BY KURT ALLEN
Nearly midway through last week’s concert by the Dallas String quartet, the group’s leader Ion Zanca drew laughter from a large audience at the Crockett Civic Center. Not only are there six members of the quartet, none of the members are from Dallas, either.
That mattered little to the audience as they were treated to a show that featured Christmas cheer, entertaining musical mixtures and even a little emotion. It was a show that delivered on the promise of Ann Walker, executive director of the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association, to blow the roof off the arena.
The concert, which featured an eclectic blend of classical, holiday and modern sounds, kicked off the quartet’s tour promoting a new album released in November. Crockett was the group’s first stop of the tour.
Opening with the traditional holiday theme of “Oh, Holy Night,” the group wrapped the show with the distinctly non-holiday Neil Diamond tune “Sweet Caroline,” which included vocal accompaniment by the audience itself. In between these two, the group performed nearly 20 other pieces. The ending of the performance brought the crowd to their feet.
“We are so happy to be here,” said violinist Melissa Priller. “This is our first Christmas album and we’re excited to start our tour right here in Crockett.
In the opening piece, the audience got an instant taste of DSQ’s unique style. After violinists Zanca, Priller and Eleanor Dunbar traded off with peaceful, serene sections, the rest of the group – featuring South Korean bassist Young Heo, Mexican drummer Efren Gusman Jr., and Texan guitarist Anthony Plant – raised the energy level with a crescendo of lively tones. The piece lived up to the group’s style, described as Bach to Bon Jovi.
The next tune was “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which quickly built into a light, bouncy and playful tune backed up by a strong piano foundation.
“My Favorite Things,” a popular tune from the movie/musical “The Sound of Music,” turned into a jazzy piece with the trio of violinists playing off each other as the piece built to a strong end.
The first distinctly non-holiday tune followed with Sting’s “Englishman in New York.” Showing their strength as musicians, the group perfectly portrayed a brisk walk through Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, followed by a section that evoked sensations of a carriage ride through a crisp Central Park night.
“As you can see, we will be feature some Christmas tunes, and something else,” said Zanca prior to the next piece. “We come from all over the world and this song exemplifies our life touring and performing on the road.
That piece – “Gypsy Airs” by Pablo de Saraste, opened with a haunting solo by Dunbar, the notes wavering and creating a tone that made the violin sound like it was crying. Then, the rest of the group pushed in, creating a Figaro-like dance piece.
Plant led off the next piece with a self-created arrangement of “What Child is This,” and the familiar tunes of “Greensleeves” dominated the guitar-drum duo performance that followed.
The next song was the group’s first wholly unique arrangement, called “Drops of Jewels,” a nod to Zanca’s young son Julian. The entire piece evoked emotions of a child playing outside, with the music following his activities throughout the day.
The final song before intermission was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Zanca encouraged the audience to sing along to the familiar song.
Following intermission, the audience was treated to a distinctly different second performance. The violinists, shedding both their formal attire and their seats, came out dressed in “rocker” clothing, performing the rest of the night while standing.
The first piece of the second half, Led Zepplin’s “Sibelius/Kashmir,” set the tone of a much livelier, rock-driven section. The trio of violinists ditched their traditional instruments and instead used electric versions, which made the resulting sounds even more unique.
With “Carol of the Bells,” the full rock-heavy feature of the group came out. The song, a mainstay of similar groups like Trans Siberian Orchestra, had the audience cheering by the end.
Keeping the pace lively, “All I want For Christmas” offered a childlike feel followed by a dance-worthy pace.
Talking about the group’s style, Dunbar said DSQ had its roots in pure classical music. But as they evolved, so did their repertoire of selections. As the group continued to add more modern pieces, they discovered the challenge of mixing two distinctive styles.
“We were in the studio and I was playing (classical Italian violinist Niccolo) Paganini, and Ion said ‘that’s too many notes.’ To counter, he started playing Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will Survive,’” Dunbar said.
Soon, the two were “dueling” each other with the two songs, which is how the group created the next piece, “I Will Survive Paganini.”
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was the group’s next piece, and it featured a piano line that sounded like falling snow, followed by violinists creating a by-the-fireplace feel to end it.
The piece “Sugar Plum/James Bond” followed, highlight the group’s ability to merge classical and modern. The solo violin work of Priller created a serene theme that was countered by the more sinister and familiar James Bond theme. The piece easily moved from dreamlike to nightmare with the addition of guitar, bass and drums.
Vanca then shared the story of how he came from his native Romania to the United States and told of how his faith in God helped him find his place and his purpose. He followed the story with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” that was both haunting and uplifting.
In the next piece, Priller and Dunbar battled each other in “Texas Duel,” another DSQ original, each featuring their own unique style and sound in counterpoint to each other.
The next-to-last piece of the night – “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder – had a 1970s disco/dance feel throughout, and gave each group member an opportunity to play solo for the audience.
In the last piece – “Sweet Caroline” – the audience again was invited to add vocal accompaniment, leading to a rousing finish and a standing ovation.
The group’s next tour stop will be Jan. 8 in Colorado. The next major event for the PWFAA at the Civic Center will be Asleep at the Wheel on Feb. 1.
Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation 2020 Recipients
Organizations that lay the foundation for stronger communities will have more resources to help them help others thanks to Brookshire Brothers. On Tuesday, January 21st the Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation awarded $123,000 in grants to 36 nonprofit organizations and 4 education foundations across its market area. The grants give organizations the resources they need to continue living out their mission of serving those in need. Trustees and company executives presented funds to the recipients at the Brookshire Brothers’ Distribution Center in Lufkin, Texas.
In making the presentations, Brookshire Brothers President, CEO and Charitable Foundation Board Member John Alston said, “You make things happen in your communities. You change lives. We are grateful to have the opportunity to help you live out your mission. We thank you for what you do every day.”
During the last decade, the Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation has given more than a million dollars to a variety of non-profits. For nearly twenty years, Brookshire Brothers has invited its vendors to play in two Charitable Foundation golf tournaments each year. Vendor partners appreciate the opportunity to network with their colleagues while raising money for non-profits – all which support children and families and align with Brookshire Brothers’ core value of being a community grocer. Each year, the funds are granted based on the organizations’ needs and application requests.
The 2020 recipients are:
The Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation in an effort to continue to equip our non-profits to carry out their mission and steward their resources wisely, is also inviting a representative from each nonprofit to attend the 3rd Annual Angelina College Nonprofit Leadership Conference on Friday, January 31st courtesy of the Charitable Foundation.
In addition to these contributions, Brookshire Brothers has a separate employee-run Donations Committee, which meets monthly to consider hundreds of donation requests from throughout the company’s footprint.
Brookshire Brothers is employee-owned and community driven. Its assets include 115 retail outlets incorporating grocery stores, convenience stores, as well as free standing tobacco, pharmacy and petro locations. Its footprint stretches east to Lake Charles, Louisiana, west to Dublin, Texas, north to Whitesboro, Texas and south to Ganado, Texas. For more information about Brookshire Brothers and its family of brands please visit www.brookshirebrothers.com.