The Dallas String Quartet fuses Tchaikovsky with Bruno Mars and beyond

FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO (HOST) : It’s Morning Edition, on KRPS I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. This Saturday, December 11 at 7 pm as part of Connect2Culture’s 2021-2022 Curtain’s Up series, Joplin’s Arts and Entertainment non-profit invites the Dallas String Quartet to Ozark Christian College.

A string quartet is defined as a musical ensemble consisting of four string players, two violins, a viola and a cellist. A string quartet is so defined by the time frame of music that it performs, usually from composers of the mid 1800’s. I recently spoke with Ion Zanca, composer, producer and violinist for the Dallas String Quartet. He says that while he and the DSQ are known for helping recreating pop hits, he’s musical background and education is all classical.

The Dallas String Quartet

ION (GUEST) : I’ve always loved Tchaikovsky as a classical style, and that always moved me. I love that music, the passion and that romanticism that comes from that. And in the more modern way, I love Sting, and I love a lot of jazz influences, and I’m learning to appreciate that. I’ll tell you that, I’m learning to appreciate pop music a lot more. When I was doing my Masters in all classical, I didn’t have a lot of respect for the pop music because it’s so simple, it’s only three chords. It’s nothing compared to classical music. But what I’ve learned since I’ve been approaching this is that in it simplicity, obviously there is beauty but it is only harder because you only have three chords, and it’s how you make it interesting. So I’ve learned to appreciate artists like Bruno Mars.

FRED : Through the fusion of pop and classical music, the Dallas String Quartet is able to bring together audiences that seemingly have little else in common. Those who love classical music and the gentle sounds of the violin, viola and cello, though who aren’t into pop music and don’t normally dance at concerts. And a younger audience that is usually not into classical music or composers, except for maybe knowing of Bach or Beethoven. Groups like the Dallas String Quartet, the Piano Guys and the Vitamin String Quartet are remimaging classical, pop and rock music for a new generation of listeners.

ION : Yea, we thought it was a great way to bridge that gap between generations and be able to play music that adults and classical connoisseurs can relate to but also kids, that listen to the current pop music, and rock music and things that they can recognize.

FRED : The Dallas String Quartet has released six albums, including a Christmas album, in 2019 titled, “A Very Merry Christmas”. Their first release, 2010’s Eclectric is a collection of hits including Coldplay’s Clocks, and Yellow, and the Beattles Eleanor Rigby and All You Need Is Love. Ion says that often times when composing new arrangements of songs that appear to have nothing in common he’s able to merge their sound and create new interpretations.

The Dallas String Quartet

ION : In many times we combine the two actually. We have, one of our arrangements. One of the more interesting ones that we have an except of Paganini, which is a classical composer, one of the hardest to perform on the violin. And we’ve combined it with Gloria Gainors, “I Will Survive”, and the song became out of Paganini. And it kind of reflects the personality of the group. Sometimes, some of the guys in the group want to play the more serious classical arrangements, and then have fun, have music that is approachable that everybody can relate to and we just started combining it. So you have all these possibilities in this genre coming together in one concept.

FRED : The story of Ion Zanca, like the music of the Dallas String Quartet is unique. He first moved to the United States in 2002 from Romania, to study music at Loustina State University, Baton Rouge. Three years later, he relocated to Texas to continue his studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. To make a living he formed a string quartet to play at weddings and other gatherings. Eventually the group would take the name of their hometown, and the Dallas String Quartet was formed in 2008. Over time the DSQ has added instruments such as electric guitar and drums to resemble a full band. While he’s performed as a member of the Dallas String Quartet, at the home of two US presidents, at numerous professional sporting events and alongside performers like Josh Groban, Chicago, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra his classical roots run deep.

ION : I was trained to be honest, to be part of a symphony orchestra, for most of my life. This has been a lot more fun, I’ll tell you that because not only do we get to play with these amazing artists and meet all of these amazing personalities we also try to change everything about what the correct approach is.

FRED : On the streaming service Pandora, the Dallas String Quartet have over 400,000 monthly listeners. Even with thousands of fans both in the US and abroad Ion says that he continues to want to innovate, continue to travel and bring their special blend of classical and pop music to new listeners.

ION : We switch from digital sheet music, to digital to Ipads. We changed the instruments from acoustic to electric. We changed sound, we added pedals, and treated it more like a modern guitar. So, it’s been a journey, both creatively, but also a journey because you’re not only stopping in the performance halls, you get to travel and see new people and new things.

I’m from Romania, so seeing the United States, it’s been amazing, because I feel like I’ve traveled more in the United States. I’ve seen everything from the east coast to the west coast, to the midwest and it’s just amazing to me to meet people from all over the country, so I would say that’s the best part of it.

FRED : Next Saturday, December 11, the Dallas String Quartet will perform in Joplin for the first time, just two weeks before Christmas. If you love Christmas tunes, both classics and more contemporary hits, then Ion says this show is for you.

ION : So, we’ll do a lot of music, popular songs that people recognize, it’s a great show for families and kids. But we’ll also play some of our rock, some of our original arrangements like Kashmir, like I mentioned earlier. It’s fun. It’s just beautiful music with melodies that everyone knows like “Oh Holy Night” and “My Favorite Things”. And really interesting arrangements that involve intimate sound from a string quartet but also guitars, drums and percussion and lighting so it’s a full show that people can enjoy.

FRED : Ion Zanca, violist, producer, composer for the Dallas String Quartet, he’ll be performing as part of Connect2Culture’s Curtains Up series, Saturday December 11 at Ozark Christian College. I want to thank you for your time and speaking with me.

ION : Absolutely, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be our first time in Joplin. So we’re gonna expect some recommendations for food and all the fun stuff to do there.

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