Kodiak Daily Mirror - Sweet Plantain String Quartet blends music forms in weekend show
  
Sweet Plantain String Quartet blends music forms in weekend show
by Wes Hanna / whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com
Nov 03, 2011 | 34 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KODIAK — When the Sweet Plantain String Quartet blends classical music style to a hip-hop beat, performs a musical improvisation, or when member Eddie Venegas puts down his violin to take up a trombone in the middle of a swinging jazz piece, you know this isn’t going to be a stiff-collar classical performance.

“It’s not what you’re expecting,” said Nancy DeCherney, who witnessed Sweet Plantain’s performance last week and directs the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. “It’s not your grandmother’s string quartet.”

What Sweet Plantain has done is taken the traditional art form of classical music and morphed it into new and exciting things, she said.

Sweet Plantain will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium.

Gail Edgerly, who directs the Homer Council on the Arts and saw the group last Saturday, brought her 16-year-old son to the performance not knowing if he would like it.

“He was blown away,” Edgerly said. “He had to get a CD and have them sign it.”

Likewise, Edgerly said, Sweet Plantain attracted more young people to attend the performance, yet didn’t leave behind established arts supporters.

“They are engaging,” she said. “It’s very cool for those of us that are older and don’t have an appreciation of hip-hop or rap — they explain it for us.”

“It’s jazz. It’s blues. It’s classical. It’s just such a mixture,” Edgerly said.

DeCherney agreed.

“It’s very accessible for all ages,” she said. “Serious musicians in the audience were all quite taken with their performance.”

The two violinists in Sweet Plantain, Venegas and Romulo Benavides, hail from Venezuela and the group embraces a Latin flavor in its music. They also perform the work of contemporary Latin American composers.

The other members come from urban settings of the Bronx and New Jersey, adding the pulse of the city to the group’s a blend of genres.

Another trademark of the string quartet is to include pieces of music which have a place open for improvisation. Edgerly said the group shows what is possible with musical improvisation where instruments pass around a melody almost as if they are speaking to each other.

Bringing music education into the schools and working with music students is another mission of the group. Just as in other stops in Alaska, the musicians are providing a free workshop for Kodiak students from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the high school band room. Community members can also attend for $10.

Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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