Four cellos play the classics

Island’s new cello program celebrated in concert.

Holes in the Floor members: Jonathan Butler, Eunghee Cho, Yejin Hong, and Joy Yanai. — Courtesy West Tisbury Library

The West Tisbury library continues its commitment to fine classical music programming, hosting the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s (MVCMS) presentation of the cello quartet Holes in the Floor on Saturday, April 13, at 3:30 pm. The cheeky name is deliberate, and signals the unique approach this youthful group of artists bring to the music they love. All young, awardwinning professionals and alumni from New England Conservatory of Music, the string players have built global reputations with this ensemble and others. Expect quality, expect surprises, and expect a new take on the classics.

The instrumentation itself makes Holes in the Floor unusual. There is not much music written — from any century — for four cellos. But that doesn’t stop the quartet, made up of Jonathan Butler, Eunghee Cho, Jiyoung Lee, and Joy Yanai. We do our own arranging, which makes us able to play some of our favorite music,” Cho explained. “For this concert, we’re including our own arrangement of the fourth movement of Mahler’s ‘Second Symphony,’ and Boston Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Blaise Déjardin’s arrangement of Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune.’”

By now it’s clear this concert’s charm, which also includes music by J.S. Bach, Claudio Monteverdi, and Keith Jarrett, will be its eclectic mix. Cho continued, “For this program, which we’re also taking on the road throughout New England, we were inspired by David Rhoderick’s class ‘Classical Music Is for You!’” (a series of classes hosted at the library, sponsored by MVCMS). “We play works composed from the 17th century to the present, with pieces chosen that illustrate how classical music evolved up through the 21st century, including a 2019 commission called ‘Ascensions,’ by Ian Wiese.”

Louisa Gould, MVCMS’ executive director, expands the group’s off-season events with the Holes in the Floor concert, brought to the group’s attention by board member Susan Phelps. For many years, the organization held concerts during the summer season, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day weekend. Off-season, their activities are in support of their artist-in-residence program.Our longtime off-season activity is our educational programming,” Gould said. “We bring in a classical ensemble, most recently the string ensemble Quartet San Francisco [QSF], who do educational programming at every school, teach lessons, and give a free concert for the public. They are excellent musicians and also great educators, and their weeklong residency acts as an example for students, including those in the school’s strings program, for which we help to supply scholarship violins, violas, and now cellos. The QSF was so well received, they are returning this summer to kick off our summer series on Monday, July 15, at the Old Whaling Church.”

This imaginative and popular program supports the Island’s public school music instruction. Chelsea Pennebaker, one of the school district’s three music string teachers with Nancy Jephcote and Rebecca Laird, said, “One of the things the strings program does is offer kids a chance to learn a little about classical music during regular school hours. The program is optional, but offered to all students. Playing an instrument and working with an ensemble are things a person can do their entire life, but in any event teach skills that easily transfer to other activities.”

The MCVMS’ new cello program supplies string instruments to Island students, according to Kimberly Baumhofer, the organization’s volunteer education coordinator and board member. “We support the in-school program by helping to provide private or semiprivate lessons for young string players,” Baumhofer said. “There are excellent violin and viola instructors on the Island, but there isn’t currently a cello teacher here, so we’ve arranged to have a teacher come from Boston for our cello students. We’re also hoping to add to three cellos to our instrument collection.”

Holes in the Floor is an obvious, constructive tie-in to the new cello program. The concert strives to redefine classical music through MVCMS’ inventive programming. “Like David Rhoderick’s class, and the MVCMS, our goal is to show how amazing classical music can be,” Cho said. “Even for people who might be surprised to find themselves enjoying it.”

Try it, you might like it.


Holes in the Floor is on Saturday, April 13, at 3:30 pm at the West Tisbury Library, with refreshments to follow. The concert is free and open to the public, and made possible by the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council, the West Tisbury Library Foundation, and the Friends of the West Tisbury Library. Additional support for MVCMS programs includes grants from the M.V. Permanent Endowment and MVYouth. For more information, please call the library at 508-693-3366 or email