Serafin Ensemble presents ‘Winter Music’ in Milton

MILTON — The sounds of the season will ring out at the Milton Theatre next week as the Serafin Ensemble presents “Winter Music” Thursday night at 7.

The evening will feature chamber performances by violinists Kate Ransom and Amos Fayette, Luke Fleming on viola, Jacques-Pierre Malan on cello with countertenor Gus Mercante.

The complete program includes:

• Vivaldi’s “Winter” from “The Four Seasons,”

• Vivaldi’s Aria for Alto, strings, basso continuo,

• Dvorák’s “Terzetto” for two violins and viola,

• Beethoven’s Duo in Eb Major for viola and cello, Woo 32 “Eyeglasses Obligato,”

• Beethoven’s String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4,

• Leroy Andersen’s “Sleigh Ride” for String Quartet, and

• A singalong of traditional carols with Mr. Mercante.

“It will be a performance where I think the audience will take great delight in hearing these neat winter themes accented by ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons’ by Vivaldi who was an absolute rock star of the 1600s,” said Ms. Ransom, artistic director of the Serafin Ensemble, which sprung out of the Serafin String Quartet earlier this spring.

Violinist Kate Ransom is the artistic director of the Serafin Ensemble. (Submitted photo)

“Other seasonal material will include ‘Sleigh Ride,” which is a timeless classic, especially for a string quartet. Then we’ll close with what we are calling ‘Sing Along with Uncle Gus.’”

Another theme of the evening, Ms. Ransom said, could almost be friendship.

“The Eyeglasses duo for viola and cello is a piece Beethoven wrote for an amateur cello player and Beethoven himself who played the viola,” she said.

“Why he nicknamed it ’The Eyeglasses Duo’ is seen in some letters they wrote back and forth where Beethoven is ribbing his friend, Baron Nikolaus, for his nearsightedness,” Ms. Ransom said.

The piece was written in 1796 or 1797 but was never published until 1912.

“It was a little personal piece that Beethoven wrote for his friend,” she said.

Dvorák’s “Terzetto” for two violins and viola was also written out of friendship for a chemistry student who was a boarder in his mother-in-law’s house.

“Dvorák could overhear the boarder taking violin lessons and wrote a piece for teacher and student as Dvorák played the viola,” Ms. Ranson said.

“It actually proved too difficult for the student to play.”

The Beethoven selections are in honor of the music great’s 249th birthday on Dec. 16.

Ms. Ransom started the Serafin String Quartet in 2000.

“It was me and three other artists and it had a wonderful, long life,” said Ms. Ransom, who is also president of The Music School of Delaware.

“But we are now a roster of 11 artists who coordinate programs all over the country but primarily the Northeast. We also invite guests to play with us who aren’t roster artists.”

Mr. Malan, who lives in Baltimore, is one of those guests. He holds diplomas in musicology, jazz piano and cello performance from the University of South Africa, University of Pretoria and Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University.

The Serafin Ensemble is named after Venetian master Sanctus Serafin, who made a violin in 1728, which Ms. Ransom now owns and plays.

“He didn’t make as many violins as Guaneri or Stradivari but they are among the most famous and long-lasting,” she said.

“Violins like to sing. It is good for their health. And it’s great for the audience to see and hear. It’s a beautiful old instrument.”

Ms. Ransom, who has lived in Wilmington for more than 20 years, was born in Boston and moved to Nashville with her family at the age of 4, spending a year in London.

“My mother had these recordings of great music and always had classical music playing in the house,” she said.

“She loved Mozart and Beethoven and these great composers were the backdrop to my growing up years. My ears were always accustomed to hearing it and I loved it.

“As I got older, my mother assigned me to play the violin. I guess I found it interesting but it didn’t spark a passion until I was in freshman year of high school and I heard a Bela Bartok recording for string quartet the he wrote. I wore out the recording, listening to it over and over again. I was really smitten by it and got drawn in.

“We also had a resident string quartet, The Blair String Quartet, (at Vanderbilt University). I attended many live performances and I credit them for my love of chamber music as well.”

Ms. Ransom’s brother also became a concert pianist.

Tickets for Thursday’s 7 p.m. show are $18-$23 and can be purchased by visiting MiltonTheatre.com.

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