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Classical Notes

The Parker Quartet heads north

Posted at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2010 by Michael Wells
Filed under: Parker Quartet

MPR's Artist in Residence The Parker Quartet begins the first leg of their Minnesota tour tonight in Bemidji. The group shared their thoughts on the impending trip.


Daniel Chong, violin

Daniel Chong A few months ago we had one of our first meetings with the folks at MPR. The objective of the meeting, as I would assume is the goal of most meetings, was to discuss, plan, and prepare for the events included in our residency. The Troubadour Concerts is a huge component to our residency so naturally, it was one of the first topics to come up. The list of venues and their respective locations were announced, "Bemidji, MN. Sioux Falls, SD. Duluth, MN, and Decorah, IA."

Being originally from California and having spent over a decade on the east coast before coming to St. Paul, my knowledge of the Midwest geography is, well, lame. I had felt like I had at least heard of Sioux Falls and Duluth, but Decorah and especially Bemidji bewildered me. But, since it was our first meeting with a fine, fine organization such as MPR I wanted to be sure to exude optimism and conviction. So I geared up and declared with enthusiasm, "Bemidji sounds like a wonderful place and it would be great to have a concert there!"

Then someone around the conference table (which always seems either very long or very wide and often both simultaneously) said, "Bemidji is five hours north of here, the concert would be in the middle of January, and Bemidji is pronounced buh-mi-jee not buh-mee-jee." It was at this moment that I realized a few things: that A) Bemidji was a very different place from Fiji B) if this city is five hours north of here that means there are colder places in this country and C) January is going to stink.

Nevertheless, here we are in the new year of 2010 and our first concert, in buh-Mi-jee (you know you would've said BuhMeeJee too) is upon us. Even though January is a hard month I do look forward to visiting this area of Minnesota. I am sure there are reasons why people would dare to inhabit in such lands so I think I'll make it a goal to ask those that I meet how they enjoy their part of the country.

I find that one of the great things about being a musician is that after a concert I find it easy to have a conversation with an audience member. More so then if I had to meet them without having had the music beforehand. I think it somehow has to do with music being a universal language in which all of us can relate to, and for some reason can wield the power to bring out the sense of commonality between humans which perhaps is the best ice breaker I know of.

Karen Kim, violin

Karen Kim First of all, let me say how excited I am to be embarking upon this residency with MPR/Performance Today. I feel like our quartet is being welcomed into a community of incredibly sincere and creative people, and we have already learned so much from the work we have done thus far at the radio station. This Thursday marks the first concert of four that we will be performing throughout the Midwest for MPR, and what better way to kick things off than to head into northern Minnesota! I fear this experience is going to expose me to a completely new side of winter. We will be playing in Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi River. Legend has it that one who steps across the Mississippi River at its source will live a long and prosperous life. I wonder it this will apply to the life of the Parker Quartet if we all step across simultaneously... I think it's worth a shot.


Jessica Bodner, viola


After months of planning, we're finally embarking on the first two of our four Troubadour Concerts! Jessica BodnerWe've lived in MN for about a year and a half, but the only place I've visited besides the Twin Cities is St. Cloud (to play a concert), so I'm so excited to explore more of MN and surrounding areas. Our first stop will be Bemidji, which I understand is "the first city on the Mississippi" because it is located on the northernmost lake that feeds into the Mississippi. Being from Houston, and having spent a lot of my youth in Louisiana, I've spent some time at the southernmost part of the Mississippi, so it's kind of amazing to imagine the distance. Besides playing a concert in Bemidji, we'll also be doing a community master class with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra. I'm really looking forward to that because it will be great to get a feel for how people in Bemidji approach and look at music. Working with musicians around the world can be eye-opening not only because of differences we can find, but also because of how unifying it can be to be able to communicate through music.

After Bemidji, we're driving to Sioux Falls, SD. This will be my first time in SD!! I understand that Sioux Falls is the largest city in SD, and if it weren't winter (with everything most likely covered in snow), I would want to visit the corn maze that's right outside of the city! It's actually a maze that you can work through made of corn, and from above, it's beautiful - there's a butterfly shape in the center of the maze! We'll be working with South Dakota Youth Symphony the morning of the concert. Sometimes it can be difficult to give a class the same day as a concert, but how many times are we going to have the chance to work with the youth symphony members of South Dakota? We're so excited to meet these students, it's something we definitely could not pass up!

This will also mark the first road trip with Bodie, Dan and my new Vizsla puppy. Since we already travel a lot, and will have to leave him with our dear friends on a rotating basis, we figured that we could take him this time since it's a road trip (and not an airplane trip). He's an extremely well behaved puppy, but we've never been with him in the car for more than an hour, and we've never left him in a hotel room. We're in pet friendly hotels, and he's great in his crate, so I don't foresee any problems, but I have a feeling that we have an adventure on our hands!

Looking forward to reporting more about the concerts, people we meet, driving in the winter, and Bodie....


Kee Kim, cello

Hello, my name is Kee Kim, and I am the cellist of the Parker Quartet.

Kee Hyun KimThis week will mark the first concert that we will be doing for Minnesota Public Radio, as part of their Troubadour series. As I am writing this post, I am listening to MPR, where we are on the radio! First was Steve Staruch, announcing our residency for the listeners out there, and then came Allison Young, giving away free tickets to the 3rd caller, and then finally, we came on again, giving a performance of one of Haydn's quartets. I think this recording came from a live concert in Jordan Hall that we gave in 2007, our last year in school.

It is weird to hear us on the radio! To think that our music; well not OUR music, but music that we have spent so much time internalizing, learning, and performing for small, select audiences at chamber music venues, is now available for the 'masses' - the thought is rather tremendous, yet humbling at the same time. Further, I am not listening to MPR from the radio; instead I am listening through my iTunes - which means that anyone with a computer and internet connection anywhere in the world can be listening to what I am listening to right now! Crazy.

Case in point - after our first Performance Today broadcast a few weeks ago, I got several posts on my facebook profile page, from friends all over the United States, congratulating me, and us, on our performance. You cannot ever underestimate the power of public radio. A couple of days ago, I was attending a concert by the Takacs Quartet, at the Ordway Center for the Arts. I was deeply engrossed in my program book before the start of the concert, when a friend sitting in front and to the left of me tapped me on my knee and whispered "the two ladies behind me are talking about you guys." And sure enough, when I focused my ear to the conversation next to me, they were indeed talking about the "wonderful Parker quartet" who they had just "heard on the radio," performing a "beautiful Beethoven quartet." It was a slightly embarassing, yet thrilling feeling, to hear that not only are people listening, but they like what they hear! Thank goodness it is public radio, and not public TV, or else there could be many unforeseen uncomfortable moments..!

As you can surmise, we are already very deeply involved in this residency with MPR. The recordings for PT started back in November of last year, and only now are being aired. There are 4 broadcasts, which means 4 recording sessions - the last one, featuring Ravel's quartet, will be recorded in a few days.

Allison Young just gave away a pair of tickets to a Steve from Sioux Falls - again, what an interesting feeling, to have tickets be raffled off for your concert! See you soon, Steve from Sioux Falls...

Aside from all the time spent in the recording studio (the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser, say that ten times fast), like I mentioned above, in a couple of days we will venture out into the frozen landscape of rural Minnesota, for our first public concert as part of the residency.

First stop is in Bemidji - if you are not a Minnesota native, like me, it is a town that is about 5 and half hours from St Paul, right by Chippewa National Forest (just Google it!). To be perfectly honest, I do not know what to expect. Everybody who I've told that we were going to Bemidji has been like "ooh, better bring your snow shoes" or "ooh, you're going into the boonies," or something to that extent. If it is that cold and rural, who in their right minds would want to venture out of their homes in the frozen landscape of January to watch a chamber music concert? When I expressed this to someone, they gave me a different perspective - maybe it's so cold and rural that when we go there, it will be THE cultural event of the area... Perhaps. Let's just hope that the hall is heated..

More on Bemidji when we get back...