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Harlem Quartet Takes the A Train to First A.M.E.

With their funky clothes and embrace of everything from classical to jazz, blues and Latin-inspired works, they’re definitely not your daddy’s string quartet. Which is just what makes the Harlem Quartet so appealing. Composed of first-place laureates of the Sphinx Competition (held by the prestigious Sphinx Performance Academy in Massachusetts), the ensemble of young black and Latino musicians is the voice not of where chamber music has been but of where it’s going. Each member of the quartet — violinists Ilmar Gavilan and Melissa White, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez and cellist Desmond Neysmith — is a seasoned solo artist who has performed with major orchestras. In 2006, the quartet made its Carnegie Hall debut, blowing everybody away with a varied program that went from the incredibly demanding Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia to a fresh and sassy rendition of Paul Chihara’s “Ellington Fantasy: Take the A Train.” Critics call them “exciting ... commanding ... remarkable,” and this week, they make their L.A. debut courtesy of Chamber Music in Historic Sites, performing, among other things, Wynton Marsalis’ colorful, soulful String Quartet No. 1, “At the Octoroon Balls.” First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2270 S. Harvard Blvd., L.A.; Sun., May 25, 4 p.m. (preconcert talk at 3:15 p.m.); $35-$43. (213) 477-2929 or www.dacamera.org.


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