Now retired, Quartet Seraphin — Wanda Becker (violin), Mary Lou Gotman (cello), Holly Kurtz (viola) and Rose Martin (violin) — spent fifteen years producing and performing theatrical (and often humorous) programs designed to spark an interest in live chamber music by bringing great composers, their creative process, their music and their lives to life. The quartet is making its signature Meet the Composer series — three delightful, educational programs devoted to the music and lives of Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart — available to string quartets that perform for young audiences elsewhere in the country.
Quartet Seraphin was founded in 1983 by Becker, Gotman, Martin and Sara Pandolfi — four extraordinary women who have dedicated their professional lives to making and teaching music in St Louis.
The quartet began performing in area schools through Young Audiences. In 1987, after several years of student concerts and public performances, Quartet Seraphin incorporated as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. The ensemble continued to present concerts in a variety of St. Louis area venues, including the Ethical Society, The Sheldon, and the Saint Louis Art Museum, as well as in many area public, private and parochial schools.
In 1994, the quartet decided to concentrate on programs that would introduce new audiences to the intimate and appealing nature of chamber music. It commissioned and produced the first in its innovative Meet the Composer series, Haydn Seek. With a script by Sue Greenberg, the production featured Chris Limber (later replaced by Jerry Vogel) portraying Joseph Haydn and the quartet supplying musical excerpts of his music as well as interacting with the “ghost” of Haydn. Three thousand students saw this production at The Sheldon and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Quartet Seraphin commissioned the second in the series, Beethoven Unplugged, which was first presented to school groups at The Sheldon. Response from teachers and students alike was again, overwhelming. The script and staging were revised so the program could tour to schools, where they enjoyed much success. Chris Limber played Beethoven. Encouraged by the response, the quartet commissioned a third production, Mozart & Me. It premiered in 1999. This production featured Daniel Estrin, a high school student, as Mozart.
In 2002, Holly Kurtz replaced the quartet’s founding violist, Sara Pandolfi, who moved out of the area. Michael Burton replaced Estrin in Mozart & Me in 2005, Ben Nordstrom replaced Burton in 2007. Rich Pisarkiewicz replaced Limber as Beethoven in 2008.
Quartet Seraphin relied almost exclusively on individual donors for financial support. It conducted an annual giving campaign and hosted an annual benefit concert in a private residence. A $20,000 bequest was received in 2002. The quartet committed one-fifth of this bequest over a five -year period to help further defray the costs of concerts in schools and other community-based venues with very limited means.
The quartet retired in 2009. A grant from the Regional Arts Commission allowed the quartet to prepare the Mozart & Me music and text for publication.
Sue Greenberg’s numerous plays for young audiences been produced in St. Louis area schools as well as in Indiana, California and Alabama. Her playwriting credits include: Haydn Seek, Beethoven Unplugged and Mozart & Me for Quartet Seraphin; The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Frog Prince, The Golden Goose, and The Five Freedoms Revue for The Muny/Student Theatre; Pilgrim Courage and Meet Ben Franklin for Young Audiences of St. Louis (now Springboard); Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott for the St. Louis Black Repertory Company; Pinocchio for the Imaginary Theatre Company (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); and First and Ten for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. She is the executive director of the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts and, during the summer, she is the company manager at The Muny.