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Baroque reborn through Iris
"For the members of the Iris Quartet, the May 19 Housing Resources Board benefit concert is a musical homecoming.We are four women who have professional lives in which we tour and play for large, large groups, flutist Janet See said, so this home concert, for which we prepare in a more relaxed atmosphere, is the highest quality of music-making for us. We look forward to the opportunity most eagerly. Conversely, the chance to see internationally renowned performers Janet See, Sandra Schwarz, Mary Alice Hendricks and Laurel Wells (substituting for Iris violist Kim Zabelle) on the island is a brass ring Bainbridge audiences might consider nabbing.The performers are on the cutting edge of a recent musical development - works played on period instruments. The 18th century audiences who heard Hayden and Mozart perform, heard the baroque and classical instruments the Iris Quartet play.See has the distinction of being the first instrumentalist to pick up the baroque flute, initiating a movement that has gained international support.The music is shaped by both the material of the instruments and stylistic choices made in playing them.The tip of the violin's bow is not weighted to even out the pressure of a stroke, as in the contemporary instrument; rather, the sound trails away as violinist draws the bow across the strings. In addition, the violin bow is held high up the shaft, shifting the balance from the modern grip at the end. While there is no way to hear the original music, Schwarz points to a wealth of descriptive treatises by 18th century musicologists.See believes a pre-school fan gave a more insightful description then most scholars when he told her the music from her wooden flute sounded like nature. These instruments have more nuance than the modern instrument, (which) is designed more for homogeneity of sound and for power, Schwarz said. In that, they resemble speech. See contrasts the modern flute's keys under every finger to the open stops of the baroque instrument. When playing a modern flute, one presses the key and the sound is cut off abruptly and precisely. The finger may descend over the baroque flute's open hole, though, with variable speed and subtlety. The newly formed Iris Quartet has given second life to a group of the same name Schwarz formed in the 1980s. The all-string original quartet, whose members lived in Chicago and New York, as well as Bainbridge, played for several years, disbanding when two of the members died. This second Iris is grounded in the long-term friendship between See and Schwarz, who met at Oberlin College in the 1970s. All four are island residents.I love to play for my own community, See said, to use my talent to give something back. "