When The Beatles first landed on American soil in what was dubbed the “British Invasion,” the world of music was forever altered.
Now, more than 50 years later, a new and powerful Fab Four is making a name for itself in the upper echelons of chamber music – and they happen to be dropping onto the WICA stage in Langley on Aug. 30.
At first glance, Eliza Millett, Aliayta Foon-Dancoes, Emily Earl and Clara Loeb could be just any foursome of 20-something besties frolicking down the street, laughing and chatting on an extended road trip. But all that changes when they bound onto a stage as the Echéa Quartet, dressed like regal divas and carefully sliding bows onto waiting violins, viola and violoncello.
The instruments spring to life under the expert hands of these highly trained musicians from the Royal Academy of Music in London. The room goes silent, and it’s obvious that something extraordinary is about to occur.
The foursome came together in 2017 as students from the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S., forming the Echéa Quartet and quickly blossoming under the tutelage of world masters. Similar to the Juilliard School of Music in New York, London’s Royal Academy of Music is Europe’s crème de la crème of performing arts conservatories.
As WICA board member Bill Nesbeitt puts it, the Academy is “no slouch at all.”
Nesbeitt should know, being among the select few violinists to have been offered a coveted spot and a scholarship to study at Juilliard as a young man.
Nesbeitt opted instead to accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy West Point and served as an officer in the U.S. Army, but he never lost his abiding love for the arts. His ongoing connections to the world of orchestral music played a crucial part in bringing Echéa Quartet to the Whidbey Island Center of the Arts this month.
It’s no small feat to wrangle this wildly popular quartet to South Whidbey, as they happen to be in the throes of a whirlwind North American tour at the moment. Currently performing in Canadian venues from Banff to Alberta, Vancouver and Victoria, the vivacious foursome is dropping into Langley on Aug. 29, performing on the 30th, and jetting back out again.
Globe-trotting is hardly anything new to the award-winning tunemasers of Echéa, with a list of accomplishments, performances and prizes from the likes of the International Anton Rubinstein Chamber Music Competition in Düsseldorf, Germany. They’ve also been semi-finalists in the Royal Overseas-League Music Competition, performed at the Musikverein in Vienna, and appeared in collaboration with Marin Alsop at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The list goes on to include touring Virginia as the Fellowship Quartet at Wintergreen Performing Arts and as a member of Le Dimore del Quartetto in Italy. But it’s not all high-brow music.
Echéa’s dedication to the performance of “new music” has taken them to the Krama Contemporary Music Festival in Athens, and their affinity for education prompted them to create and perform in a family show at the Waterperry Opera Festival based on Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”
Regardless of how far Echéa Quartet has already been in the short time since graduating from London’s Royal Academy of Music, it’s clear they have many more miles to go in flourishing careers. After another year touring as the Academy’s Fellowship String Quartet for 2019/20, they plan to go professional.