The cello was not created to play behind a tiny computer screen on YouTube live, yet, defying all odds, junior Faith Choi and her string quartet, the Helios String Quartet, did just that and placed second along with an honorable mention at the St. Paul String Quartet Competition.
“We were really excited, even though we felt really unprepared submitting a video that was obviously not as good as it could’ve been,” Choi said. “However, it was definitely a really good feeling to end off the season very strong and with a win.”
A string quartet consists of two violins, one viola and one cello. Choi and her fellow musicians created their group in September 2019 and competed in the Coltman Chamber Music Competition in Austin, getting to the semifinal round.
On April 25 at 1 p.m., Choi’s quartet competed at the SPSQC Finals “live” round, an event that features “Americas Best Young String Quartets.” To reach the finals round, each quartet had to submit a video audition in February with three pieces of music. Six teams passed on to the finals round including Choi’s quartet who played a required Haydn piece, a contemporary piece and an impressionist piece.
Due to COVID-19, the event altered the competition into a YouTube live streaming show rather than an in-person concert. Each team submitted a prerecorded video and during the four hour show, each team’s three pieces were shown along with interviews with team members.
“It was definitely weird. I think that a lot of groups felt unprepared because it all happened out of the blue,” Choi said. “Although, it was definitely more interesting because doing it virtually gave the contestants the opportunity to get interviewed by the competition, so we were able to convey to the audience the process of getting to this competition, our group name, etc.”
After all the videos were played, the finals rounds jury, a professional string-quartet group known as Catalyst Quartet, deliberated on all six performances. They filled out score and comment sheets and announced the winners after 30 minutes.
Not only did Choi’s quartet place second overall, each team was required to play a Haydn piece, a salute to Franz Joseph Haydn, an important member of the string-quartet community. Choi’s team won an honorable mention for the Haydn Prize .
Choi enjoys performing with the string quartet because it produces music that differs from a solo or orchestra performance.
“String quartet is very different because you are the only person playing your voice so you’re very special in the group, but you’re also playing with a group so you get to blend the sounds that are very unique,” Choi said. “It’s something you wouldn’t be able to do if you were a solo player.”
Gabriel Fedak, a junior at Booker T. Washington and violinist in the Helios String Quartet, complimented Choi on her leadership and cellist ability.
“Faith puts everyone in check and she’s a great player,” Fedak said. “She’s the best cellist I’ve played with in an ensemble before. It’s really awesome how responsive she can be with her playing and if we ask her to do something she almost has no limits with her playing and she can just do it.”
Charlise Griffiths, Upper School orchestra director, has been watching Faith play for two years. As a fellow musician, she admires Faith’s skills.
“Faith is incredibly talented at the cello,” Griffiths said. “Her musical skill level is equal to many professional and collegiate level performers. I think her work ethic is apparent in her performances. Similar to sports, talent and skill will only take you so far, but hard work, practice, and dedication combined with talent is an unstoppable force. I think Faith demonstrates this unique combination.”
Story by Ava Berger, Editor-in-Chief