Spinphony kicks off Songwriter Series with mashups of colors, choreography, classical-pop-rock fusions

String quartet Spinphony kicks off the 2019-20 Songwriter Series on Nov. 22 at the Chief Theater.
Arty Smith/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Spinphony Electric String Quartet’s four musicians are classically trained, with more than a century of combined musical experience. But instead of your typical string quartet’s seated presentation, neat black formal wear, and purely classical repertoire, Spinphony moves and grooves in bright colors to fun, danceable, “pop-baroque” mash-ups — all while honoring classical music.

A motivation for starting the Denver-based, all-female quartet seven years ago was to create music that was accessible to a wide variety of audiences, founder and violinist Brett Omara said .

Omara generally begins the process of creating a mash-up by listening to a classical piece she’s interested in and waiting for a small run or another element of the work to remind her of a pop or rock song that might match.

For example, Spinphony does a fusion of Beethoven with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” — “Don’t Stop Beethoven” — or their sonata-meets-Led-Zepplin — “Sonata to Heaven” — or their Beethoven’s Fifth crossed with “Uptown Funk” — “Uptown Fifth.”

“The tempos have to be pretty similar,” Omara said. “‘Uptown Funk’ was nearly too fast and almost didn’t work (to mash up with Beethoven’s Fifth).”

Alongside Omara, Spinphony features Anna Morris on violin, Michaela Borth on 5-string and Kari Clifton on cello.

Omara generally composes the group’s string arrangement, with Morris, Borth and Clifton arranging their own instrumental parts; then, the song is sent to a producer, who writes in drums, bass and guitar.

“It’s a very structured process of really writing the music on our own, then bringing it together, more like how a classical composer would write music, rather than how a band would,” Omara said.

If you go

What: Songwriter Series presents Spinphony
Doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $20 (sold out)

In its seven years together, the quartet has played across the world, collaborating with 2Cellos, Evanescense, Josh Groban, Michael Buble and more. Spinphony’s music videos offer another peek into their wide array of performance spaces. While the group performs in traditional theaters and concert halls, they’ve also played in fields, on lakes, on rooftops, in Dillon’s Ice Castles and on the ridge of a sand dune in Sand Dunes National Park.

The band generally self-manages its visuals, styling and choreography, among other pieces of the business.

Spinphony’s music video of “Zambra,” shot at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

“In some of the really technical songs, we don’t use as much choreography,” Omara said. “We’ve been very careful to make sure the music doesn’t suffer.

“We’re all really loving what we do as musicians,” Omara added. “The playing part is the fun part — the joy of giving music to people.”

Spinphony’s music video of “Don’t Stop Beethoven.”

The group also regularly participates in high school music workshops and outreach programs and is looking forward to releasing its third full album this spring.

Tonight, Spinphony kicks off the 2019-20 Songwriter Series at the Chief Theater. The evening will also feature local violinist Carolyn Alexis Berns as special guest artist.

Spinphony’s “Requiem for a Dream,” filmed at the Ice Castles in Dillon.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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