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Posted 6:00 am
February 19, 2014
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Chamber music festival honors world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin

Paul Yarbrough, Artistic Director, speaks to the audience of the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar and Festival Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 in Knuth Hall. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Paul Yarbrough, artistic director, speaks to the audience of the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar and Festival Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 in Knuth Hall. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress

As the lights dimmed in Knuth Hall on Sunday, the last night of the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Seminar and Festival began. Incorporating concerts and a seminar filled with workshops, lessons, intense coaching and public master classes for all ages, the festival ran from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16.

The festival was founded in 2003 by the Morrison Chamber Music Center. The center chose to honor Menuhin, a world-renowned violinist, because of his strong connection to SF State. Menuhin brought the quartet to San Francisco in 1989 when they were based in New York, said Zakarias Grafiol, a member of the quartet.

The event ended Sunday night with the final concert, featuring many performers including SF State’s Holloway String Trio, made up of violinist Brooke Parker, violist Whitney Smith and cellist Ami Nashimoto, as well as Lieder Alive Jessica Wan soprano, clarinet player Natalie Parker and pianist Michael Anthony Schuler, performing a piece from Franz Schubert. In addition, all of the high school participants as well as their coaches performed together with the Alexander String Quartet as a chamber orchestra performing “An Die Musik,” sung by Gillian Eschelman.

The Galante prize, an annual Bay Area chamber music prize for high school ensembles, was awarded to Chiaroscuro Quartet, winning the $1000 cash prize. The winner and all competing duos, trios, quartets and quintets have been working toward the prize since December, when the selection process for participants began.

Artistic Director Paul Yarbrough said he was inspired to have the festival because the Alexander String Quartet became close to Yehudi in his last years of his life. The quartet was formed 33 years ago, but has been at SF State for 25 years.

“(We) bring something to the University because we’re a faculty that plays together every day, 100 concerts throughout the year,” said Yarbrough. Only a few universities have this, he said, and there is a foundation on campus that supports as well as provides resources for the music programs.

Paul Yarbrough, Artistic Director, announces the winner of the Galante Prize to members of the Chiaroscuro Quartet and the Aye Trio Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The Chiaroscuro Quartet went on to win the prize. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Paul Yarbrough, artistic director, announces the winner of the Galante Prize to members of the Chiaroscuro Quartet and the Aye Trio Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The Chiaroscuro Quartet went on to win the prize. Photo by Ryan Leibrich / Xpress

According to Yarbrough, the music seminar and festival required a lot of organization and work from graphics to technical work, box office and fundraising. Many of the performers were groups recommended by colleagues and inquiries were made early in the year.

“The mentorship of the Alexander String Quartet (is good because) they have been where we have been,” said Luri Lee, a violist from the Glenn Gould School at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory.

Terri Croft, 25, a violist from the Glenn Gould School at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory, said she became involved in the festival because she is a resident in the school and knew about the music seminar and festival through the Afiara Quartet. She said the group recommended her and other performers to come here because they had previously worked at SF State for two years.

Hez Leung, a viola player, said the Alexander String Quartet gives good advice and has great musical ideas, and that he has benefited from the time he has spent with them. “(These) people are really friendly and you can tell they are real music lovers,” Leung said.

Many events that went on this weekend were free to the public to watch because, according to Yarbrough, that is the philosophy of the Morrison Chamber Music Center.

“They want people to come and listen and (we) don’t ask for donations, (but) some people do,” he said.