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Quartet coming to York redefines ensemble playing

Matt Detrick's first music teacher was his mother, Venona, a classically trained violinist who played with the York Symphony Orchestra and taught music in the Dallastown Area School District.

She taught Detrick and his brother Ben, violin, pretty much from the time they were able to hold the instrument.

His second music teacher was his father, Joe, a Church of the Brethren minister who incorporated folk music into his services, playing guitar and banjo before his congregations.

Needless to say, they, and his violin teacher who inspired him to pursue music as a career, Collette Wichert, helped form Detrick's musical sensibilities as he forged his own path. He's always had a different way of looking at things. For instance, when he was a kid, he dreamed of being an astronaut, with a twist.

"I wanted to be the first astronaut to play violin in outer space," he said, laughing at the incongruity of the notion.

The seemingly divergent influences of his parents – and his interest in space travel - eventually led Detrick to co-found the Apollo Chamber Players, a Houston-based string quartet that melds the world's folk music with classical arrangements. The quartet will present a free concert at the St. John Episcopal Church in York on March 13.

For Detrick, it's a homecoming, a chance to perform in his hometown with his acclaimed quartet.

Detrick, upon graduating from Dallastown Area High School, went to college at Rice University in Houston. He loved the city and stayed, earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the university.

He has performed with symphonies and opera and ballet companies throughout the country, the world. His principal gig, outside Apollo, is serving as concertmaster for the Symphony of Southeast Texas in Beaumont.

It's a struggle, making a living with music, he said. At times, he played weddings and other gigs like that, just to make ends meet. He's subbed with several orchestras around the country, gigs that have taken him from Austria to Panama and Japan.

Around 2008, he thought he should come up with his own ensemble and along with violinist Tim Peters, founded Apollo. As the quartet evolved, Detrick incorporated folk influences into the ensemble's repertoire.

"It was a gradual process," he said. "Houston is such a diverse city and we wanted to draw on that and represent it."

His first attempts at arranging folk music for a string quartet were successful.

"And it was really fun," he said.

The quartet has performed arrangements of folk music from a variety of sources – Eastern Europe, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Greece, Italy and Bohemia – and has performed concert series in Houston and has toured extensively. In 2013, one of its stops on its East Coast tour was at Carnegie Hall, performing a mix of Basque and Slavic-influenced music.

The quartet's 2014 recording, European Folkscapes, was released to rave reviews. One Amazon reviewer described it as "an adventure to listen to."

The quartet - composed of Detrick and Anabel Ramirez on violin, Whitney Bullock on viola and Matthew Dudzik on cello - has also embarked on a project to commission new compositions from composers who draw upon folk influences, Detrick said. The list includes such acclaimed composers as Libby Larsen, Alexandra Du Bois and Arthur Hernandez.

For Detrick, performing and operating the non-profit ensemble is not just a job; it's a calling. It reflects his parents' varied musical tastes and reflects what he got from them.

"You get your skills from your parents," he said.

And sometimes, that leads to creating something new and original.

If you go

What: The Apollo Chamber Players, a string quartet that mixes classical technique with folk music influences

Where: St. John Episcopal Church, 140 N. Beaver St., York

When: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 13

Admission: Free. Free parking is available adjacent to the church.