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Lafayette College’s Williams Center for the Arts will host a special presentation by the Turtle Island String Quartet and the Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo, with a new work by Dusan Bogdanovich, at noon Wednesday, Feb. 16. The event is free and open to the public. Dessert and coffee will be served.

The ensembles will perform the same program the following evening at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall as part of the “New Sounds” Series produced by WNYC broadcaster John Shaffer. Bogdanovich will be present at the Lafayette event.

Michael Newman and Laura Oltman have been making music together since they met at the Aspen Music Festival in 1977. They were Lafayette’s Alan and Wendy Pesky Artists-in-Residence in 1993-94 and 1995-96. They also have been Ensemble-in-Residence at New York’s Mannes College of Music. Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo’s concert tours have swept through 49 states in the U.S., as well as covering Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. Along with the Turtle Island String Quartet, Newman and Oltman have collaborated with such artists as mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, violinist Arnold Steinhardt, and the Alexander, Lark, and Manhattan string quartets.

Oltman teaches at Rutgers and Princeton universities, while Newman serves on the faculty of Mannes College of Music. They make their home in Alpha, N.J., and are co-directors of the award-winning Raritan Music Festival presented every May.

New violinists Evan Price and David Balakrishan join violist Mark Summer and cellist Danny Seidenberg to comprise the Turtle Island String Quartet. Their pioneering music has drawn praise from all quarters. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma calls the group “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground…authentic and passionate…a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.” Billboard Magazine says, “This unique, jazzy four-piece continues to entertain with its distinctive brand of tight, impressive bow-etry in motion.” The Miami Sun-Sentinel writes that one of its concerts generated “an intensity that brought the crowd to its feet; cheering as if at a football game…in a word, wild!” The Portland Oregonian describes the quartet this way: “Innovators to the core, the group was founded on an exploration of forms that had never been attempted in a traditional string quartet format. And they did it with amazing power and finesse. Their brilliant leads rise and subside seamlessly into the ensemble sound, keeping the focus on storyline and rhythmic pulse, and leading their listeners deeper into a comforting musical spell…”

Taking its name from creation mythology found in Native American folklore, the Turtle Island String Quartet began in 1986 in Oakland, Calif.. The group has been a singular force in the creation of bold new trends in chamber music for strings. By fusing the classical quartet esthetic with 20th century American popular styles, and by devising a performance practice that honors both, the quartet has redefined the state of the art. Turtle Island Quartet has gone through forays into folk and bluegrass styles, swing jazz, be-bop, post-bop, classical Indian forms, funk and R&B, New Age, rock and hip-hop, bossa nova and salsa – a repertoire consisting of hundreds of arrangements and originals. Another unique element of the group is its revival of the venerable chamber traditions of improvisation and composition.

In addition to U.S. venues, Turtle Island String Quartet’s tours have taken it to Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, South America, and Canada. National television appearances include “CBS News Sunday Morning” and NBC’s “Today Show.”

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Bogdanovich now lives in the United States. He wrote new pieces for the six performers, including “No Feathers On This Frog,” which is based on a Balkan song that his mother sang. This work and his Sonata Fantasies are based on Balkan folklore.

“The Phrygian mode and odd-metrics are characteristic for the whole Levantine region, of which the Balkans are an outpost,” he explains. “Owing to a multitude of factors, the Balkan folklore is incredibly rich and diversified, and has been a source for much crossover between folk and classical music. It is in this tradition that I have written the two pieces”

For more information, call the Williams Center, (610) 330-5010.

The 1999-2000 Performance Series at Lafayette College is sponsored, in part, by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Mid Atlantic Foundation for the Arts.

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