Not your grandparents’ chamber music

Not your grandparents’ chamber music

Sybarite5 string quintet at UD

By Sara Mastbaum

Photo: [l to r] Louis Levitt, Sarah Whitney, Laura Metcalf, Sami Merdinian and Angela Picket of Sybarite5; photo: Braun & Tomlinson

With their torn jeans and pouty photos filtered à la Instagram, Sybarite5 isn’t your average chamber ensemble. They rock with Mozart, roll with Radiohead and aren’t afraid to get their groove on in the Museum of Sex – musically speaking, that is. They’ve been called “not your grandparents’ chamber music,” and, unless your grandparents are big Zeppelin fans, this quintet is not.

Sybarite5 is heading to the University of Dayton on Sunday, March 30 to close out this year’s Arts Series with a bang. Don’t let their rockstar ways fool you – the quintet is a group of classically trained, elite-level musicians and the first string quintet ever to win the Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

Cellist Laura Metcalf, violinists Sarah Whitney and Sami Merdinian, violist Angela Picket and double bassist Louis Levitt are individually storied and well-educated musicians who formed Sybarite5 at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival. DCP caught up with Levitt to get the details on Sybarite5’s unique sound and why he loves coming to Ohio so much.

I hear you’re classically trained to rock people’s fucking socks off. Can you tell me a little about your repertoire?
We’re all classically trained; all our musicians been through a conservatory. We are rooted in classical music and classical tradition, but we’ve also had pieces written for us, as well as have some rock n’ roll we do, too. We have a really eclectic range and repertoire, and we pride ourselves on having people kind of expect the unexpected when they come to a Sybarite5 concert. – Louis Levitt

I see a lot of universities on your touring schedule, and you’ve played the Apple Store and the Museum of Sex. How does your musical mission affect your choice of venue?
The venues we play are just as eclectic as the music we play. Last year, we were at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and some other creative venues. We’re not afraid to play chamber music anywhere. – LL

You played original work, written specifically for you, on Disturb the Silence. How often do you work with composers and what has that experience been like?
We are constantly working with composers. We feel like working with composers is kind of an ongoing process and very collaborative. Any time we have a chance to workshop pieces or finish new works, we always do so. We’ve got pieces written for us by [American composer] Dan Visconti. Next year, we’re set to premiere the world’s first concerto for string quintet and orchestra. So, we do a lot of work with composers, absolutely. – LL

Your tour recently took you to Alaska, and you mentioned hanging out there for a few days. How was Alaska, aside from being warmer than Dayton?
One of our favorite things to do is to enjoy the culture of wherever we are. We had a great time in Alaska – it is very cold there – but the people are very warm. What’s cool about Ohio is I did both of my degrees at the Cincinnati Conservatory [University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music]. You guys aren’t very far away from there, so coming back to Ohio is always a privilege for us. – LL

What pieces are you planning to play in Dayton?
All of our music is announced on the stage, so I don’t really know exactly what we’re playing until the concert. That’s kind of a fun thing for us and also for the audience. You can expect everything from Mozart to Radiohead or maybe the music of Dan Visconti or Led Zeppelin. We talk between all of the works so people know exactly what we’re playing, and then if people really like the music and want to learn more about it, we post the set list on our website right after the concert and have most of the music available on CD. – LL

Anything else you’d like audiences to know about you, especially the Dayton audience?
I have family in Dayton, so I’m excited to come play somewhere I’ve got some roots. My grandma used to live in Dayton, my aunt and uncle used to live there. Personally, I’m very happy to come perform for you guys in Ohio, and I’m really looking forward to it. Some of the music we’re performing has never been played in Ohio before. It’s always exciting when we get to bring new music to a new audience. I hope we bring something unique and different to you guys than you would be expecting with a traditional chamber music ensemble. – LL

The Sybarite5 String Quintet will perform at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 30 in the Sears Recital Hall at the University of Dayton, 300 College Park. For more information, please visit sybarite5.org.

Reach DCP writer Sara Mastbaum at SaraMastbaum@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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