Quartets in tune


On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the UVM Music and Literature Series presented “Four Quartets: Variations” to over 200 Burlington residents, UVM professors and students. 

The program weaved together elements of poetry reading, acting and music to create a unique viewing and listening experience for the audience.

Poet and UVM professor Major Jackson worked with poets Oni Buchanan and John Woodward to bring “Four Quartets” to life. 

Generous funding and support from the UVM department of English was necessary to make this program a success.

“I was very happy so many people from UVM as well as the [Burlington] community showed up,” Jackson said. “That was fantastic. I was also thrilled with how the music interacted with the text in surprising ways.”

UVM professor Sheila Boland Chira also commented on the unique way in which the music and poetry enhanced one another. 

“It was a very rich aesthetic experience,” Chira said.

Variations on the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot were recited aloud by poets Jackson, Buchanan, Woodward and Paige Ackerson-Kiely, while actors Marya Lowry, Phil Timberlake, Corianna Moffatt and Nate Speare acted out the poems through various movements and singing.

The combination of watching the actors while listening to the words of the poetry called for the audience to look at Eliot’s quartets from an entirely new angle.

In between the variations on the quartets, two music ensembles performed. The first was the Iktus Percussion Quartet. One of the highlights of the program was their performance of the piece “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” 

What started out as a few simple beats on household items such as glass and metal bowls slowly evolved into an elaborate percussion performance. 

Chira said that listening to this piece caused her to pay more attention to the aural and rhythmic quality of the poems. 

The second ensemble was a trombone quartet, The Guidonian Hand. They performed a variety of pieces including Debussy’s “Trois Chansons.” 

 Well-fitting to the unique quality of the program, “Four Quartets” came together in an unusual way. 

Due to the fact that not everyone was from the Burlington area, Jackson said that the poets and actors had a Skype rehearsal in preparation for the performance.