A public jam session turns into classical classes and stage performances
By Cory Schachtel | November 3, 2022
Couples Keith Hamm (viola) and Julie Hereish (cello), and Laura Veeze (viola, violin) and Robert Uchida (viola) all play in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. They also live on the same street in Garneau which, during the first summer of the pandemic, they brought to life with their musical gifts. They’re like a classical Fleetwood Mac, without the break-up angst.
“We were rehearsing in our backyard and playing on 86th Ave for neighbours,” says Hamm. “Garneau is a really close community and the owners of Upper Crust Cafe, once they get wind of something like this going on in the street, they tell everyone, so sometimes there were a couple hundred people on the street just listening to Mozart. It was a really fun way to start the group.”
The group is the Garneau String Quartet, and they’ve brought their bowing abilities to MacEwan University as its first quartet in residence, offering a weekly class for teenagers (12-18) like the kind they attended as kids but haven’t seen since moving to the city. Over the year-long term, they work with string and piano students on a piece of music in the best way they know how: together.
“If you ever learned a musical instrument when you were young, you may have thought, ‘I don’t really like practicing that much,’” Hamm says. “But I really think of music as a team sport, just like soccer or hockey: If you really want to get into it and enjoy playing, you should play with other kids. And it’s hard to do that with classical music unless there are programs in place in your city that make that happen. So we really wanted to give that kind of team sport offering in a musical way for young people.”
Of course, the quartet also loves to perform, so they’ve included a concert series as well. CBC Radio 2’s Tom Allen will host the first performance, and his wife, harpist Lori Gemmell, will join the quartet as the series’ first special guest. It’s a thoroughly musical family affair, with shows planned for January, April and June 2023. But you can see the inaugural performance, November 7, at Muttart Hall.