For the Jupiter String Quartet, a spring and summer with stay-at-home orders, closed concert halls and canceled events brought unique challenges.
The celebrated quartet, in residency at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, had to navigate whether they could even practice together. Three of them are family members — violinist Megan Freivogel McDonough is married to cellist Daniel McDonough and a sister of violinist Liz Freivogel — but the fourth, violinist Daniel Lee, is not.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to take a break,” Daniel McDonough said, “especially because our first violinist is not related to us, so we wanted to be pretty careful, especially during the stay-at-home orders.”
But the quartet had important work to do.
When the pandemic swept across the United States and completely changed American life, they were in the midst of working on a piece that they thought could make those who listen think about climate change in a different way.
They collaborated with composer Michi Wiancko, who wrote a piece partially inspired by her upbringing in California by the Pacific Ocean.
“The quartet had wanted for a long time to have a piece written that made people think about climate change in a way that wasn’t, like, reading a dire article in The New York Times,” McDonough said. “And Michi was also really adamant that the piece be really hopeful, to have a way of the audience trying to think about the natural world in a hopeful way, in a beautiful way, even though so much of the news that we get about the environment is depressing.”
Over the summer, the quartet and their seven children, ages 3 to 11, formed a pod, spending time together and relying on each other for social interaction and child care.
Originally, they planned on performing their 20-minute piece, titled “To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores,” with Wiancko in both a Krannert Center premiere and at a seminar with the College of ACES’ Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.
Now, they’ve decided to combine the two.
At 3 p.m. Friday, they’ll perform at a monthly webinar put on by the two UI group. The link for the Zoom call can be found at KrannertCenter.com. Afterward, they’ll hold a Q&A with the quartet and with Wiancko, who lives in Massachusetts.
“We’re really excited that we can do it this way,” Daniel McDonough said. “I think it’s going to be a fun event, and it’s nice that we can have the composer with us. That’s been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, that we can more easily bring people together to have conversations.”
The piece will take listeners through the beauty of the natural world, the anxiety of climate change, and the hope for the future of the environment. The multi-movement piece starts off inspired by the ocean, over the water, McDonoough said, followed by a more frenetic movement where Wiancko wrote, “The world is on fire.”
It’s followed by a peaceful movement and a return to music inspired by the ocean.
The audience will mix both scholars and Krannert Center regulars to provide an uncommon perspective on an emotional issue.
“This was kind of a way to think with different parts of our brain about the Earth,” McDonough said. “A different way to engage with the beauty of the natural world and engage with it through a different lens, through art, through music.
“Even though it’s virtual, it’s going to be nice to have some art and some music,” he added. “During this pandemic, that’s been hard to do.”