martin Reilly. “He gave us a fascinating look at how the city has changed from one divided to one that is unified. Where once there was a wall, now there is a bridge,” Matczynski said.

The group then traveled to Donegal for a four-day chamber music workshop at the Garten Center.

At Dartmouth College in Hanover, the Apple Hill String Quartet and Director Matczynski spent several days presenting to various undergraduate classes, playing a house concert for faculty, students and Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon, coaching groups from the Upper Valley Music Center and appearing in concert at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The concert, “Music Bridging Contemporary Cultural Divides,” gave voice to Apple Hill’s long time commitment to bring musicians from politically polarized nations together to practice and play chamber music.

“The same skills needed for a successful chamber music collaboration — listening, watching, accepting the other, adjusting, and being flexible — are essential for building trust and establishing dialogue among musicians from nations in conflict,” Matczynski noted.

Joining the group for the residency were Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Israeli pianist and Dartmouth faculty member Sally Pinkas, and Syrian composer Kareem Roustom.

The program included two world premiers: Roustom’s “Traces” for clarinet, piano and string quartet co-commissioned by Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, Arizona State University, and Apple Hill; and his “A Muffled Scream” for solo clarinet. In addition, the Quartet performed Franz Joseph Haydn’s “String Quartet, Opus 74 No. 3” and Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s “Quintet for Piano and String Quartet” with pianist Pinkas.

Both Pinkas and Azmeh have spent summers at Apple Hill’s campus in Nelson as faculty members coaching and mentoring students in the center’s summer workshop, which attracts 300 students ages 12 to 76 from the United States and many countries including Israel and Syria. They have performed together in faculty concerts, providing a living example of musical collaboration between members of nations in conflict.

The Apple Hill String Quartet will next perform at the Colonial Theatre and Keene State College in Keene in January and then travel to Phoenix, Ariz., in February for a residency at Arizona State University.

For 43 years, Apple Hill has existed to create, perform, and teach chamber music at the highest standard, broaden the appreciation of chamber music through the development of educational programs, and cultivate connection and understanding among people of diverse backgrounds and cultures through the Playing for Peace program.

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