We are pleased to introduce you to the members of Winsor Music's new quartet: Violobos!
From left to right: Mitsuru Yonezaki, violin; Njioma Grevious, viola; Peggy Pearson, oboe; Alma Bitran, cello.
Artistic Director Peggy Pearson formed Violobos after our most recent benefit concert, on which all three of these outstanding students performed; they demonstrated an admirable work ethic, a high degree of musicianship, and an easy, natural chemistry when performing together. Violobos will provide them with multiple opportunities for different kinds of performances (outreach, house concert, concert series) through and with the invaluable experience of an ongoing mentoring relationship with a working professional musician.
At a recent rehearsal, Mitsuru, Njioma, and Alma took a fifteen-minute break to discuss their new group, their musical wish-lists, and their upcoming debut on March 23.
Winsor Music: Please tell us your name, class year, how long you’ve played, and who you study with.
Alma Bitran, I play the cello, I’ve been studying for 9.5 years, and my teacher is Ron Lowry.
Mitsuru Yonezaki, I am a sophomore, and I’ve played the violin for about 12 years, and I study with Joanna Kurkowicz.
Njioma Grevious, I’m a sophomore, I’ve been studying violin for 10 years, viola for 2 years, and my current teacher is Irina Muresanu.
All three of you are in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and now Violobos. How do you balance these prestigious musical groups with being full-time students and teenagers?
AB: I just try to do the best I can with everything. I try to not have too much on my plate at once. I have enough time to balance school and music. It can get tricky sometimes, but it’s manageable, usually.
MY: For me, being a teenager isn’t really like going out with school friends, it’s more like being in the music world, so that kind of makes it easier. — WM: Your social life is your musical life? — MY: Yes.
NG: I’d have to agree with Mitsuru. My musical life is my social life. It can sometimes be difficult to manage my time. More times than not, I have to figure out whether an English assignment due tomorrow should be completed before I practice or visa versa, but I work it out.
Do you think learning to do that balancing act has been good for you in the long run?
NG: Yes, definitely.
Have any of you played in chamber groups before, and if so, have you done anything like Violobos, where you play with a professional on a long-term basis?
AB: I’ve played in lots of chamber groups before, but never like Violobos. I’ve never done anything [long-term] with a professional.
MY: Same. Well, for me, I do [chamber music] in the summer. We do three in the summer and one in the winter, so that’s my experience. And we do get to sightread chamber music with some professionals, but never anything year-round.
NG: At the moment, I have three running chamber music groups, but Peggy has really been the long-term professional with whom I have been working. Working with her has been an adventurous learning experience.
What experiences so far would you say are unique to this group?
AB: Playing quartets with an oboe! I’ve never heard of that being done.
NG: I feel a warmth and comfort playing with Violobos. I’d say it’s a combination of our deep love for music and the fact that we genuinely enjoy each other.
MY: It’s nice, because we don’t feel too stressed. Peggy’s our coach and also our first violin. It doesn’t feel too stressful. — WM: A good way to learn without the pressure? — MY: Yes.
Does the Haydn quartet tell a particular story to you, or set a particular mood or scene? What would you want people to listen for?
AB: The quartet really tells its own story, and if you’re listening, you’ll hear everything it has to say. The movements contrast, and definitely share their ideas in a very up-front way that any listener can pick up on.
MY: It’s up to the listener because each person wants to listen to different parts. We have a basic idea: this is the way that we want to present it, but it’s really more up to the listener to get what they want out of it.
NG: I agree, although, one thing I think audience members should keep in mind is that Haydn was a court musician for most of his life. I think this theme is particularly evident at the beginning of the 1st movement.
Is there a particular moment or line that you really love and want the audience to hear?
MY: Overall, I love the third movement the most.
AB: I love that violin melody that Mitsuru has in the third movement.
MY: Yes, it’s really different from the rest of that movement.
NG: I love the beginning of the Haydn; I answer to the melody, first played by Peggy.
Do you have a wish-list of pieces that you’d like the quartet to work on after this piece?
AB: So many… I’ve never played any Beethoven late quartets, I would love to do that.
MY: Peggy said something about trying to play pieces that aren’t too common, so I’m not really sure what to expect! I feel like at this point I only know the well-known repertoire.
NG: I would love to play some Shostakovich ; it would sound so amazing with an oboe.
AB: It might have a really nice quality! I can hear that.
Peggy transcribes a lot of quartets to include the oboe. Are there any particular pieces that your instrument was left out of that you would like to be included in?
AB: I wish I could play all the violin solos in all orchestral music. They’re always the most beautiful parts in every orchestral piece.
MY: I wish I had a concerto like the ones Dvorak or Elgar wrote for the cello.
NG: As a person who plays viola and violin, I think that I have a nice blend of both the melody and the supporting voice — I’m all set.