A classical music concert is often like a meal – appetizer, main course, side dishes and, if you’re lucky, some scrumptious dessert at the end. But at concerts of the eclectic classical chamber ensemble Quartetto Gelato, you get to skip the meal and go straight to dessert.
“You watch a concert, and then you wait to the very end when the encore comes on to hear the fun stuff, like the dessert,” Maier said in a recent phone interview. “Peter said, ‘Why can’t it all be fun, dessert-type music?’”
Hence, Quartetto Gelato’s name, honoring the tutti frutti of the music world, shamelessly indulging their cravings (and, if we’re honest about it, our cravings, too) for fizzed-up fun in repertoire as varied as gypsy songs and Celtic folk tunes, opera arias and fresh arrangements of French cabaret numbers.
The quartet performs on a veritable sundae bar of instruments with – like the proverbial cherry on top – an accordion in the middle of it all.
When you’re looking for fun, follow the accordion.
Quartetto Gelato will serve up a program of “The Best of Quartetto Gelato,” Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m. in the Southern Theatre.
Presented by Chamber Music Columbus, the concert will feature fresh arrangements of traditional Eastern European dances and gypsy tunes, the ensemble’s unique arrangement of an Édith Piaf hit, Celtic dances and more. In other words, some of what the quartet knows gets people into the sweet spirit of things.
“It’s the music that really gets the audience either excited or laughing or crying or feeling something,” Maier said. “It’s a combination of the music we are personally attached to, mixed with the music we feel connects best with the audience.”
It’s music that, in different hands, would take a whole orchestra to play. Quartetto Gelato, though, is much more than a quartet. Each of the Canadian ensemble’s members performs on more than one instrument, making it easy for them to create fresh arrangements of songs and pieces from all corners of the music world.
A member of Quartetto Gelato since 2009, Maier says he came to the group’s attention as a possible clarinetist for the group. He also came with an extensive background in theater, gymnastics and acrobatics, which he had been incorporating into his musical work.
And like Quartetto Gelato’s performances – which the musicians often change moment by moment according to what the audience digs each night – Maier’s audition for the group turned into a party.
“I came into the audition and said, ‘I don’t want to do clarinet. I’ll play one song on clarinet, but I’ll play the oboe,’” Maier said. “And then I offered all these other things that I can do – I can dance, I can do gymnastics, I can play other instruments. I said, ‘I do this trick sometimes where I go into the splits while I play, and they were like, ‘Why don’t you do it between two chairs, like Jean-Claude Van Damme?’ And I said, ‘Uh, okay. Never done that before, but let’s try it.’”
Then, Maier says, the pizza arrived.
Today, a decade after that fateful audition, Maier still pulls out the splits while playing the oboe, he does some Ukranian dancing while playing the violin – and who knows what else?
Maier says Saturday’s audience can expect some true surprises.
“There’ll be one new piece which we’re just putting together now, which is going to be a surprise instrument, actually,” he said. “So if that comes to fruition, then there’ll be a surprise instrument. It’s a nontraditional instrument. That’s the hint I’ll give.”
An evening of dessert, acrobatics and accordions. Go on. You know you want to.
Quartetto Gelato performs Saturday, April 13 at 8 p.m. in the Southern Theatre, presented by Chamber Music Columbus.