Sitting down to play an encore of their summer hit, the first movement of Mozart’s “String Quartet in C Major, K. 157,” members of the Phat Orangez glanced at each other, easing into the tight space that was reserved for them. An almost-giggle here. A wink there. A slight, promising smile, holding back a grin that was sure to break free at any moment.
Yes, they seemed to say to each other. We got this.
And they did. Joined by the Alimauza Quartet and other advanced students from Music Haven Tuesday night at Claire’s Corner Copia on Chapel Street, the Phat Orangez Quartet displayed what cello teacher and Harmony in Action co-director Philip Boulanger called the “trust in each other it takes to play chamber music.”
The organization’s students, who reside in the Dixwell, Hill, Dwight, and Newhallville neighborhoods, personify that burgeoning trust. As they took the makeshift stage – a patch of checkered tile floor near the front of the cafe, soaked in mellow autumn afternoon light – it filtered through a cello duet by Friedrich Kummer and two movements of the aforementioned string quartet through a series of quiet acknowledgements and affirmations, members of the group literally looking to each other for guidance, and finding a few flickers of joy in the process.
Take the Alimauza Quartet’s work on the second half of Mozart’s “String Quartet in C Major, K. 157,” for instance. See those flashed smiles and furtive nods between players; the way the aspiring virtuoso in yellow catches the cellist’s almost-wink gracefully, letting the aftereffects dribble down onto her fingers as the bow works a slow, certain magic?
Attendees noticed it too, smiling and noting a steady progression in the students’ technique and ease as they leaned in to listen. It’s personal for this group’s audience: many of them are parents or board members, and have seen the oldest students evolve with the organization. “It’s great to see them become friends [as they play],” Boulanger said after the performance, students joking as they packed their stringed instruments behind him.
Observing the young musicians earlier in the evening, Board President Wendy Marans had agreed. “The confidence ... they develop so much,” she said. A smile flitted across one of the instrumentalists’ faces, as if she could feel Marans’ words traveling at her from across the cool tile and cupcake-laden tables. She was unstoppable now.