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Live at the Quartet Bar - Interview with Sharon Grigoryan

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by Tema (subscribe)
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Supplied by Adelaide Festival Centre

Bringing together some of Australia's top musicians in a new music series curated by Sharon Grigoryan (cellist with the Australian String Quartet) from November 12 - December 16, 2019, Live At The Quartet Bar in the Adelaide Festival Centre promises to offer their audience with a unique music series in an intimate yet relaxed environment. The Australian String Quartet will involve the talents of Anna Goldsworthy, Helen Ayres, Slava and Sharon Grigoryan, who will create a channel of connection and communication between the audience and the music and break down any barriers around the enjoyment of classical music by making it an engaging and pleasant experience for everyone involved.

In anticipation of their upcoming performance piece Live at the Quartet Bar, I was fortunate enough to have an interview with Sharon about the show - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Sharon: I am currently the cellist with the Australian String Quartet - a position that I've held since 2013. I also perform in a duo with my husband Slava Grigoryan, and am the Artistic Director of the Barossa, Baroque and Beyond festival, currently in its fifth year.

Tema: What about music spoke to you in a sense that you decided to pursue a career in the industry?
Sharon: Both of my parents were musicians and music teachers, so I grew up surrounded by music. It was always in my blood and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would have a life in music.

Tema: Can you tell us about Live At The Quartet Bar at the Adelaide Festival Centre?
Sharon: I'm looking forward to this little series, as it strives to break down the invisible barrier between the performers and the audience. Classical music can often be viewed as a little snobby or intimidating to those who have never been to a concert before. This is a series of three gigs in a small and casual setting, where the audience is free to wear whatever they want and have a drink whilst listening to the performance. The musicians will be talking to the audience a little before each piece they play, and the whole atmosphere is very relaxed. More like a gig at a pub than a classical concert at a concert hall!

Tema: How did you come up with the concept of the series?
Sharon: My string quartet (the ASQ) has a series called Close Quarters, which the four of us came up with a couple of years ago. It is exactly that concept - short performances in small and intimate venues (not necessarily your typical performance venue) where the vibe is extremely casual. To me, it is a no-brainer that this is one of the best ways to present classical music.

Tema: Who are the key individuals involved in this show and how did you decide on who was going to be a part of the Live At The Quartet Bar series?
Sharon: We have some of Adelaide's (and Australia's) top performers in this series - pianist Anna Goldsworthy, violinist Helen Ayres, the Australian String Quartet, and Slava Grigoryan and myself.
One of my prerequisites for asking musicians to play was that they all had to be lovely people, who are also excited about breaking down those barriers and interacting with the audience.

Helen Ayres. Photo supplied by the Adelaide Festival Centre

Anna Goldsworthy. Photo supplied by the Adelaide Festival Centre

Tema: What about the Quartet Bar caught your eye as the ideal spot for these performances?
Sharon: It's relaxed, intimate, and easy for the audience to grab a drink whilst they listen. I didn't want the venue to be in a traditional concert setting. After all, chamber music was originally performed in people's living rooms - not concert halls.

Tema: Who is the target audience for your show?
Sharon: Anyone! Young, old, children, classical music buffs and people who have never listened to a lot of classical music before.

Tema: What can audiences expect from attending your show?
Sharon: Great music, getting to know the performers and the music that they will be playing, and a relaxing, fun hour that is a perfect way to unwind after work, or perhaps a perfect introduction to the classical music world.

Tema: Can you tell us a bit about your career highlights so far?
Sharon: I never really love answering this question, because we are lucky as musicians to always be doing what we love, no matter where it is or who it is with. It feels a little silly to narrow it down to even a few. So I will just mention one (as it's either one, or 100) that always comes to mind, which was performing Mozart's "Cosi" opera in drought-stricken regional Victoria. The venue was a huge pig shed, and it was packed with farmers who had travelled from all around the region - some for 4-5 hours to get to the show. After the gig, we all went across to the town's one pub with the audience. It was amazing and just goes to show that classical music can transcend all social barriers and speak to everyone, if they are willing to listen.

Tema: What about being part of the ASQ family has proven to be invigorating for you?
Sharon: Absolutely everything. The standard and detail of music-making has been both inspirational and challenging - there is never any room to hide or coast in a string quartet. Also the unrelenting pressure of everything else as well as the music-making - being one of the artistic directors, being constantly on the road with only three other people, the emails, the meetings - all of it has made me grow so much as a person as well as a musician.

Tema: What does a day in the life of Sharon look like, when you're not working?
Sharon: In the rare occasions where I am home and not working, I just love being with my family. We have a 15-month-old boy, so naturally, the days revolve around looking after him at the moment. Sadly my husband and I aren't often home together for long at the same time, so when we are, we love taking Seb out to the park, or to the farmer's markets. We have some chickens and an edible garden so we love pottering around in that, and the best night ever for us is Slava cooking a delicious dinner from the farmer's markets and our garden and having a martini together after Seb has fallen asleep.

Live At The Quartet Bar will be presented in the Adelaide Festival Centre (AFC) from November 12 - December 16, 2019. Book your tix here.

Slava and Sharon - Live at the Quartet Bar. Photographer: Simon Shiff

With thanks to the Adelaide Festival Centre for the interview opportunity.
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Why? Classical music deserves to be enjoyed in a pleasant and social setting!
When: Nov 12 - Dec 16, 2019
Where: Quartet Bar, Adelaide Festival Centre
Cost: $25 - $30
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