By Chris Brown on August 1, 2019.
The Crimson String Quartet will bring Music of the Isles to the Prairies for the next 10 days. That quick tour of Alberta and Saskatchewan includes a show at the Medicine Hat Public Library on Aug. 7.
Violinist Alvin Tran said the group’s goal is a simple one: To bring classical music to the masses.
“We think this music in general is amazing,” he said this week. “What we’ve found was just that people weren’t exposed to this different type of music. We’re not judging anybody on what they like to listen to, we just want to provide that outlet.”
The quartet has been providing that outlet for almost a decade. It started on a cruise ship of all places.
At the time they were just four university students looking for summer jobs.
“We wanted to continue playing instruments and improving” Tran said of why he, Audrey Sproule, Alyssa Ramsay and Laurence Schaufele took the four-month contract.
They travelled the world, from the Caribbean to northern Europe and up and down the East Coast of Canada and the U.S. What was simply background music under the previous performers became much more. The Crimson String Quartet rehearsed every day, learned new pieces, created theme nights and engaged the audience. All those things helped the group itself grow and after the four months was up they wanted to stay together.
While still studying at McGill University the foursome was able to record its first album, “Crimson Sunrise,” in conjunction with the school’s recording team. When the next summer came around the group didn’t want to be away from home on the cruise ship again. So they opted for touring in the Prairies, close to the Saskatchewan homes of members Sproule and Ramsay.
They’ve toured the region every summer since, always making a point to engage with their audience.
“Sometimes we perform some ‘out there,’ more modern pieces and it’s sometimes interesting to ‘hear that was my favourite part’ and some others are more skeptical about our choices,” Tran said with a chuckle.
The group sometimes also engages during the performance, asking them to close their eyes and giving them an image to imagine. Tran said it can help them understand and enjoy the music a little better.
Tickets for the 7 p.m. MHPL show are $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.
If you can’t make the Aug. 7 show at the library other area shows are in Duchess on Aug. 4 and Burdett on Aug. 6. An afternoon painting and music workshop will precede the evening show in Duchess.
More information on the band and the tour can be found at crimsonstringquartet.com. For this year’s tour Andrew Park takes the place of Ramsay, who is on maternity leave.