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Classical group's performance pulls from international roots
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Listen as Daniel Vega-Albela talks about the La Catrina Quartet’s public-school performances, which take place before the group’s Tuesday night performance at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium.

0305PROMUSICA-Tightly Clenched

Hear one of the group’s songs, “Our Hands Were Tightly Clenched.”

La Catrina Quartet

With special guest Boris Allakhverdyan

What: string quartet performance, final show in this season’s ProMusica Concert Series
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Pearce Auditorium, Brenau University
How much: $15; free for students
More info: 770-535-7342

A mostly Mexican string quartet plans to play to its roots when it visits the Gainesville area Tuesday.

La Catrina Quartet, based in Hickory, N.C., is slated to perform, along with clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan, at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium Tuesday night in what will be Gainesville-based ProMusica Concert Series’ final show of the season.

“We’re going to be doing a bunch of pieces that we do from our Latin-American repertoire,” said violinist Daniel Vega-Albela, a native of Mexico City, in a phone interview Monday.

The other members of the group are Savannah native Blake Espy, who plays violin, and Mexico-born Jorge Martinez and Alan Daowz. Martinez plays the viola and Daowz the cello.

The performance is set to being at 7:30 p.m.

The group is scheduled to perform earlier in the day at Jones Elementary School in the Chicopee Village community south of Gainesville and at Gainesville Middle School off Woods Mill Road.

Those schools have large Hispanic populations, and La Catrina plans to focus their music, at least partially, on that shared heritage.
“We try to give very contrasting examples (of music) ... so they will get the gamut of all the different kinds of things you can do with a string quartet,” Vega-Albela said.

Students can expect to hear classical, Mexican and romantic pieces.

Members of La Catrina, which was formed in 2001, said they plan to engage more with their younger audiences.

“Sometimes, we try to do storytelling exercises and then we have a segment in which we let the kids ask us questions,” Vega-Albela said. “We try to keep it interesting and informative for the kids.

“For the adult audiences, we also do questions and answers, but we do a little more playing.”

In the past, ProMusica scheduled concerts for its young audiences at Pearce Auditorium, with students arriving there in buses, said Mike Henry, the organization’s vice president.

But the economy’s downfall changed that practice, with ProMusica deciding to take the concerts to the schools instead, said Henry, music director at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville.

“A major thrust of ProMusica’s mission to the community is to make classical music available to area students for free,” he said.

The admission at Tuesday night’s concert is $15 for adults and free for students of all ages. Series subscribers received tickets to the three performances in the season, which began Oct. 28, for $40.

ProMusica was founded in 1951 with the aim of offering “the best chamber music to be heard anywhere,” the organization’s Web site states.

La Catrina is the quartet-in-residence of the Western Piedmont Symphony in North Carolina and the Chamber Music Festival of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

As for the group’s name, the group’s Web site says according to Mexican folklore, “La Catrina — also known as death— can show herself in many different ways.

“Sometimes she is dressed in a rather elaborate, festive way. Sometimes she appears before us in bare bones to take us away when we least expect it.”

Allakhverdyan, a native of Azerbaijan, is part of Prima Trio, a classical group also featuring musicians on the violin, viola and piano.
Growing up in Russia, he graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio with an artist diploma degree in 2008 and is pursuing his master’s degree in music at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

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