Musicians perform in chamber groups


Alice Willard

Zoe Wolfe (11), Lily Zeng (11), Abby Cassius (10), and Autumn Bobo (11) take to the stage at the fall orchestra concert and played an arrangement by Shostakovich. Wolfe and Zeng play violin, Cassius plays viola, and Bobo plays cello.

Sometimes, four musicians can be more powerful than sixty. This is the case for many string quartet groups, which typically consist of two violins, one viola and one cello, though other combinations are possible. Quartets usually play a style of music called chamber music, composed primarily for small groups of musicians.

“For full orchestra, you can rely on the other people who are playing your part, but you can’t do that in a chamber group,” Emily Hu (10) said.

All parts in a quartet are equally important. A string quartet allows each part to play separately from each other, but in harmony. Individual parts can always be heard.

“You have more responsibility as a chamber group because your part is just as important as everyone else’s part. In a full orchestra, if you mess up, you probably won’t be noticed,” Abby Cassius (10) said.

Quartet musicians spend many hours practicing together. This allows them to invest in creating stylistically similar sounds, intonation and movements, bringing the music on paper to life. 

“We play at galas and before important events where people are walking around, kind of like background music,” Cassius said.

When playing with a smaller amount of group members, there are more solo opportunities for instruments who would not otherwise get a solo. The musicians alternate around playing the melody and harmonies, in order to create fluid motion and contrast, typical in solid arrangements.

My favorite aspect of chamber groups is the intimacy between all the members. Having only four people to make music with is vastly different than playing with an orchestra or symphony,”  Zeng said.

This particular chamber group has been playing together for several years. These musicians have a combined experience level of over 15 years. They have performed in professional settings in the past and plan to continue doing so in the future.

“Playing in a quartet involves much more teamwork- maintaining constant eye contact, adjusting to each other, and keeping the flow going are only a few aspects of a chamber group,” Zeng said.