February 11, 2010

Performances to feature string quartet, poet

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Join the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Thursday, Feb. 18, for a meeting of poetry and music.

The Cavani String Quartet returns to SIUC for a pair of performances with poet Mwatabu Okantah. The performance, “Collage: Poetry and Music,” comes to Altgeld Hall, Room 110 beginning at 8 p.m. on Feb. 18, and then reprises in the Morris Library Rotunda at noon on Feb. 19. The SIUC Percussion Group lends its stamp to the Friday performance as well. The performances are part of the SIUC Black History Month events.

The Collage performances with Okatah and the Cavani String Quartet began in 1990, as the artists sought to bring classical music and contemporary poetry to Cleveland, Ohio-area high school students. The artists have brought the program to many universities and schools, and were a feature presentation at the Chamber Music America National Conference.

The program includes musical selections from Antonin Dvorak and Bela Bartok as well as other composers announced during the performance. Poetry selections include a montage of “A Dream Deferred,” by poet Langston Hughes, as well as other poetry, including works by Okantah.

Okantah is director of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. He is part of an ongoing collaboration with the Cavani String Quartet, and has also served as griot for the Iroko African Drum and Dance Society, meaning he acted as poet and storyteller for the group. His publications include “Reconnecting Memories: Dreams No Longer Deferred,” “Afreeka Bass,” and “To Sing a Dark Song,” to name a few.

The Cavani String Quartet is Annie Fullard and Mari Soto on violin, Kirsten Docter on viola and Merry Peckham on cello. The four are well known and beloved in Carbondale for their role in bringing violin lessons to the Carbondale elementary school district at Thomas School. Elsewhere, they are known for their fine musicianship, with performance credits including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Festival de L’Epau in France. Holding a wide repertoire of classical chamber music, the quartet also promotes contemporary music, for which they received a CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

The SIUC Percussion Group, under the leadership of School of Music percussion lecturer Ron Coulter, goes back just to 2005, but in that time-span, the group has accrued a performance line-up that includes a recent invited performance at the Illinois Music Educators Association’s All-State Conference, held in Peoria at the end of January.

Both performances, sponsored by the School of Music, are free.