in performance: orchid quartet

Orchid Quartet. From left, Desiree Hazley, Molly Rogers, Kiara Ana Perico and Leah Metzler.

As an initial Friday evening greeting to a homecoming audience, Frankfort native Molly Rogers cued up some solo Bach on the violin as the other members of the Orchid Quartet sat armed and ready to join in at the Grand Theatre.

An artist infatuated for much of her career with film scores and themes (her many credits include touring with Oscar/Grammy winning composer Hans Zimmer), it was a good bet Rogers chose Bach’s familiar “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” not for its classical heritage but for its dual life as an aural moodpiece in a healthy number of ‘70s era horror flicks. Regardless, the opening passage, which Rogers tackled alone, had little in common with classical tradition or Hollywood. It instead was played with a giddy, gypsy air, revealing a loose but pronounced sense of folk drama. As the other members – co-violinist Desiree Hazley, violist Kiara Ana Perico and cellist Leah Metzler – entered, a more expected spirit of Bach took hold with an assured classical ensemble feel. But for that opening moment, Rogers was into something different altogether.

As the evening unfolded, the Orchid Quartet flexed its stylistic muscle generously. For instance, what do you follow Bach with? Why, Guns N’ Roses, of course – specifically, a stately cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” that transformed Slash’s trademark guitar riff into a largely minimalist string arpeggio that recalled, of all groups, Penguin Café Orchestra.

There were television and film themes galore sliced and diced into playful medleys, including one with a suitably dark mashup of the themes from “The Walking Dead” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to cement the program’s agenda. But what one was mostly left with in listening to the Orchid Quartet wasn’t so much the relationship between classical music and contemporary scores but a rather less obvious link between classical and folk.

The evening’s most generous classical offering, Dvorak’s “String Quartet in F Major,” underscored the work’s generous nod to folk melody and structure (hence the piece’s subtitle “American Quartet”) by echoing, in places, the Gershwin staple “Summertime.” That proved a curious reference as the group tackled “Summertime” directly and separately in the program’s second set, replacing the tune’s bluesy resignation with a ghostly folk dexterity. And what better song arsenal to pull from for this classical-folk skirmish than an elegant one-two punch of “Danny Boy” and “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Of course, all of this couldn’t help but play second fiddle (pun intended) to Rogers’ return to Frankfort. Now based in Los Angeles, she had it all on Friday – homecoming queen honors and the teamwork of three daring pals that transformed string quartet expectations into an inviting classical-folk travelogue.

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