Unique string quartet bridges classical-grunge divide

Posted on: July 29, 2011

In Friday’s (7/29) Globe and Mail (Toronto), Colin Eatock writes, “Who are the Samurai String Squad? They’re Alastair Eng, Courtenay Vandiver, Jeremy Harmon and Jesse Lewis—and they’re a string quartet, of a sort. It’s clear the group are different from most string quartets from the moment they walk on stage, as they did on Wednesday night at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, presented by the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival. They all play the cello: There’s not a violin or viola in sight. The second thing that makes them stand out is their repertoire. They play what they call ‘classic grunge,’ and they play it with conviction. The Samurai String Squad got started two years ago, in Boston—and the Ottawa concert was their Canadian debut. However, Eng, the driving force behind the quartet of twentysomething musicians, is originally from Toronto. He does most of the arranging for the group: instrumental covers of songs by Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and the like. … These days, it’s not unusual for classically trained chamber groups to take an interest in popular music. The Kronos Quartet pioneered this trend in the 1980s with its Jimi Hendrix arrangements, the Turtle Island Quartet is known for its John Coltrane covers, and Quartet San Francisco has made a specialty of Dave Brubeck.”

Posted July 29, 2011