mike bragg

Delgani Quartet review: Intense cohesion

Eugene string quartet's multimedia American Portraits concert shows strong connections -- and occasional disconnects between style and content


An ensemble of young, talented musicians who are connected with their time and respectful of their musical heritage, the Delgani Quartet is bravely staring down the four-year residency curse that plagues the Eugene local concert music community. At the final concert of their inaugural season, American Portrait, the quartet unquestionably established themselves as A-league talent.

Delgani String Quartet. Photo: Mike Bragg.

Delgani String Quartet. Photo: Mike Bragg.

Delgani is a tightly woven whole that brings the entirety of their various musical talents and personalities to bear on the music they bring to life. At times in the May 20 concert at Springfield’s Sprout Center, the players seemed to forget the audience and slip into a kind of synchronistic joy. At other times, this intense cohesion kept the ensemble from accessing higher musicality. Regardless, the astutely curated program of American music allowed the ensemble to showcase their virtuosity and to demonstrate their affinity with our country’s concert music.


Delgani Quartet preview: Celebrating American sounds and scenes

String quartet's debut season finale blends music and images with music by American composers


Editor’s note: In its inaugural season, Eugene-based Delgani String Quartet has performed to sold out venues, commissioned new music by Oregon composers Paul Safar and Terry McQuilkin, and collaborated with oral interpreter Rickie Birran and guitarist James Bishop-Edwards.

For its final concert, American Portrait, visual artist Mike Bragg joins Delgani in paying homage to American composers Lou Harrison, William Grant Still, George Gershwin and Jennifer Higdon on May 21 at Sprout!, a regional food hub, marketplace, and entertainment venue in downtown Springfield.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

ArtsWatch has been following this exciting new ensemble from its premiere of new works by Oregon composers in November, to its early spring concert featuring contemporary music of Latin America. As the group wraps up its first full season, we asked artistic director True about the ensemble’s inaugural year and its season-ending concert.

Celebrating American Music

Wyatt True: American Portrait was inspired by the Oregon Multimedia Project for violin and piano that I was working on during much of 2014/15 and also by our friendship with Mike Bragg. We love the idea of music with photography and film and feel it creates a real experience for the audience—it’s a concert we would want to go to!


Guest artist Mike Bragg Photo: Delgani Quartet.

Mike specializes in all kinds of visual art but has recently been involved with aerial drone footage. Expect expansive views of the Southern Willamette Valley and the coast but also close-up nature shots.

Coming across Jennifer Higdon‘s Sky Quartet convinced us to pursue this project because Higdon’s piece is inspired by the Western sky. In the program notes from her website, Higdon says: “When I began composing Sky Quartet, I envisioned the wonder and immensity of the Western sky. Every time I’ve been west of the Mississippi, I’ve always marveled at that exquisite canvas of blue and clouds. This work paints musical portraits of the sky in various stages: start of a day, the rapture of its “blueness,” a storm-wrenched fury, and its vast immensity.”

Higdon’s words, along with the music itself, almost require photography or video accompaniment in performance. The music will be accompanied by lots of sky imagery, or course, and especially time-lapse photography. This piece is really the cornerstone of the whole evening.

Portland-born Lou Harrison’s String Quartet Set is a fabulous piece and one that represents an American composer paying homage to European compositional traditions. William Grant Still‘s Lyric Suite is a beautiful work that is reminiscent of the southern United States—Still was born in Mississippi and grew up in Arkansas. George Gershwin‘s Lullaby, a lesser known work by one of our country’s most famous composers, will offer a final calm after the energetic Higdon quartet.

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California. Photo: Eva Soltes

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California.
Photo: Eva Soltes

The program includes works that geographically cover the entire United States from New York to the deep South to the West Coast. The program also features works that are very different from each other—a feature that is entirely American!


Delgani String Quartet celebrates Oregon art

Young Eugene ensemble collaborates with other artists and includes new Oregon music in its 2015-16 season.


Last winter, members of Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet were browsing the Eugene Holiday Market when they encountered an actor performing Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. They were so riveted by Rickie Birran, from Man of Words Theatre Company, that they immediately knew they wanted to collaborate with him someday.

 Photo Header: Caption: Delgani String Quartet with Kelly Quesada (cello), Morgan O’Shaughnessey (violin), Wyatt True (violin), and Jannie Wei (violin).

Delgani String Quartet with Kelly Quesada (cello), Morgan O’Shaughnessey (violin), Wyatt True (violin), and Jannie Wei (violin).

That spring, Delgani performed Eugene composer Paul Safar’s Moonfish in a special concert of the composer’s work. “We loved Paul Safar’s music on its own, but we thought he was especially great at using music to complement and help convey text,” recalled Delgani founding member Kelly Quesada in an ArtsWatch email interview. It seemed a natural fit, when the ensemble commissioned Safar to compose a piece for its next season, to invite Birran to recite selected texts from sources such as The Wind in the Willows, Don Quixote, Beowulf, and Paradise Lost, set to Safar’s music as well as that of earlier classical composers.

That January 16, 2016 “Man of Words” concert, the second in the quartet’s upcoming season, exemplifies the Delgani Quartet’s 2015-16 four-concert series celebrating Oregon art. Founded last year, the ensemble aims to create new multidisciplinary works of art that are distinctly Oregonian and will exist beyond the scope of these performances, so each performance this season will feature a collaboration with at least one Oregon artist from the realms of music, theater, and the visual arts.