The String Queens, the Washington DC-based trio of Élise Sharp, Kendall Isadore, and Dawn Johnson, will be the special guest at Eastern Mennonite University's annual Gala Concert Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in Lehman Auditorium. Admission is free, with donations suggested for EMU's music scholarship fund. (Courtesy photo)

The String Queens bring their dynamic, electric music to EMU’s 2021 Gala Concert

Already in 2021, The String Queens headlined the presidential and vice-presidential inauguration celebration, were featured artists on the PBS “Great Performances: Arts Interrupted” series, and partnered with ESPN for a global promotional campaign of Wimbledon tennis tournament.

They’re one of the hottest musical groups around, named as “changing the face of classical music” “barrier breaking,” and “adventurous and energizing”  — and they are coming to Eastern Mennonite University as the featured guests for the music department’s annual gala concert Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in Lehman Auditorium.

The concert is free, with donations welcome for the EMU music scholarship fund. Masks are required for those attending in-person. The concert can also be viewed on EMU’s FacebookLive page.

“The String Queens are an astounding jazz string trio,” said Professor David Berry, who chairs EMU’s music department. “Their performances emanate pure joy. We’re so pleased to have these world-class artists join this showcase event for our ensembles and to share their experiences with our students in a career colloquium earlier in the day.”

The Washington DC-based trio of Élise Sharp, Kendall Isadore, and Dawn Johnson recently added a Washington Area Music Award for Best Classical Artist/Group to a growing list of recognitions, including a 2020 Aspire Award from Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. As part of their mission to break down barriers and cultivate young musicians through the universal language of music, they balance performing on the largest stages and innovating across arts and musical genres with teaching and mentorship. Each musician is also an orchestral director at a KIPP DC charter school.

Peace and Joy

The Gala Concert is the highlight of EMU’s thriving music culture and The String Queens continue a rich legacy of elite performers visiting EMU to collaborate with student musicians: past years have seen opera star Janinah Burnett, Appalasia, and The Steel Wheels. Regular gala-attenders will also remember opportunities to hear rarely performed works and special premieres.

Last year’s event, billed “A Concert of Hope,” was a broadcast special with recorded performances.

For this year’s in-person concert, Berry selected the theme of “Peace and Joy” to reflect the various gifts that music offers “Music can be empathetic, music can be cathartic, music can be inspirational. These are difficult times in our world, and we realize that the gifts we can offer as musicians to speak to and buoy the soul are important and timely.”

The program features English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, written in 1936 as “a cry for peace as fears of another world war were looming,” Berry said. “This large-scale masterwork for choir and orchestra is one of the most ambitious undertakings of our ensembles.”

The second half of the concert focuses on joy, with the String Queens also joining a celebratory finale performance of the iconic selection Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

Performers include the University Choir and Orchestra, led by Professor Ben Bergey, and the Wind Ensemble and EMU Jazz, with new Director of Bands Kyle Remnant making his EMU debut. Also performing with EMU students will be Professor James Richardson, baritone; Kimberly Souther, cellist and director of the Preparatory Music Program; and Berry, on piano.

The concert is sponsored by Truist and supported by the J. Wilmer and Velma Heisey Music Grant Fund.