No two groups would seem more different than New York-based Ethel String Quartet and Englewood’s Kaotic Drumline.
One looks to create a tranquil sound through an orchestra while the other uses drums to elicit a visceral response in listeners.
Yet, both are aware of the unifying power of music and have chosen to collaborate.
The two groups participated in five performances, including on the West Side, last week, and for final show
at Dominican University in River Forest this past Sunday.
It all began on April 5, 2007 when Ethel String Quartet was performing with jazz musician Howard Levy at the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall of Northwestern University. Following the set, Ethel was approached by Leslie Rodriguez, managing director of the performing arts center at Dominican.
“I was planning our fourth annual chamber series and felt that Ethel perfectly captured the contemporary chamber sound,” Rodriguez said.
Ethel agreed to the performance, which coincided with its 4-year-old Truck Stop Project which allows the group to collaborate with local musicians in the towns they perform. The band shares the stage, musical ideas and creative inspiration with an artist or group.
“The ‘Truck Stop Project’ came about from our touring,” said Ethel viola player Ralph Farris. “We had encountered so many amazing people and musicians in the cities we visited, yet we did not have a chance to really spend any time with them.
“This was a way we could actually spend time with local saxophonists and brass groups that we would otherwise not have time to connect with,” he added.
Richard Van Kleeck, director of the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, suggested that the band perform with Kaotic drum line, a group from the Englewood community.
Van Kleeck put Farris in touch with Eric Olton, who serves as both the manager for Kaotic and game operator for the WNBA franchise Chicago Skye. Olton told Kaotic’s founder and director, Jamie Poindexter, about Farris’ interest in collaborating, and was instantly intrigued.
“I was very hooked into the idea of performing with a violin quartet,” Poindexter said. “I was especially interested when I first spoke to Ralph. He had as much enthusiasm as anyone I’ve ever spoken business with.”
Before the groups met, Farris and Poindexter listened to each other’s work to find the best way to meld their individual sounds.
“The meshing of classical music and drum line is something that has not been done before, so this is history in the making,” Poindexter said.
Once things were finalized, Farris, Poindexter and Rodriguez decided to expand their concert idea. Rodriguez contacted Steckman Studios in Oak Park to organize a Jan. 23 performance at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School.
On Jan. 24, the groups performed at the Circle Rock Campus of Catalyst School, located at 5608 W. Washington Blvd. in Austin. The school is affiliated with the San Miguel schools network, which has an elementary school in Austin.
They concluded with a concert at Dominican University, 7900 W. Division, on Sunday.
“This is the first time we have had a collaborative musical program to the extent that we have with Ethel and Kaotic Drumline,” said Jessica Mackinnon, director of public relations for Dominican. “It is something that we want to continue to offer and enhance.”