On Wednesday Oct. 29, the string quintet Sybarite5 took the stage in Sheldon Hall Ballroom to perform a varied set of music in front of a completely packed house, which was a surprise to many regular concertgoers. According to Colleen Dailey a music professor at Oswego State, all sections of the 100-level music appreciation classes and all sections of Music 100 were required to come to the concert. The hall was so packed, that even when three extrs rows were added in front, students were standing and sitting in back and around the ballroom. The group was even so gracious as to offer seating on the stage, which Dailey and a couple of middle school kids took advantage of.
The host of the concert, faculty member and pianist Robert Auler, who also performed a piece with the quintet, sat with violinist Sami Merdinian and bassist Louis Levitt to do a pre-concert talk. Auler and Levitt were friends at the University of Cincinnati, and the chemistry between the two was evident. The audience learned the group first got together during the Aspen Music Festival, which Levitt described as a music camp for “old people” in college, playing together in their free time, sometimes on street corners.
Both Levitt and Merdinian discussed that classical musicians often do not have a choice in the repertoire they play, saying they “have to play the music you’re given, and you don’t always get to play what you want.” As these musicians get to play what they want, they have come to specialize in Radiohead covers, which violist Angela Pickett described as a “Radiohead problem,” that they solve by playing these covers. The group has an entire record devoted to Radiohead covers.
Of all of their Radiohead covers, they chose to play “Paranoid Android,” “Weird Fishes” and “No Surprises,” the last of which they arranged themselves and was a great highlight of the concert.
Levitt said after the concert that these percussionist hits are notated with varying degrees of specificity in the music and they often work with the arrangers of their music with whom they discuss it, but it usually comes down to a decision by the group. Also in the music for these Radiohead tunes was the text for the melody whenever a part had it.
They rounded out the concert with pieces by Mozart, as well as a number of unusual tunes, exploring many tonalities, including a modern sound, avant-garde, jazz and the blues. Their newest member, Merdinian, also showed his influence, as they played a number of tangos from the violinist’s native Argentina.
Upon completing the set, they received a standing ovation. After leaving and returning to the stage, they treated the audience to an encore piece of “Take On Me/Flight Of The Bumblebee” mashing up A-Ha and Korsakov, which elicited laughs from the audience.
It was a great concert for a packed house, especially those on stage.