Memory the theme of symphony, prose collaboration performance

A performance by the International Writing Program and UI String Quartet Residency Program on Thursday explored the theme of memory.

Jonah+Sirota+introduces+the+quartet+in+the+Frank+Conroy+Reading+Room+of+the+Dey+House+on+Thursday%2C+Oct.+5%2C+2017.+The+Chiara+Quartet+teamed+up+with+the+Iowa+Writing+Program+to+create+a+performance+about+memory.+%28Ashley+Morris%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Memory the theme of symphony, prose collaboration performance

Jonah Sirota introduces the quartet in the Frank Conroy Reading Room of the Dey House on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. The Chiara Quartet teamed up with the Iowa Writing Program to create a performance about memory. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

Jonah Sirota introduces the quartet in the Frank Conroy Reading Room of the Dey House on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. The Chiara Quartet teamed up with the Iowa Writing Program to create a performance about memory. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

Jonah Sirota introduces the quartet in the Frank Conroy Reading Room of the Dey House on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. The Chiara Quartet teamed up with the Iowa Writing Program to create a performance about memory. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

Jonah Sirota introduces the quartet in the Frank Conroy Reading Room of the Dey House on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. The Chiara Quartet teamed up with the Iowa Writing Program to create a performance about memory. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

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Grammy-nominated Chiara String Quartet and three fall residents in the International Writing Program teamed up Thursday night to intertwine music and spoken word to explore the theme of memory.

UI String Quartet Residency Program Director Elizabeth Oakes invited the quartet to visit the university for a weeklong stay that included class visits and a concert Wednesday night in the Voxman Music Building. The group culminated its visit with a collaborative performance Thursday.

In the last few years, the members of the Chiara String Quartet have taken to performing all the pieces from memory, or “by heart,” to establish a deeper connection with the music. The IWP invited the group to the Dey House to perform collaboratively with three fall IWP residents who have specialized in writing about memory: Ghada Al-Absy, Doyoon Kim, and Wipas Srithong.

Two UI students, Catherine Rinderknecht, who is in her second year working toward a D.M.A. and a violinist in the UI Quartet Residency Program, and Ashley Chong, a senior participating in Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates Fellowship with the IWP collaborated to help organize the event. The two said they hope the combination of music and writing will be a unique experience for the audience.

“We came up with the structure,” Rinderknecht said. “We inserted their names, their work, and their values as a quartet and related it all to these writers in a way that we hope will provide a really emotional and cohesive journey for everyone. We kept telling everyone bring tissues and chocolate.”

The quartet started in 2000 with a mission to connect with each audience through music. The quartet’s most recent album, Bartók by Heart, is a two-CD set released in 2016 that features six string-quartet pieces composed by Hungarian composer Bélo Bartók, which the group plays entirely from memory. In 2011, the group received a Grammy nomination for its recording of Jefferson Friedman: Quartets.

The members are Rebecca Fischer and Hyeyung Yoon on violin, Jonah Sirota on viola, and Gregory Beaver on cello.

Fischer said she thought it was a fitting ending to the group’s fourth visit to the UI, the first being in 2001.

“This is our final season as a quartet, so it’s nice to be back here making music,” Fischer said. “The cultural life of Iowa City is very rich, and it’s wonderful to be a part of it.”

In between each music piece, each of the three participating IWP residents performed their writing pieces.

Al-Absy, a fiction writer from Egypt, sang a piece titled “The Ruins,” a story of memories of past lovers and “the ruins” they leave behind.

Kim, a South Korean fiction writer, librettist, translator, and critic, read sections from her opera libretto, “Vandal Sara.”

Srithong, a fiction writer from Thailand, read from his novel called “Vanishing”.

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