Resonance riffs on a capella model

Classical music at Yale has recently had some serious work done, and when she makes her public debut this Saturday in an intimate setting among friends and admirers, she’s bound to turn some heads.

According to members of the newly formed Resonance Chamber Ensemble, fans of classical music at Yale have been calling for something different than the grandiose experience of a Yale Symphony Orchestra concert. Students want chamber music — performed by a small group of musicians in a small room, with a huge amount of passion — and Resonance plans to deliver, drawing on the familiar structure of Yale’s a cappella groups to tap members, tour venues and attract a close fan base on campus.

Matt Mouradian, Sam Bagg and Kensho Watanabe are just three BAMFs looking for an intimate setting where they can play classical music.
Jonathan Jimenez
Matt Mouradian, Sam Bagg and Kensho Watanabe are just three BAMFs looking for an intimate setting where they can play classical music.

In various forms, Resonance has existed at Yale since the spring of 2006, when childhood pals Samuel Bagg ’09 and Kensho Watanabe ’09 — who originally met at Greenwood Music Camp — founded the Malibu Five quintet with three of their musician friends. This year the members have made the group an official Yale organization, changing the name and taking on new musicians. On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Branford Common Room, Resonance will perform its first concert as an official Yale group, and it promises to be a passionate, energetic show.

In part, Resonance hopes to bring classical music to people who may not appreciate its worth. Bagg, the group’s president, said while some non-musicians may be turned off by the overwhelming and sometimes obscure sound of a full orchestra, chamber music offers a much more personal and engaging experience.

“When done right, it can be an intense, unforgettable experience for the musicians and the listeners, something I’ve seen from both ends,” Bagg said in an e-mail. “Classical music doesn’t have to be neutered or dry, but can in fact be emotional, forceful and exhilarating.”

Indeed, the previous concerts of the Malibu Five were extremely popular. The group played a series of shows called “Midnight Concerts,” which usually featured particularly lively and accessible pieces from the Romantic or Modern periods.

During the semester the Malibu Five formed, their first concert, “Midnight Brahms,” was a huge success, Bagg said. The following year, their concert at St. Anthony Hall was so popular that they had to turn people away at the door.

“I think Resonance is the first group that’s able to tie serious musicianship and high-quality study with a truly social experience,” said Jonathan Bregman ’10, who plays viola with the group. “That’s what makes it fun.”

Heartened by the success of these concerts, Bagg and his fellow musicians decided to make the group official, finding inspiration for its organization in the Yale a cappella groups. The familiar process of tapping members and going on tour seemed to fit Resonance’s goals perfectly. Matthew Mouradian ’09, the group’s tour manager, is pushing to make touring a reality.

“We’re working on a demo CD, which we could send to places where we want to play,” Mouradian said. “Our focus right now is to have the music ready before we start thinking about the tour.”

By all standards, Resonance is off to a good start. They’re adamant about establishing themselves as an organization that will persist even after the current members graduate. Their new “official” status will help in that regard, and they’ve even begun to contact members of the class of 2012.

“We’ve found a really nice group in the classes of ’09, ’10, and ’11,” Bagg said. “So now we just have to make sure that the classes of ’12 and beyond continue to share our enthusiasm for chamber music!”

And as if the good music weren’t enough, Bagg promised “good food” at Saturday’s concert. Sitting in an intimate space listening to Haydn and Beethoven, with cookies and watermelon cubes in hand — what more could anyone want?

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