Saturday, June 16, 2012

Making it in the music world - The Sonus Quartet

Written by: Amy Tobin


I recently purchased a copy of Norah Jones' new album, "Little Broken Hearts." While I was looking at the cover (yes, I still buy actual, physical copies of CDs....I like to know who is playing what on each track), I noticed that there was a list of musicians who are billed as 'co-stars' of sorts. One name caught my eye.......the Sonus Quartet.

The Sonus Quartet



The Sonus Quartet is comprised of Caroline Campbell (violin I), Kathleen Sloane (violin II), Neel Hammond (viola), and Vanessa Freebairn-Smith (cello). Each one of these musicians is phenomenal in their own right -
Caroline is the concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Symphony and has performed as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Indianapolis Symphony, as well as others. Kathleen was a member of the Houston Grand Opera orchestra and the Houston Ballet Orchestra after previously serving as concertmaster of the Abilene Philharmonic. Neel has toured internationally, quite extensively, a large part as the founding member of the Juniper String Quartet. Vanessa has been active in the motion picture and recording side of things since before she graduated, performing with artists as varied as Pavarotti and Trent Reznor. She is also the principle cellist of the daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra.

Collectively, however, they are just as impressive as they are individually. As a group, they have become one of the most prominent string quartets to be called upon by nearly any kind of artist. They have performed and toured with Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck, Babyface, Jewel, DangerMouse......sheesh! The list just keeps on going!!!

The Sonus Quartet in a secret Gnarls Barkley show at the Roxy

They have all played live at the GRAMMYS, on the David Letterman Show, on Ellen Degeneres' show, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, the AMA awards, the MTV movie awards.....and nearly every other late night TV, day time TV, awesomely cool TV and/or festival and/or venue that you can think of. They are so busy, that I guess I can overlook the fact that their own, personal website doesn't seem to have been touched lately (um, Sonus? If you need someone to do that for you, you can definitely hire me! But only if I get to fill in as a 5th member of the quartet when you need a larger string section ;-).

But with all of the modern, pop, jazz, rock, and hip-hop that they play, they can still throw down with the classical. Here is a video, from the NAMM conference, with the Sonus performing Shostakovich's Quartet No. 8:




Oh, and if that's not your style, there's always their killer version of 'Within You Without You' :



It was really very difficult to find any real videos of them playing live. There are some from their performances with Clint Mansell (composer of film scores 'Requiem for a Dream' and 'The Fountain', as well as others), but they are obviously recordings made by people in the audience. I forgive them, though. After all, if I want to hear Sonus, chances are all I have to do is turn on the radio or watch a movie!

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