The next Quad City Symphony Orchestra “Up Close” chamber music concert this Saturday is special for many reasons.

Violinist Naha Greenholtz and percussionist Aaron Williams will play in Saturday’s “Up Close” concert in the Butterworth Center library, Moline.

First, the 7:30 pm. program on Jan. 28 with QCSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and principal percussionist Aaron Williams is at the historic Butterworth Center, the gorgeous 1892 mansion lived in by Katherine Deere Butterworth (John Deere’s granddaughter) and her husband William (Deere & Co.’s president from 1907 to 1928).

Despite being open to community uses for years, Butterworth Center (1105 8th St., Moline) has never hosted a QCSO chamber concert. Its elegant library (featuring a stunning 18th-century Italian ceiling fresco) is ideal for chamber music, has often hosted “19th-Century Christmas” musical programs and partnered with Quad City Arts to host selected Visiting Artist Series programs.

A Christmas choir program at the Butterworth Center library.

“The board and staff of the William Butterworth Foundation are thrilled to have the Quad City Symphony Orchestra at Butterworth Center as our inaugural rental event,” said Susan Anderson, director of community relations for the William Butterworth Foundation (which owns the historic homes Butterworth Center and neighboring Deere-Wiman House).

“Up Close with Naha and Aaron represents the very type of opportunity we envisioned for expanding our services to the arts and culture community of the Quad Cities,” she said. New in 2023, nonprofit and community organizations, through paid rentals, are able to use Butterworth Center & Deere-Wiman House for ticketed and gala events.

The historic library has hosted Christmas concerts and Quad City Arts’ Visiting Artist Series programs.

“Five years in development, our updated public use policy reflects current needs of today’s nonprofit community allowing for expanded use,” Anderson said.

This Saturday, Greenholtz and Williams will play a very varied program of both solo and duo works by Chen Yi, Wynton Marsalis, Sergei Prokofiev, Astor Piazzolla, and more (all pieces written from the mid 20th-century on. The concert of eight pieces includes a world premiere of the QCSO-commissioned work Mosaics for Violin and Marimba by William Campbell, a music professor at Davenport’s St. Ambrose University.

Rebranding the series

After COVID closures, the QCSO’s Greenholtz (an extraordinary violinist who’s been concertmaster here since 2012) overhauled the chamber series, of which she is artistic director. It was renamed from Signature Series to “Up Close,” infusing it with new venues (like last September at Davenport’s Redstone Room with guest guitarist Mak Grgic) and more exploratory collaborations.

Greenholtz playing a QCSO chamber concert with pianist Marian Lee at the Figge Art Museum lobby.

“It’s up close to being with the performers, with the music, having a more intimate kind of feeling within the community and musically speaking,” Greenholtz said Monday. “With that whole kind of pandemic shift, we thought it was time for a fresh look for the series.”

She chose the Butterworth Center for its first chamber series after getting inspired by taking a tour there last year.

“I’ve heard about it on and off through the years. You know the history of it; I mean the building is stunning and the library where they have a lot of recitals is rich and vibrant and it’s architecturally — with the gold painted ceiling, the reds and the blues, it’s so vibrant.”

Greenholtz definitely wanted a varied concert program, and she also was influenced by the space to include percussion. “There’s something about the acoustics that really, I thought, marimba, snare drum and violin would be a nice combination in there.”

Concerto by a jazz great

One thrilling piece Saturday is from a massive 2016 violin concerto by the prolific jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, but just its cadenza.

“The first piece I programmed was this Wynton Marsalis cadenza from his violin concerto,” Greenholtz said. “Obviously, Marsalis is one the best jazz musicians ever. So that’s thoroughly integrated in and infused into this classical work.”

Greenholtz has been QCSO concertmaster and in charge of programming the chamber music series since 2012.

The cadenza was written with drum set. “I really wanted to just introduce this kind of delicious part of this huge work, in a small form in the space,” Greenholtz said.

She and QCSO conductor Mark Russell Smith are big proponents of modern music (including commissions), so the Up Close series offers a great chance to program unfamiliar, more contemporary works.

Besides the American icons Marsalis and Campbell, the international concert features:

  • Chen Yi’s “Memory” for Solo Violin
  • Keith Aleo’s “Allo stile della Samba”
  • Eckhard Kopetzki’s “Momtong makki” from Concert Suite for Snare Drum
  • Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Solo Violin in D Major, Op. 115
  • Gordon Stout’s “Wood that Sings” for Solo Marimba
  • Astor Piazzolla’s “Histoire du Tango, Nightclub 1960”

“I think more and more, we’re able to invite the audience is to enjoy these combinations,” Greenholtz said. “We try to pair the more familiar with the newer sounds and when we get into these inspiring spaces, I think it all comes together.”

Greenholtz, a native of Japan, performing a chamber concert at the Figge lobby.

As an Asian-American herself (born in Kyoto, Japan), the violinist said it’s especially meaningful to play a piece from the accomplished female Asian composer Chen Yi, the prolific 69-year-old from China. Her “Memory” was written in 2011 and she teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Putting music together in mosaic

Campbell — who’s been commissioned by the full QCSO for new pieces — wrote a new work for a Signature Series concert in 2013 at Augustana College’s Wallenberg Hall.

Bill Campbell has been commissioned by both the full QC Symphony Orchestra and its chamber music program.

Greenholtz originally asked him over a year ago for a new piece about six minutes long.

“What happened is I got three different ideas that came through and they just wouldn’t leave me alone,” Campbell said Tuesday of the “Mosaics” for violin and marimba, which is 16 minutes long and five sections.

A mosaic is a piece of visual art made up of many smaller pieces and the “whole is greater than the individual parts and then it all creates this big thing,” Campbell said. “Each of the five movements actually is made up of different musical themes and patterns, rhythms, and textures, but they’re all related to each other in a way.”

“People will hear that it’s music that is based in patterns. And it’s more about the interplay between the instruments,” he said. The composer loves the unique pairing of the two instruments.

“It’s such an amazing combination. The violin as an instrument is one of the closest to the human voice,” Campbell said. “And the way that Naha plays, it is so beautiful but also, she has this energy and an intensity that that grabs me when I hear her.

Campbell is a St. Ambrose music professor and has written for several film scores.

“It’s like, oh I have to pay attention in a very good way, you know I want to. And then Aaron is this wonderful percussionist, this master percussionist and the marimba has this nice, obviously very woody kind of sound, but the sound on the marimba, it can blossom out unlike anything else.”

Compared to writing for orchestra, Campbell said he enjoys the immediacy and intimacy of chamber music.

Aaron Williams has been a master of many percussion instruments at the QCSO since 2010.

“The other thing that’s interesting for me about chamber music is how deftly musicians are able to make changes within the music, because there’s only one or two of them, or four of them,” he said. “It’s like a speedboat rather than a cruise ship.”

“That’s a lot of fun. And when you write a lot of detail into the music, rhythmic and otherwise, it’s nice to have these individual musicians to be able to present it really cleanly.”

Challenge of chamber music

Another thing chamber music can do is challenge us in ways orchestral music doesn’t, Campbell said.

“You’re in a smaller venue, up close and personal with these people who are making music so close and I do love the intimate nature of chamber music,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to go to a lot of chamber music and even host concerts of chamber music.”

“I love hearing the combination of sounds that occurs when one combines different voices, instruments, or registers of different instruments,” Campbell said. “This concert will give the audience a big opportunity to hear two kinds of instruments that some of them haven’t heard very often, especially together — a solo violin and percussionist. There aren’t that many concerts like that on the chamber music series.”

Post-concert reception

A final way this Up Close will be special is a post-concert reception that includes heavy hors d’oeuvres from Bayside Bistro, with a cash bar. Tickets are $50 per person, available HERE, and there is a live stream and digital access option available for $25 per household.

The digital concert will be live streamed on Jan. 28, 2023, at 7:30 p.m., available for viewing following the live stream through Feb. 28, 2023. Please wait until noon the following day for video processing before attempting to access the recorded concert.

The lovely ladies of the ATLYS quartet will rock the Raccoon Motel on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Future QCSO chamber concerts will be held at Davenport’s Raccoon Motel and the Figge Art Museum. The string quartet ATLYS (featuring QCSO violinist Sabrina Tabby) will perform Feb. 11, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at Raccoon Motel, and Feb. 12, 2023 at 4:45 p.m. at Pleasant Valley High School., Bettendorf.

For more information, visit the QCSO website.