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Nine-time Grammy-winning Emerson String Quartet gives Jorgensen a farewell performance

EmersonStringQuartet .png
UConn Jorgensen Center
The Emerson String Quartet will return to the Jorgenson stage on Friday, September 30, after performing for nearly five decades.

The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on the UConn Storrs Campus is celebrating its fall 2022 season by holding the best of music, dance, and entertainment. Performances named “America’s greatest quartet” by Time Magazine and nine-time Grammy-winning Emerson String Quartet will be featured along with jazz singer Samara Joy will take place throughout the fall.

UConn Jorgensen Center
Samara Joy, a vocalist “connected to the entire history of jazz all at once — as if she were existing in every era simultaneously, she sounds both classic and contemporary,” said Will Friedwald, an American author

WSHU’s Janet Chow spoke with Rodney Rock, the executive director of performing arts, about UConn’s Jorgensen Center season.

WSHU: What are you looking forward to?

RR: We’ve got a great fall season. It opens up on September 16 with the Piano Guys, the YouTube sensations from a few years back. This will be their third appearance at Jorgensen. And it’s always a lot of fun to have them. It’s usually a sold-out performance and that kicks us off for the season.

Photo: ThePianoGuys.png

WSHU: And what else do you have going on in the season?

RR: We’re excited to be presenting the Emerson String Quartet in their final tour before they retire. We have Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi coming on October 8, which is going to be very exciting. We’re excited to have DakhaBrakha, the folk ensemble from Ukraine here on October 9. Fortune Feimster is here on October 15 and then it just continues with great classical and chamber events. Garth Fagan’s dance company will be here on November 12, and Samara Joy will be here on November 15. Have you heard her perform before?

UConn Jorgensen Center
DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian world-music quartet, performs on Sunday, October 9 at 3 P.M. Their “theatrical and scenic performances, combined with Ukrainian folk music, create a bright, authentic, and unforgettable musical journey.”

WSHU: I have not. What are her performances like?

RR: Oh my gosh, a nominal talent and a phenomenal talent. She just headlined at the Newport Jazz Festival earlier this month, and for someone who recently turned 22, she’s such a talented young lady.

WSHU: And how or why did you pick these particular artists?

RR: Within the state of Connecticut, Jorgensen is probably the closest thing to a multidisciplinary presenting program. We do a little bit of everything, classical, orchestra, chamber music, contemporary and classical dance, world music, family programming and popular entertainment.

It’s always interesting to try to program into this space but I take that approach of a multidisciplinary presenting program very seriously and we, historically, have always presented the biggest and best names nationally and internationally acclaimed artists in various genres.

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.png
UConn Jorgensen Center
Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi’s latest album, “They’re Calling Me Come” speaks about the “longing for the comfort of home.” 

WSHU: So when you view these performances, what do you expect the audience to see or to feel?

RR: In this day and age, my fondest hope is that we provide the audiences with just a couple of hours of escape. With everything that’s going on in the world — if you have concerns about COVID, or concerns about politics in the U.S. or the war in Ukraine, whatever is going on; my fondest hope is that we can provide them with a couple of hours of respite from everyday life.

WSHU: Now, you brought up the Emerson String Quartet. What is so profound about them if people have never heard about them?

RR: The Emerson String Quartet started touring professionally in 1976. So they’re wrapping things up here this year after about 47 years. There have been one or two personnel changes during that time but for the most part, the original musicians are still with the ensemble and to have a group of musicians performing together for that long is a feat in and of itself. They were one of the first chamber ensembles to be hired by the Deutsche Grammophon and created a series of some of the first digital CD recordings of chamber music.

They gained worldwide recognition, primarily through that and just the fact that they’ve been together for 47 years, they’re all supremely talented musicians. It’s really remarkable and they are truly one of the most influential and important chamber ensembles of the last 50 years. I think that they're also extremely talented teachers and they’re going to retire partly because some of them want to go on and spend more time teaching.

And for Jorgensen, they have performed here since 1992, five or six times so it just seemed fitting that we should include them in this season during their final season of touring. It’s a nice way to book their career here at Jorgensen.

WSHU: Is this the first year back to in-person events for the Jorgensen Center?

RR: We came back into in-person performances in the fall of 2021. We were operating with in-person performances but with limited audience capacity, socially distanced seating, masks were required and also patrons had to verify their vaccination status to attend performances in person.

The state of Connecticut has lifted a lot of these requirements this year so they’re recommended now, not required. We’re not socially distancing in the seating so we are back to full capacity and we are no longer verifying vaccination status.

WSHU: Where can people find tickets to come see these performances?

RR: Tickets are available at https://jorgensen.uconn.edu/ and the box office is (860) 486-4226. Most people are ordering online so you can order tickets 24/7 online. So many of us are UConn students and I always like to reinforce that they get free tickets or that many can receive one free ticket for most events.

There are a few exceptions, but for most events, UConn students can attend for free. And then if you’re talking about chamber music events; our chamber series, thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to offer free tickets to youth basically from first grade up through college here throughout the state of Connecticut

Janet is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2022.