Afiara…The e-Quartet

October 15, 2015.

The Afiara, “a quartet for the 21st century”

Timothy Kantor, Eric Wong, Caroline Léonardelli, Valerie Li, Adrian Fung
Timothy Kantor, Eric Wong, Caroline Léonardelli, Valerie Li, Adrian Fung

If you were in the audience for their participation in the Music in the Afternoon opening concert of the 118th season, you may have noticed a few missing page turns. If you were sitting close enough, you may have noticed the iPads on their music stands and the click pedals at their feet, as they read their parts from pdfs rather than paper for some of the pieces they performed – a première of a different sort for the WMCT.


The conveniences of this system for the touring musician are clear – your whole repertoire on one device whose battery you have remembered to charge, with copies in the hands of your fellow performers, and as many backups on thumbdrives as necessary for your peace of mind. So expect to see more e-ensembles in future.

In the recent Toronto Summer Music Festival, the Borromeo Quartet, a pioneer in this approach, performed their signature concert, the complete Bartok Quartet cycle in one evening, from electronically scanned full scores, with Apple computers on purpose-built stands! The Afiara, according to violist Eric Wong, are still flexible, using e-scores to advantage in rehearsal or performance, but relying on paper on occasion.
For harpists however, this future may be a long time coming. As explained by Erica Goodman, our Tuning Your Mind speaker, and in John Mayo’s notes, changing accidentals on their instrument requires constant footwork on seven pedals, each with three positions, leaving no toe free to tap the automatic page turner. So while the Afiara gazed at screens, Caroline Léonardelli played Grandjany’s Rhapsodie from the original 1922 French publication, a fragile, yellowing print.

~ Kathleen McMorrow