MARQUETTE - The word "eclettico" is common in Italian - it translates as "eclectic." But there's another usage of the word that's quickly becoming well-known in the Upper Peninsula as the name of a local musical group.
The chamber ensemble Eclettico, which began as a string quartet more than five years ago, has grown substantially in size and has performed at venues including the Outback Art Fair and The Blueberry Fest. And while musicians are well-acquainted with the spotlight, Eclettico's mission is to give back to their community and, in particular, the local music programs.
The larger ensemble got its start on a wintry night three years ago when the four original members, Alexis Mahler, Dani Simandl, Sonja Prychitko and Lauren Perala were snowed in, in Appleton, Wis. The four musicians were brainstorming various musical arrangements and discussing the possibilities of adding to their group. Little did they know their idea would take off in such a big way. Today, Eclettico includes between 12 and 16 members, all from the U.P. Some travel from as far as Chicago, Ill. or Utah to perform in their annual winter concerts during the Christmas season.
From left, Eric Marta, Alexander Shahbazi, Tory Wood, Harold South and Andrew LaCombe of Eclettico rehearse for their winter concerts recently in Marquette. (Journal photos by Abbey Hauswirth)
"The great thing about our ensemble is if one person can't make it, there is always someone available and willing to fill in to perform," said Alexis Mahler, general manager of the ensemble.
Mahler said musicians traveling home for the concerts are only able to rehearse with the ensemble once or twice before the performances. They receive the music earlier and rehearse on their own. The larger group has traveled as far as Escanaba to perform. The quartet has performed at venues across the UP, lower Michigan and lower Wisconsin.
Mahler said as well-known as the group is becoming, there are several misconceptions regarding the music they play.
Violin: Danielle Simandl, Alexis Mahler, Sonja Prychitko, Matt Mitchell, Linnea Banitt, Sara Beck,
Lauren Pulcipher, David Shann. Viola: Lauren Perala, Eric Marta, Kirsten Salmela, Dana DeBofsky, Cello: Andrew LaCombe, Ian Schroeder. Tory Wood, Bass: Jon Brodersen, Jon Letts, Harold South
Eclettico will perform winter concerts at the following venues and times. Admission is by free-will donation:
Dec. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Marquette Regional History Center
Dec. 27 at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba
"I think when people think of a string quartet or classical music, they are turned off to that these days," Mahler said.
She said their goal is to open people's minds to new music and the possibilities of their instruments. Although Eclettico does perform traditional chamber music such as Bach or Mozart, Mahler said many people leave their concerts surprised by the range of genres covered, which include Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Although they are spread across the states throughout the year, Eclettico members are in constant contact with one another, trading ideas and organizing new pieces.
"It's fun to do our own arrangements," Mahler said. "We can spice them up and give everyone a fun part to play."
The ensemble's repertoire includes classical, rock, pop, jazz and fiddle.
"We want people to be pleasantly surprised when they walk away from our concerts," Mahler said.
She added that a second common misconception of the group is that they make money. Although the quartet does receive compensation for playing at weddings, the annual winter concerts put on by the chamber ensemble are volunteer performances. The musicians volunteer not only their talents, but all of the traveling expenses to meet in Marquette at this time of year. In past years, Eclettico has raised money during the winter concerts, which is then used for various musical needs of area youth, including scholarships, music lessons and class trips. This years concerts will raise money for the Superior String Alliance, which offers a summer camp that many Eclettico members are counselors for.
"The people we love to play for most are the kids," Mahler said. "They are our future and we want to inspire them to want to get more involved with music."
For more information about Eclettico and performances dates, visit their Facebook page or email EcletticoQuartet@ gmail.com.
Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is email@example.com