Quartet begins 6-concert series


June 23, 1993|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Staff Writer

A few minutes before noon yesterday, four musicians set up TC umbrellas, chairs and music stands under a huge tree in the middle of a grassy area at West Mount Vernon Place.

The musicians organized, clipped music sheets to the stands and tuned their instruments -- two violins, a viola and a cello.

Then, as the clock struck 12, the Amaryllis String Quartet began the first of its six free lunch-hour concerts by playing Mouret's "Fanfare," a piece mostly recognized as the theme of "Masterpiece Theatre."

Weather permitting, the Tuesday concerts will be staged in the park at Cathedral and Monument streets. In the event of rain, they will be moved to the nearby Peabody Institute.

The last concert is scheduled for Aug. 3. There will be no concert July 20.

The concerts are promoted by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, a business group, and Friends of Mount Vernon, a civic organization that also provides money to stage the concerts.

Connie Caplan, a member of Friends of Mount Vernon's planning committee, would not say how much money the group is providing.

Downtown Partnership also sponsors a concert series on Thursday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. through July 29 in Center Plaza, at Fayette, Charles and Liberty streets, said spokesman Brian Lewbart.

"The whole effort has been to revitalize the cultural center of Baltimore . . . to get people to enjoy parks and to call attention to the pleasures of city living," Ms. Caplan said. "It's a celebration of the city.

"And where else can you go to work, take a lunch break, come outside and enjoy some music?" she said. "It's just not like being in a Beltway office building."

The Washington Monument, usually closed on Tuesdays, will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the concerts, said Jennifer Morgan, a curator.

The Amaryllis String Quartet is made up of four members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Mari Matsumoto and Melissa Zaraya are the violinists, Sharon Myer is the violist, and Esther Mellon is the cellist.

Tuesdays are the quartet's days off from the orchestra.

Ms. Zaraya figures the concerts "might be something really good for the business community during lunchtime [because] it's for people who want to come out, eat and relax by listening to some music."

Relaxing was exactly what Matthew Moran was doing as he ate his lunch and read a book. A service representative for a dessert manufacturer in Suitland in Prince George's County, he said he had not known about the concerts but was pleased.

"I think it's great. It's nice to sit down and listen to some nice music," he said. "Couldn't have happened on a better day, either."

Gloria Manns, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. employee, said she discovered the concert as she walked by. Her office is at Liberty and Lexington streets, several blocks south.

"I really don't know too much about classical music. I have heard some," Ms. Manns said, as the quartet broke into a Scott Joplin rag. "But I find it very relaxing and soothing. This is something they should have more of around this time of day."

Jeffry Connolly, who was with daughter Christiana, 4, was enjoying a day off from work at St. Alphonsus School on West Saratoga Street. "I think it's just good to have it in the park," he said. "To have it in the park makes it more enjoyable for everyone.

"And being a resident near here, I just think it makes the neighborhood even nicer," said Mr. Connolly who lives on Monument Street.

Christiana said she liked the music because "it's classical." Asked whether she knew what classical music was, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Nope, but it's good."

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