Tema here: ETHEL has recently been named the Ensemble in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar, and we couldn’t be happier to appear regularly at such a treasured New York City landmark.
We appear as often as we can — so long as we’re in town! — every Friday and Saturday evening from 5 – 8. Here’s a little journal action from a typical evening at the Met so that you can know what it’s like from our end:
4:28 PM - Get off the M79 and hustle towards the back entrance of the Met. Admire the grand staircase out front. Security guards try to stop me as I make my way towards the elevator, but one who remembers me from the previous week (and the week before that, and the week before that…) assures them that I don’t plan on knocking over any statues with my violin case and is nice enough to hold the door for me.
4:33 – Get off the elevator and rush through the Egyptian wing on my way to the Balcony Bar. Pause for a moment to look at a sarcophagus or two, then remember that I am on my way to work. Funny enough, my mother used to work in the basement of the Met Museum restoring paintings– things do have a way of going full circle.
What a nice commute through the galleries! When I don’t have time to check out an exhibit before our performances, I can at least always find a different route towards the balcony. Approach the Balcony Bar, bustling with museum-goers. Enjoy the din of conversation as families and friends discuss the overwhelming variety of art they’ve absorbed throughout the day — it’s always best to digest art with a little musical respite and a drink or two.
4:40 - Set up stands and stand lights. A few museum-goers still edge towards the glass case in front of which we set up, snapping pictures of the ancient artifacts featured. The tables around us begin to fill up. People order drinks and taper conversation a bit anticipating the start of the music.
5:01 – And so it begins! We open our first set with Marcelo Zarvos‘ “Arrival,” to welcome in the weekend. Highlights this set include selections from our program, “Present Beauty,” featuring Philip Glass’ score from The Hours. Several patrons approach and ask us the names of the composers whose works we’re playing. Drawn upstairs by the music wafting down through the grand lobby, visitors and locals who never even knew the museum had music on the weekends gravitate towards the balcony, sometimes even gathering on the other side to listen across the great space. Resonance resounds!
6:00 - Break #1. Noticing we’ve stopped playing, a few more spectators greet us, ask us a little bit about ETHEL, and most importantly, if we’re going to resume playing– which indeed, we are!
6:10 - We decide to switch things up a little bit for Set # 2 with some early Haydn and Beethoven. A woman approaches us and tells us she absolutely loves Vivaldi, wondering if we “take requests.” Fortunately, we’re able to accommodate her with Vivaldi’s double violin concerto. Throughout the set, visitors walk by, smile, wave, and maybe even ask how we’re doing. Fortunately, the ever-effervescent Dorothy is a tremendous multi-tasker and manages to engage in conversation without missing a beat. Small children seem to have started a dance party to our tunes, flailing and skittering around gleefully, always fascinated by Dorothy’s mysterious black carbon fiber cello. As the set continues, a few familiar faces surface: partners, out-of-town friends, parents, and a handful of unexpected acquaintances who just happened to be at the museum arrive and sit to have a drink and listen.
Sometimes we even have special musical guests stop by! Here’s a picture of me playing “Bartok Duos” with celebrated British violinist Daniel Hope, who made a cameo a few weeks ago:
7:00 - Break #2. Say hello to the friends and family that have accumulated. One nice perk of having such a fun, if not glamorous workplace is that it’s not tough to get loved ones to come visit. Who could complain about spending a Friday or Saturday evening in Manhattan with a martini at the Met Balcony Bar? Not a bad way to punctuate your weekend!
7:15 - The last set of the night. We take a different kind of request this set, playing Ralph’s arrangement of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” at the behest of an enthusiastic museum-goer. He and his wife hold up their iphones at the end, waving little pictures of flames (vis-a-vis holding up a lighter at a rock show). Very cute. Play some other ETHEL favorites, along with “Chai,” a tune by Dorothy, and Wrecked, by our very own Ralph. We close the set with the always-uplifting “Ascent,” by Kip, which receives some very enthusiastic applause from the audience.
8:05 – We pack up our instruments and disperse to sit with friends as they finish their drinks. Guests ask if we’ll be back, and we assure them that we will– and often! ETHEL may be a downtown quartet, but it’s pretty great to be the house band at this regal uptown venue.
To see what and when ETHEL is playing at the MET, Click Here! You can catch us or our friends every Friday and Saturday from 5 – 8 PM! Come say hi!