By Mike Lauterborn
(Appeared in Fairfield-Citizen News 9/25)
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Southport, CT – The halls were alive with the sound of music as the Fall 2010 season of Music for Youth’s Young Persons’ Concert Series opened Saturday, September 25 at Southport’s Pequot Library.
The Jasper String Quartet, comprised of violinists J Freivogel and Sae Niwa, violist Sam Quintal and cellist Rachel Freivogel, was the featured performance group and some 200 people came to hear them in the library’s recital hall – a cool retreat from the day’s unseasonably warm temperatures.
Members of the Quartet, who originally hailed from such faraway places as Japan (Sae) and Alaska (Sam) but who now live within blocks of each other in New Haven, were pleased to open the season and with the enthusiasm of the concert attendees. “With any new space, you wonder what it’s going to be like,” said Quintal. “This is a great room… and a well-versed audience.”
Winners of numerous music competition awards and a quartet-in-residence at both the Yale School of Music and Caramoor, the Jaspers were introduced by Cynthia Cummiskey, Music for Youth’s spokesperson. An energetic blonde dressed in pink and white, she conducted a quick poll determining there was a broad representation of strings players in the audience, reminded attendees about manners – “we’re not going to yell or kick our brother” – and explained how one should react to the performance. “What do we do? Clap. And if we really like it, we say, ‘Bravo!’”
It was an introduction that Music for Youth President and Founder Marianne Liberatore, for whom Cummiskey was substituting as presenter, had scripted and given numerous times before. In fact, the series started in 1995 as an outreach program when Liberatore was president of South Shore Music. When new management took over six years later and didn’t have the staff to maintain the children’s program, Liberatore resigned, formed Music for Youth along with Cummiskey and Dorothy Straub, and carried on the program.
“It has just become more wonderful,” said Liberatore, now in her 80’s, who for many years prior was the supervisor for music for the entire town of Fairfield. “Our goal is to present a variety of classical music to children and their parents. We always offer a string quartet, piano soloist and violinist, sometimes a cellist, wind quartet or brass quintet, and usually a piano trio. We also try from time to time to offer music from distant cultures. This year it’s Indonesia. In the past, we’ve had performers from Japan, China, Ukraine and Latin America.”
Liberatore, who has lived in Westport and Weston over the past 30 years, has a lifelong passion for music. “My parents had given me a good music education and I always felt every child has the right to the same.”
The Eroica Trio was the first concert offered at Pequot Library under Liberatore’s direction, back in 1996. “We charged money for it and paid Pequot Library for rental. We were afraid no one would come, so billed it as a ‘Piano Concert and Pizzas.’ Pizzas were donated by John’s Best on the Post Road. Little girls in the audience who had just come from ballet classes were dancing in the aisles. Parents came up to me after and said, ‘Why don’t you do this all the time?’ Mary Freedman, former Director of Pequot Library, said, ‘If you do the booking, we’ll help you, but the concerts must always be free.’ And that’s how it started, and has continued thanks to the support of benefactors like today’s underwriter Howard Aibel.”
The Jaspers’ program included pieces from Hayden, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven. The quartet played fluidly and their sweet, delicate melodies filled the hall, much to the delight of attendees like the Abbazia family. Southport resident Lisa Abbazia, 43, said, “I’ve been coming here for many years. It’s such a great treat. My children play the violin and can’t sit through a usual concert.”
Echoed Liberatore, “This is really a great gift to the community. Top-flight professionals and free to the public.”
For more information about upcoming performances, visit www.musicforyouth.net or contact Pequot Library at 203-259-0346.