As Henry Longfellow says, “Music is the universal language of mankind”. Whether you speak fluent Ke$ha or are bilingual in Psy-nese and Katy Perry-an, music has become much more than a way of communicating. As Beiber Fever and One Direction infection have proven, music can even represent a way of life. But with this bubble gum genre hogging the spotlight, we tend to forget about “real” music. Music made without auto-tune or t-pain apps. Music that, dare I say, also doesn’t need lyrics. Yes my friends, I am referring to none other than classical. I’m sure Beethoven and Tchaikovsky would roll over in their graves if they heard some of what we consider to be “music” today. At one point in history there were no words and no studios. Artists composed and performed pieces that represented something greater than themselves. But, just like every aspect of human life, music and entertainment change and evolve.
This Saturday November 3, at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis, you have a chance to witness a group that is truly unlike any other. ETHEL is a New York based post-classical string quartet group comprised of four talented individuals. They are currently on their 2012-13 tour Tell Me Something Good which pays tribute to the culture and sounds of the 1970s featuring rock superstar Todd Rundgren. I was lucky enough to interview Tema Watstein, violinist for ETHEL, before their show to talk about what we can expect to hear from them on Saturday.
As I’m sure many of you may be wondering, I asked what exactly does ETHEL mean? It is such a unique name for a group. Tema shared that in the beginning the group “was searching for a name. The original violinist for the group at the time was watching the movie Shakespeare in Love. I don’t know if you remember this part but Shakespeare was writing Romeo and Juliet but before he titled it that, it was titled Romeo and Ethel the Pirates Daughter. That’s where the name ETHEL came from”. Ever since then the group has been coming up with alternative etymologies for interviews. My next question for Tema was, for those people who may not be familiar with classical music what can they expect to hear on Saturday? In explaining their 2012-13 tour Tell Me Something Good, Tema says, “the tour is all about exploration of the 70s. ETHEL explores five different colors of this era. This combined with the sound of Todd Rundgren gives off an amazingly fun collaborative vibe. Fans can expect to hear music that is not traditional and super quiet in nature. Electric, funk tunes, video game music, there is a whole gambit of things. Very fun and very perky”. Tema herself has been playing violin for 18 years and last May, a mere two months before joining ETHEL, graduated from her Master’s Program in New York. She explains that the best part of a performance is “the joy you get from an audience response. This program has been fun and Tom Rundgren has amazing fans that appreciate our music as well. When you pump up an audience by playing for them, it gets you pumped up in return”.
On Saturday, you have a chance to be part of that engaging audience. Come travel back to the 1970s and jam out with ETHEL. Check out their website to find out more about the band and then visit the Mondavi Center’s website to get your tickets. With admission being affordable and with Davis being a mere twenty minutes away, you have no excuse not to go watch this amazing performance. Come hang out with me and photographer Mickey Martin for the night and experience all that is ETHEL.
Words Rica Douglas