published Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Sybarite5 to offer chamber music with a rock edge - Jan. 27

Sybarite5 will perform in the Patten Performances series Monday at the UTC Fine Arts Center.
Sybarite5 will perform in the Patten Performances series Monday at the UTC Fine Arts Center.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If slow, staid and traditional define your musical tastes, stay away from the Patten Performances concert Monday, Jan. 27.

Sybarite5, a string quintet whose eclectic repertoire and dynamic performance style have redefined chamber music, is the featured act.

Bob Boyer, director of Patten Performances, saw the group in a showcase at a trade show in Miami Beach, Fla., in 2012, and "snapped to attention" about 10 bars in.

The quintet, he says, plays with "incredible precision" and "a lot of passion."

Think musical luxury, since "sybarite" means a person devoted to a fondness for pleasure and sensuous luxury.

Composed of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney (violins), Angela Pickett (viola), Laura Metcalf (cello) and Louis Levitt (bass), the group in 2011 was the first string quintet selected as a winner in the 60-year history of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

That win propelled the group to its Carnegie Hall debut, and it also has notched performances at the Library of Congress, Aspen Music Festival and, in New York City, at Lincoln Center, Time Warner Center, Tishman Auditorium and Bohemian National Hall.

Boyer says the quintet is likely to play a variety of not only classical music -- the likes of Mozart, Dvorak and Mahler -- but also "popular and folk music of our time."

Expected to be a part of that is Sybarite5's Radiohead Remixed Project, which the group began in 2007 by commissioning composers to write arrangements and music inspired by the British rock band.

The quintet's debut EP, "Disturb the Silence," which reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Classical Crossover chart, included music by Radiohead. Its follow-up release, "Everything in Its Right Place," continued the Radiohead remixed Project.

Boyer, who grew up a blues fan, says he even heard blues notes in the Miami Beach showcase by Sybarite5.

"Classical is a very mathematical, elegant form of music, a thinking person's music," he says. "You don't always hear the kind of passion [the group offers]. That's really what caught my ear."

Such crossover variety, Boyer says, has truly made the present "the golden age of musical creativity, of experimentation."

The Sarasota Herald Tribune says Sybarite5 is emblematic of that present.

"Their rock-star status ... is well deserved," the newspaper said. "Their classically honed technique mixed with grit and all out passionate attack transfixes the audience."

Contact Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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